A brief look at religious greeting cards

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Religious themes and images have played a key role in Christmas cards since early on, and not just in the U.S. Since the first Christmas cards in the mid 19th century, and across the globe, religious greeting cards have featured angels, nativity scenes, Jesus and various other depictions commemorating the birth of Jesus.

Part of the diversity comes from the fact that different countries and cultures have different beliefs about the birth and different customs and traditions. Christmas is celebrated in different ways from country to country, as this site points out with a slew of rich examples:

“In Spain Navidad (Christmas) lasts nearly a month, beginning December 8th with the feast of the Immaculate Conception (the Virgin Mary is the patron saint of Spain) and ending January 6 with Epiphany. The season emphasizes religious rather than the secular traditions…” Continue reading

Five reasons people still send (real) greeting cards

Mother and ChildIt may seem amazing that in this day and age of the Internet, people still send greeting cards. More than 2 billion Christmas cards in the U.S. alone, billions of more New Year cards, Easter cards, Valentine Day cards and so on. Studies like this one show that up to 90% of people still prefer to get an old fashion greeting card vs an email card. Still, you may wonder why. After all, an email card is still a “card,” just delivered electronically instead of snail mail. Below are five reasons I’ve come across while doing the research for our TaDa Greeting Cards company.

1) It’s more personal. Getting a personal letter always feels more personal than something you receive over the Internet. Part of this is psychological, part may be kinesthetic–you get to feel the card. I compare this to reading a real book vs reading something online. I don’t mind getting my news and daily information online (I read 30 to 40 news feeds a day) but if I want to read something deeper, something that takes time and thought, I’ll read a real book. There’s something gratifying about opening a letter and sitting down and reading it away from the office, computer and your work life.

2) It’s more emotional: I still have boxes of cards and letters my dad sent to his mom, brothers, and my mother from the 1950s and early 60s. He’s long gone but the cards and letters remain. I enjoy seeing how he expressed himself, and his style of writing. He wasn’t a Hemingway–not even college educated–but he got his point across in his own way, and often emotionally. When he was traveling the world on oil tankers, he’d write back about how he “missed home.”

3) It has more impact: This is particularly true with personal photo cards where you can post your family, friends or even dog’s picture. Part of the problem with e-cards is that on one level, they just represent another email in the (overloaded) email box. Easy to scan, efficient, yes. But also easy to gloss over or delete. A real card can stay up on the fireplace mantle or bedroom dressers for days or weeks. Continue reading

Did Coca Cola “invent” Santa Claus?

colasanta2.jpgLegend has it that the modern Santa Claus was created by Coca Cola back in the 1930s as part of a national advertising campaign. As part of this theory, it was also widely believed that that Santa’s red and white colors were chosen for one reason—to promote the Coke brand.

It sounds good—our premier Christmas image created by an American marketing machine—but it’s not completely true.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the Santa image had been evolving for years. By the late 19th century, Santa was still portrayed in many lights– as large and slight build, sometimes chubby, sometimes not; sometimes jolly, sometimes serious. His clothes might be red, purple or green (when Louis Prang created a Santa Claus Christmas card in 1885, he was wearing a red suit)

Still, there was a look emerging. By the time Norman Rockwell was painting Santas in the 1920s (picture below on left), Santa’s makeover was pretty complete and universally recognized. The bushy eyebrows, chubby physique, white beard, sacks of toys—all were in place by the time Coca Cola got its hands on Santa.

cokesanta7.jpgYou could also see this Santa image depicted for years in Christmas cards (see above middle and right).

Chalk it up as an urban legend, as this site points out: Continue reading

The history–and many faces–of the Santa Clause Christmas Card

santaface3.jpgNo single figure is a more popular image on Christmas cards today than Santa Clause, the jolly, benevolent figure associated with abundance, joy and the Christmas spirit. Yet if not for some major changes along the way, Santa could have wound up being a pretty scary figure.

The forerunners of Santa go back hundreds of years. By the time he showed up on the first Christmas cards in the mid 1800s, his image was already partly shaped. Ancient images include the Christian Bishop of Myra (4th century), known as Saint Nicholas. Bishop of Myra was famous for his kindness to children and generosity to the poor in Lycia, a province of the Byzantine Anatolia, now in Turkey.

Then there was the mythic Norse God Odin, in the 12th century (pictured below, far left), the God of War. Odin, with his white beard, has an slight but eery resemblance to today’s Santa and apparently he was known for riding on his horse, bringing either gifts or punishments, as appropriate. He was both loved and feared since he was said to be able to read hiding thoughts.

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There were various Santas, different traditions by country. As this site points out, St. Nicholas is said to arrive in Holland Continue reading

Seven facts you didn’t know about Christmas cards

blogcardtriv.jpgChristmas cards cut across cultural, economic and demographic groups. Nearly 2 billion Christmas cards are sold in the U.S. each year alone; cards were sent by 85% of Americans in 2006. Yet much is still unknown about one of our most enduring traditions. Here are seven facts you didn’t know about Christmas–ok, maybe you knew one or two (If you knew more than that, call us and we can put you to work…helping write our blog ;)

1) Christmas cards are an English innovation. They were originally penned by boys who were practicing their writing skills and they would present these handmade cards to their parents. Continue reading

Victorian era transforms society–and the Christmas card

blogvictcard.jpgSince the beginning, the Christmas card has reflected society’s view of Christmas and all the related traditions–and much more. So it’s no surprise that during the Victorian era, Christmas cards reflected the explosion in creativity among writers and artists.

The Christmas card was actually born amid the Victorian era, which started in the 1830s in England. Hard to believe, but before Queen Victoria’s reign started in 1837, few people in Britain knew anything about Santa Claus, Christmas cards or even a work holiday.

The wealth and technologies generated by the industrial revolution of the Victorian era transformed Christmas forever. The Victorian era was a time of great growth of the cities, expanding economies, education reform and Continue reading

Christmas card pioneers

According to many sources such as Wikipedia and the online postcard museum, the two pioneers of the early Christmas card movement were John Calcott Horsley and Louis Prang. As mentioned, Horsley was commissioned by Sir Henry Cole in 1843 to paint a card showing the feeding and clothing of the poor.

In 1843, Sir Henry Cole commissioned John Collcott Horsley, a fashionable artist of the time, to design the first Christmas card. Horsley, along with his artwork, was known for his leadership of a campaign against the use of nude models by artists-work. This effort earned him the nickname “Clothes-Horsley”

Horsley (pictured here) born in London in 1817, also designed the Horsley envelope, a pre-paid envelope that was the precursor to the postage stamp. Later in life, in 1882 was elected treasurer, a post which he held till 1897, when he resigned and became a “retired Academician.”

It apparently took three years before the Christmas card custom caught on; then the English Parliament passed the Postage Act,making it possible to send letters for a penny. Popularity had boomed within a decade across England. Of the 1,000 original Christmas cards printed, Continue reading