GREENVILLE — Amid the many alternatives throughout social media, where memes, gifs, and e-cards reign supreme, the delight of seeing Christmas cards in the mailbox each December rings in the joy of the holiday season for many families.
This year, as COVID has curtailed family gatherings, events, and celebrations, many people are rediscovering some “old fashioned” ways to reconnect with family, friends and loved-ones that ensure safety and social distancing. One time-honored tradition is the exchange of Christmas and holiday cards, which allow us the opportunity to give personal wishes for health and happiness to the neighbor next door or across the country.
As we celebrate national Christmas Card Day (Dec. 9), some fun facts have emerged about this interesting, though somewhat dated tradition, by today’s electronic standards.
The very first holiday card, printed in London, 1843, depicts a family at dinner, a father lifting his glass to toast, and images of helping the poor. The illustrator, J. R. Horsley sketched the illustration for his friend, and prominent arts patron, Sir Henry Cole, who needed to quickly and efficiently wish over 1,000 friends and admirers a “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.” The 5 1/8 inch by 3 ¼ inch stiff cardboard cards were mass printed in London, and allowed Mr. Cole to hand write each recipient’s name on the top of the card.
Although it took several decades to catch on in the United States, it finally did, in 1875, when a New England Prussian immigrant named Louis Prang, created a card depicting a simple, well illustrated flower with the words, “Merry Christmas.” The simple, yet subtle, approach to wishing people health, wealth, and happiness for the New Year captured the essence of these first cards, which often would not arrive by post until well after the holiday had passed.
The folded “book format” Christmas card did not appear until 1915, when Joyce Hall, a small printer in Kansas City, along with his brothers, William and Rollie, published a new card format of 4 inches wide by 6 inches high, and placed in an envelope. The cards were quite successful, and ten years later, the Hall brothers changed the company name to “Hallmark.” Over the years, Hallmark has been the leader in this industry; in 1977, Hallmark created a simple card with three angels which sold 34 million copies.
Today, Christmas and holiday cards are still as popular as ever in the U.S., with annual sales of 6.5 billion greeting cards each year, with 1.6 billion units of holiday cards, alone, totaling an estimated between $7 and $8 billion in annual retail sales.
In downtown Greenville, sales have been swift this season as many people want to get their Christmas cards out early, with the uncertainty of COVID restrictions and increased postal traffic. “Holiday cards and ornaments are doing well this year,” says Tammy Hodges, manager of Readmore’s Hallmark Shop, located at 524 S. Broadway. “We have a great variety of cards, which are restocked regularly, so I hope everyone will stop by and have a look!”
For more information on the many varieties of cards, gifts and ornaments at Readmore’s Hallmark Shop, contact Tammy Hodges at 937-548-2472, or stop by the store.