We end 2015 with Christmas cards used for greetings. Internet communications have been with us for only a few years, and Twitter is a relative newcomer, but the concept of Twitter – writing a message in a few words – is much older. The General Post Office in Britain (which became ‘The Post Office’ in 1969) once provided a next-day delivery (in some places a same-day delivery) of letters and postcards without levying an extra charge. It was not uncommon for someone to post a postcard around midday to warn that they would be late home – and for the postcard to be delivered that afternoon. For much of the 20th century, there were relatively few telephones in Britain and mobile phones were a sci-fi dream, so postcards were the tweets of their day.
A 1905 greeting
At Christmas, cards became the main form of seasonal greeting, but festive postcards were used as well, especially for last-minute communication. The one below is a postcard of Queen Victoria’s statue at Southend-on-Sea in Essex, overprinted with ‘Best Wishes for Xmas and the New Year’ in embossed red lettering. It was posted with a halfpenny stamp in January 1909 at Sacriston in County Durham to an address at Wolsingham about 10 miles away. Agnes was writing to her uncle ‘to thank you for your cards which were very much admired especially those with the tinsel on. I am sending you this, which is not very nice, but it will help to fill your album.’
When times were hard, simple postcards were used, cheaply printed in black and white. The plain example below has a faded gold border and a slightly manic cat. It was presumably hand delivered or posted in an envelope, because the reverse only has a handwritten message – With Love and Best Wishes for a Happy Xmas. E. Gatehouse. It seems strange today that somebody sending love would sign their name so formally. Although undated, we think this card was produced in World War One – please get in touch if you know the date.
World War Two saw Christmas greeting cards produced on thick paper (thinner than card), like the two below that were never used. Although undated, the poignant verse inside (the same in both) referring to Hitler and bombing shows they belonged to that conflict:
My Best Xmas Wishes,
A Pleasant Xmas––Full of Good Cheer,
With confidence, with hope, face the New Year,
And Hitler’s doom––Speed it fast,
Bombs and Blitzes––A ghost of the past,
The Sirens still’d––Eternal “All Clear”
These are my wishes and hopes for next year.
New Year greetings
Christmas wishes were inevitably bound up with New Year greetings, and postcards specifically made for the New Year were also produced. This one dates to the years between the world wars. It was posted on Christmas Eve, 24th December, with a one penny stamp, addressed to Mrs Rackham at 31 Ruskin Avenue, Manor Park, E.12 (this is still a street of terraced houses in east London). The only greeting was ‘From Mrs Gedder & Family’.
Nowadays Christmas and New Year greetings are just as likely to be sent via the internet, in the form of ‘greetings card’ downloads or straightforward emails, rather than in Christmas cards posted in the traditional way. We wish you all seasonal greetings.