This is a busy time for the post office, as they send all those packages and, for many of us, holiday greetings.

I’m a very tech-heavy guy but I still do like getting actual cards and letters in the mailbox around the time of year.

It’s due in large part to a British guy who found a way to make it easier for people to wish each other well during the holidays.


Henry Cole worked in a number of civil servant jobs in the 19th century.

In all he helped expand the country’s postal system, and the railroads, and architecture, and engineering, and museums, and he was a friend of Queen Victoria, and he also wrote children’s books and had eight children.

He was a busy guy.

Cole wanted to find a way to stay in touch with friends and colleagues and loved ones in the holiday season, but without having to write letter after letter after letter.

In 1843 – the same year Charles Dickens released “A Christmas Carol,” by the way – Cole commissioned one of his artist friends, John Calcott Horsley, to design and print a card he could send to all of them.

Horsley’s design shows a family sitting down to a feast, young and old all enjoying being together and celebrating.

There were lines for Cole to sign the cards and add names and addresses.

It was still festive, just a lot less work.

And because he’d helped expand what was called the Penny Post, Cole saved time and money mailing them out.

To my knowledge history doesn’t tell us when the first sarcastic Christmas card was printed, but it probably wasn’t too long afterward, right?


Speaking of sharing: yesterday we told you about a couple in the suburbs of Montreal who had a massive poinsettia plant.

Atlas Obscura notes that at one time, you were just as likely to get or give a chili pepper plant as a poinsettia.

I will gladly accept any and all of these plants, by the way.

Dear (Whoever You Are), Here’s the First Christmas Card (Library of Congress)

Intriguing stories served fresh daily When the Christmas Plant Was a Pepper, Not a Poinsettia (Atlas Obscura)

Our Patreon backers are definitely holiday card-worthy

Christmas Card photo via Flickr