Leaflets expressing good wishes appeared at the beginning of the XVth century and are the ancestors of greeting cards. These were followed by XVIIIth century print versions which merchants sent their customers on New Year’s.

The greeting cards we exchange at Christmas or New Year’s and which are so much a part of our holiday traditions have their origins in England. The custom quickly developed in Europe, especially in Germany, because of a brand-new printing process perfected by Aloys Senefelder in 1796. Lithography, as the technique was called, could be used to reproduce large numbers of drawings or texts first drawn on a finely-textured stone.

The first postage stamp was issued in England in 1840 and the first series of envelopes decorated with Christmas designs was published the same year. Three years later, the first greeting card appeared. It was produced by John Calcott Horsley for Sir Henry Cole. This card depicted a family enjoying Christmas celebrations and lifting their glasses in a toast. The scene greatly shocked temperance workers who quickly denounced it.

The first "American" greeting card is said to be the w Read More
Leaflets expressing good wishes appeared at the beginning of the XVth century and are the ancestors of greeting cards. These were followed by XVIIIth century print versions which merchants sent their customers on New Year’s.

The greeting cards we exchange at Christmas or New Year’s and which are so much a part of our holiday traditions have their origins in England. The custom quickly developed in Europe, especially in Germany, because of a brand-new printing process perfected by Aloys Senefelder in 1796. Lithography, as the technique was called, could be used to reproduce large numbers of drawings or texts first drawn on a finely-textured stone.

The first postage stamp was issued in England in 1840 and the first series of envelopes decorated with Christmas designs was published the same year. Three years later, the first greeting card appeared. It was produced by John Calcott Horsley for Sir Henry Cole. This card depicted a family enjoying Christmas celebrations and lifting their glasses in a toast. The scene greatly shocked temperance workers who quickly denounced it.

The first "American" greeting card is said to be the work of a German lithographer, Louis Prang, who immigrated to New York around 1850. Prang set up a workshop in Boston, Massachusetts in 1860 and began to produce the first coloured cards. At the time, however, greeting cards were more often linked to New Year’s than to Christmas.

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Greeting card

Greeting card. Sprig of holly in fabric and metallic thread. Along with mistletoe, holly symbolizes New Year's Day

MNATP
Collection : Musée national des arts et traditions populaires (MNATP), Paris, France
20th Century
© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Christmas card

Christmas card (log), produced by Basse Lebel in France, and postcards that provide a glimpse of the variety of styles and subjects used by manufacturers over the years.

Photograph: Musée de la civilisation, Pierre Soulard, 1995
Collection : Musée de la civilisation, Québec, Canada, nos 93-1462, 93-1465 and 93-1566
1900 - 1935
© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


In Canada, the production of cards began between 1870 and 1880 and they were simple adaptations of the works of Krieghoff, Bartlett, Massicotte and Henri Julien depicting typical winter activity or sports scenes. Up until the end of the First World War, however, most of the cards sold in Canada came from the United Kingdom and the United States.

The practice of sending greeting cards to friends and relations for New Year’s spread fairly rapidly in England, in Germany and in North America. After 1880 the Christmas card gradually came to replace the New Year’s card and really gathered speed with large-scale marketing. Department stores even began to sell greeting card assortments through their catalogues.

The shift to Christmas has not taken place in France where cards are almost always sent to convey New Year’s greetings.
In Canada, the production of cards began between 1870 and 1880 and they were simple adaptations of the works of Krieghoff, Bartlett, Massicotte and Henri Julien depicting typical winter activity or sports scenes. Up until the end of the First World War, however, most of the cards sold in Canada came from the United Kingdom and the United States.

The practice of sending greeting cards to friends and relations for New Year’s spread fairly rapidly in England, in Germany and in North America. After 1880 the Christmas card gradually came to replace the New Year’s card and really gathered speed with large-scale marketing. Department stores even began to sell greeting card assortments through their catalogues.

The shift to Christmas has not taken place in France where cards are almost always sent to convey New Year’s greetings.

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Postcard sent at New Year's.

Postcard sent at New Year's.

MNATP
Collection : Musée national des arts et traditions populaires (MNATP), Paris, France
20th Century
© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Along with mistletoe, holly symbolizes New Year's Day

Along with mistletoe, holly symbolizes New Year's Day

MNATP
Collection : Musée national des arts et traditions populaires (MNATP), Paris, France
20th Century
© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • identify how people, events, and ideas of the past shape the present;
  • describe some Christmas traditions in Canada, with examples;
  • compare Christmas traditions between cultures, including France and Canada, and over time;
  • recognize that material history and popular culture are illustrations of historical change.

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