“Merry Christmas”… A Relatively New Phrase

By Darlene Fuchs on Email

A season full of joy, a holiday brimming with cheer—Christmas uncorks the festive spirits in the hearts of all. We greet each other with our good wishes and embrace the Christmas holiday spirit. Just like giving presents, Christmas greetings also play a major part of our celebrations. Year after year people send cards to both close friends and distant acquaintances, expressing our thoughts and feelings.

The commercial Christmas card as we know it, originated in London in 1843. That writer Sir Henry Cole had decided he was too busy to write individual Christmas greetings to his family, friends and business colleagues. He asked his friend, the painter John Callcott Horsley, to design a card with an image and brief greeting that he could mail instead.

Horsley designed a three panel card, with the two side panels depicting good deeds (clothing the naked and feeding the hungry) and the center panel showing a family Christmas party with a small child, drinking wine together, which proved some controversy. At the bottom of the center panel was the inscription “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you.” Two batches totaling 2050 cards were printed, colored by hand and sold that year for a shilling each. Twenty years later several British firms were publishing Christmas cards for the general public.

The father of American Christmas cards was a Boston lithographer and German immigrant, Louis Prang, who, in 1873, reproduced a multi-color holiday card, autographed by Christmas Carol author Charles Dickens. He began printing a variety of cards in Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1874. By the 1880’s he was producing more than five million a year. Color and detailing were so vivid that it was difficult to distinguish the artist’s originals from reproduced prints when hung side by side on a wall. Taking full advantage of his newly found technology, Prang employed the finest artists of his day to paint cards.

This year, make it a point to wish people you meet in the stores a Merry Christmas, make donations to those less fortunate than yourself and let your friends and family members know you love them, by sending them a Christmas greeting.


photo © christmasstockimages.com

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Darlene Fuchs