Monday, December 15, 2014

The Importance of Christmas Cards.

A very old Christmas card featuring Santa Claus in a make-shift zeppelin.

If it's not already abundantly clear, I like to write. Writing is therapeutic, as well serving as exercise for my brain. It keeps my noggin loose as a goose, you know what I'm saying? When it comes to your mind... if you don't use it, you lose it.

One of my most favorite things to write are holiday cards. Between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, I probably mail out a couple dozen greeting cards to family and friends. Odds are you've probably received one from me at some point (or you're about to). I write and send holiday cards because I want the recipient to know how important they are to me. Though many miles and difficult schedules may keep us apart, I am thinking of you.

But where did holiday cards come from?

The world's first Christmas card.

The origin of the Christmas card goes back to London in the year 1843. Sir Henry Cole commissioned over two-thousand cards to be printed with an illustration by John Callcott Horsley. Henry Cole was already notable in his day for inventing the Penny Post, which was a cheap and effective means of sending a letter for only one penny. Horsley was a well-respected academic painter and illustrator in England. These two men could not have known the phenomenon they were about to unleash upon the world. Ever since, Christmas cards have been in constant production (which also spread to other holidays on the calendar throughout the year).

Jump ahead to the year 1873. Christmas cards were not yet a ritual in the United States. Prang and Mayer, a lithograph company located in Boston, Massachusetts, began to sell greetings cards for Europeans, which they then followed up with the first commercially available Christmas cards for Americans in 1874. Louis Prang, the owner of the company, is known as the "Father of the American Christmas card". If you're an artist, the Prang name should sound familiar to you. Louis Prang was an outspoken art education advocate, to which he developed and sold art supplies and educational materials through is company. His name graces the Prang brand of art supplies, which include colored pencils, watercolors and crayons! Every time you use a Prang watercolor set, you can thank Mr. Prang in due part for creating the American Christmas card!

For over a hundred years, Christmas and holiday cards remained a common seen item in folks' mailboxes. Though, in the advent of the modern technology age, Christmas cards have take a back seat to emails and virtual greetings. Such electronic messages are fine and dandy... but they just can't replace the warmth that comes from receiving an actual card in the mail. To know that someone took the time to write a card, put your address on it, affix a stamp and take it to the post office... that shows initiative, authenticity and purpose. A recent study by the Heritage Foundation was not promising, though. In 2013, they confirmed via the US Postal Service that the volume of greetings cards mailed had shrunk over fifty percent since 1987. Even worse, the volume shrinkage between 2010 and 2013 was ten percent! As evidenced, the rate at which people are not mailing cards is rapidly sinking.

All is not lost, though. You can take part in sending a personal holiday message of love and affection. Grab a pen, get a holiday card from your local pharmacy or department store, slap a stamp on it and put it in the mail! Write your mom, your brother, your best friend from high school! I promise you this - a card filled with warm wishes and season's greetings will mean much more than any e-mail ever can.

Want to get on my greeting card mailing list, but don't believe you're already on it? Send me a message (Facebook, text, email, etc.) and let me know your address. I want to mail you a holiday card!

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