The bygone days of Christmas Cards

The practice of sending Christmas cards has been around since the 19th Century.
It is believed that the first Christmas card was designed by John Callcott Horsley in England in 1843, created for his friend Sir Henry Cole. His hand-painted gift depicted feeding and clothing of the poor. A center panel displayed a happy family embracing one another, sipping wine and enjoying the festivities. In 1875, Louis Prang, a German immigrant to the U.S., opened a lithographic shop with $250 and published the first line of U.S. Christmas cards, and thus the tradition of sending Christmas wishes was begun.

by Darla Welchel

Every year, it seems that fewer people send this simple gesture of the holiday season – myself included. I have heard for many years the reason for not sending Christmas cards is the rising cost of postage. I understand, I often hand-deliver as many cards as I can to save a couple of bucks, and my Christmas Card List has become shorter and shorter.
I can remember my mother’s list and her “card writing” time. Her list was long; moving from state to state developed many friends and close ties that she wanted to catch up with at the end of each year. This was before the days of social networking or unlimited long distance cell phone service. The only way people were able to keep up with each other’s family or send a note of well wishes was through snail mail.
But I think it is more than the high cost of postage – 20 cards would only cost $8.80, to mail (that is less than two cups of Starbucks). It is because we have become too busy to stay in touch in this personal way. I have noticed with the increase in technology – technology that is supposed to simplify our life – that we seem to have less time. The reason is because we are always connected. Connected to work. Connected to friends and family. And, connected to play. We are so connected that we seldom are able to “get away from it all.”
Yes, my mother would spend a couple of days, if not a week, writing her cards. She would always include a brief, hand written, summery of our family status. People have become too entwined in modern technologies to revert to the simple task of penning a few Christmas cards. Don’t get me wrong; I too check my Facebook account a couple times a day. And before that, I was a slave to my e-mail and instant messages to keep up with friends and relatives who live far away. Although, I still haven’t succumbed to texting.
The instant gratification of seeing a note from a friend is hard to describe. In fact, on my birthday, I received over 60 birthday wishes on Facebook. But as I sat watching an old Christmas movie filling out this year’s meager offering of Christmas cards, I was struck by the fact that as I wished each family a Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year, that I was in fact dwelling on each one of them – almost like a short prayer for each of my friends and family.
I realized that it isn’t about time or money, but about the willingness to spend a few moments to give of myself to others. Yes, I can send out a mass e-mail or Facebook message to wish all my online friends well (and I probably will), but it isn’t quite the same as sending them a card, hand penned especially for them. Also, receiving a wish over the net – although special in its own merit – is not quite the same as holding an actual card in my hand. It is kind of hard to display an electronic Christmas card; I discovered this when I found myself capturing the image of one said card, so I could print it out and hang it with my other Christmas cards.
Christmas, for me, has long been about giving, giving of myself either through my time or with a present. God gave the ultimate gift through his son, Jesus, who would someday be led like a lamb to slaughter for our sakes. For me, I think it is the least that I can do to sit for a short while, pen several cards, and at the same time pray for each of my closest friends and family. Will I still send Christmas blessing electronically? Yes, because I too have become too embedded into the world of technology and have developed too many online friends to keep up. But for a special few, I will continue to “honor Christmas” through the sending of physical Christmas cards.

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