December Mail Call!

Our first two Christmas cards came in Saturday’s mail – the first day of December. Right on time! For some years now, December has been the most exciting month, mail-wise.  Most of our friends have pretty much stopped communicating via snail-mail but, so far, Christmas greetings still seem to arrive, filling our little mailbox with news and good cheer.  I am so glad!

And yet… for the past few years there has been no reciprocation from our end.  I feel guilty and sorry and a bit cheap, as well.  We used to send out a hundred or so cards to friends and loved ones – only to those who live afar, mind you.  Locally, we tried to give our seasonal greetings in person – at a party or a community gathering.

But, when postage rose from 39¢ to 41¢ in 2007, I began to choke a bit over those Christmas cards.  Now, at 50¢ a pop, I am resorting to email greetings and FB messages and trying to come to grips with my feelings of guilt.  We’ve long lamented that Christmas has become so commercial; now my lament – the expense – seems even more Grinchy.

I don’t even find much consolation in the fact that sending Christmas cards is a relatively recent phenomenon.  But… when I learned that the idea came from a postal worker, I do think the glow became a bit dimmer.  From what I’ve read, sending Christmas greetings wasn’t exactly a scheme to increase business for Post Offices… but close:

The custom of sending Christmas cards was started in the UK in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole.  He was a senior civil servant (Government worker) who had helped set up the new ‘Public Record Office’ (now called the Post Office) where he was an Assistant Keeper, and wondered how it could be used more by ordinary people… Sir Henry had the idea of Christmas Cards with his friend Jon Horsely, who was an artist.  They designed the first card and sold them for 1 shilling each.

Christmas Cards appeared in the United States of America in the late 1840s, but were very expensive and most people couldn’t afford them.  In 1875, Louis Prang, a printer who was originally from Germany but who had also worked on early cards in the UK, started mass producing cards so more people could afford to buy them.  The first known ‘personalised Christmas Card was sent in 1891 by Annie Oakley, the famous sharpshooter and star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.  She was in Glasgow, Scotland at Christmas 1891 and sent cards back to her friends and family in the USA featuring a photo of her on it.

As much as I hate it when things come down to money, I guess 19th century sharpshooters made more than 21st century retired teachers.  Or maybe I need to find the entrepreneur of a Wild West Show to foot the bill.

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