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Christmas Cards


It’s Christmas, iIt’s Christmas, it’s Victorian, and it’s Wednesday so I should post something combining at least the first two. The origin of the Christmas card as we know it now:

[Christmas Cards are] believed to have been designed by John Callcott Horsley in England in 1843, created for his friend Sir Henry Cole. An edition of 1,000 cards was placed on sale in London. It was lithographed on stiff cardboard, 5 1/8 by 3 1/4 inches, in dark sepia and hand-colored. The center of the card shows a family party in progress, beneath which were the words “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.” To one side is a scene of the hungry being fed and to the other side the poor being clothed.

Britannica Online via

Horsley painted frescoes for the Houses of Parliament, and with fellow artists Thomas Webster, G.B. O’Neill and F.D. Hardy, formed the Cranbrook Colony, meeting every summer to paint in the village of Cranbrook in Kent.

From 1875-1890 he was rector of the Royal Academy, where he campaigned against French influences and the use of nude female models. This earnt him the nickname ‘Clothes Horsley’.

From the National Gallery.

And as an aside that has nothing to do with Christmas but much to do with John Callcott Horsley:

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was Horsley’s brother-in-law: Isambard of the Great Western Railway and over 12oo miles of track including lines in Ireland, Italy and Bengal.  His great civil engineering works on the line between London and Bristol, are used by today’s high-speed trains and bear witness to his genius. [Brunel University, West London]

What are your favorite Christmas/Holiday Cards? Do you send them out? Do you like receiving them? I like the funny ones. Anything Peanuts/Snoopy and Maxine. She cracks me up all year round.




  1. You know, I’d never thought about how Christmas cards started before. I always love origins and how things get started. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great post, Isabel. I always liked the winter scenes best. Whether it was a Victorian house decked out for the holidays, a sleigh crossing a stream on a low stone bridge, a pine tree at dusk all alone on a snow-filled meadow, you get the idea.

    And I’ve only just now thought that the one thing these scenes all had in common was that they were of the Victorian era. Huh.

  3. Interesting about how and when the cards started. We have been ordering our cards recently from an Equine organization that supports the care of horses. The cards are varied, from funny to serious, and include some beautiful art as well. Being a horse lover, I can’t resist them. I’m always drawn to cards with horses in them, either by themselves or working.

    Happy Holidays!

  4. Great post, Isabel! I knew the Victorians were the ones who started the whole Christmas card tradition, but I always thought of their cards looking like those Courier and Ives scenes. LOL.

    I hate sending Christmas cards! I only send a few, mostly to my aunts and uncles who are still living. In this digital age, I prefer email to snail mail, postage, and signing cards by hand. LOL.

    I also hate receiving them, because after I open them, I have no place to display them. They end up piled on a table, then go into the recyle bin right after the holidays.

  5. I love Maxine, too. And I love funny Xmas cards. Especially if they are funny AND have a cat on them. Of course none of that explains why I just bought some Edward Gorey cards. Great blog.

  6. Isabel Roman says:

    I don’t send out Christmas Cards either, Susan. My reason? Laziness. 🙂

    Hannah, I LOVE Edward Gorey! Ooh, Christmas cards. Jealous!

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