In 1843, Henry Cole, inspired by the then widespread “universal” cards (in which the sender could include the recipient’s name, event, greeting and signature), commissioned artist John Calcott Horsley to design a Christmas-appropriate image. The first commercial Christmas greeting card was published in the same month as Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The inscription on the card has not lost its relevance today: “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you.”
Cole’s Christmas card was published in an edition of 1,000 copies and offered for sale at a shilling each, which was expensive at the time, and the edition was not sold out. So the next Christmas card didn’t appear right away.
The symbols of Christmas in English-speaking countries, the bird (Robin) and the holly branches (Holly), began appearing on Christmas cards around the 1850s, and eventually became proper names.
If in Russia the bullfinch is considered the symbol of the New Year, then in Britain the Robin, often translated as robin, became the Christmas bird. Unlike the bullfinch, the feathers on the robin’s chest are not pink, but orange. Medieval Christian traditions associated red holly berries and the red breast of the robin with the blood of Christ. The legend about the appearance of a spot on a bird’s throat from a drop of Christ’s blood is described in the story “Redneck” by the famous Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf.
New Year’s crackers are also an invention of Victorian times. According to the most common version, the cracker was invented by the London pastry chef Thomas Smith. In 1847, Thomas, while in Paris on Christmas Eve, saw his French colleagues wrapping marzipan in festive wrapping paper. Small sweet packages have taken root in Britain. Thirteen years later, Smith, using this form as a basis, offered the public a toy that, when opened, made a bang, sparks flew out of it, and there was some kind of surprise inside.
In 1890, Beatrix Potter and her brother Bertram needed the money to buy a typewriter. Bertram offered to sell some of Beatrice’s drawings to raise funds. Printing house Hildesheimer & Faulkner purchased six drawings from Beatrice and printed them as Christmas and New Year cards.
Beatrix Potter (1866–1943) is one of the world’s most beloved children’s authors and illustrators. Between 1901 and 1913, she wrote most of the twenty-three original Peter Rabbit books. Since then, postcards with her drawings have become very popular and have not lost their relevance to this day.