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Museum (CC) Introduction

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Introduction

In history it is sometimes unknown or debatable who invented, produced or came up with the idea to create something. But when it comes to the mass-produced Christmas card — and arguably the concept of sending Christmas cards in general — that is not the case.

Christmas Card 1925 C
Christmas postcard with "Greetings from Woodstock" printed on the card, 1925 C (Credit: Woodstock Museum NHS)

The beginning of holiday cards can be traced back to the 1500s, when German families would exchange block printed cards to mark the New Year. By the 1600s, these New Year’s cards started to depict Jesus and have a more Christian feel.

German New Year Card 1500 C
German New Years card of Jesus ridding a donkey, 1500 C (Credit: National Gallery of Art, U.S.A)

The first known Christmas-type card was sent to James I of England and his son Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, in 1611 by Michael Maier, a German physician. The card had an image of a rose and a crown with writing that read:

A greeting on the birthday of the Sacred King, to the most worshipful and energetic lord and most eminent James, King of Great Britain and Ireland, and Defender of the true faith, with a gesture of joyful celebration of the Birthday of the Lord, in most joy and fortune, we enter into the new auspicious year 1612.

Michael Maier and Card 1611
Michael Maier and his holiday card, 1611 (Public Domain Image)

 In the 1700s, school boys in England would practice their writing skills by making cards to give to their parents. In the early 1840s, Thomas Shorrock of Leith, Scotland, is said to have produced cards with a jolly face and the caption, “A Gude Year to Ye.” However, the first mass-produced Christmas card was the brainchild of Sir Henry Cole, a senior civil servant in England.

Scottish Christmas Card 1905
Christmas postcard printed in Germany featuring Scottish poet Robert Burns, 1905 C (Credit: Woodstock Museum NHS)

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