Monday, December 5, 2016


   Christmas cards are one of the most popular holiday traditions we have today.  They are mailed out all over the world to friends, family and acquaintances during the holiday season every year.  They are available in any size, shape or color imaginable, and with a countless variety of thoughful messages.  However, some may be interested in learning about the history of Christmas cards and how they came to be so popular in our society today.
   The custom of sending greeting cards dates back to Ancient China.  In order to celebrate the New Year, the ancient Chinese delighted in sending messages of good will.  Early Egyptians utilized papyrus scrolls to send their greeting.  New Year's tidings were being produced in Germany as early as the 1400's.

  The origin of the Christmas card is in England.  They are a product of boys practicing their writing skills.  The boys would practice by making cards for their parents.
   The history of Christmas cards goes all the way back to the year 1843, where the very first Christmas card on record was commissioned by Sir Henry Cole.  The illustrations, which depicted a family, including a small child, enjoying wine together, was created by the artist John Calcott Horsley.  The Illustration, and the concept of the Christmas card itself, create a fair amount of controversy.  However, one thousand of the cards were reproduced, and each one sold for one shilling.  This was how the Christmas card came into being.

1st Mass Produced Christmas Card

   Most Christmas cards come in religious themes, though they can also come in themes ranging from modern art to humorous and anything else imaginable.  Surprisingly enough, the earliest Christmas cards were not often designed with a religious theme.  The designs typically depicted cheerful colors and floral art to symbolize a celebration of the coming spring.  The history of Christmas cards seems to have been mostly about the promise of hope.
   Another interesting tidbit in the history of Christmas cars relates to the first royal Christmas card, and the royal family has continued the tradition of producing one each year, typically in the form of a seasonal family portrait.  American president Dwight D. Eisenhower, is also known to be a "first" in sending out Christmas cards, as he issued his Christmas card in the year 1953.

1961 Presidential Christmas card exterior

1961 Presidential card interior

Other Tidbits of Interest About Christmas Cards

  • In the U.S., Louis Prang produced the first commercial Christmas cards.  He was a German immigrant, who in 1856, started a little lithographic business close to Boston.  He is considered the creator of the greeting card industry in the U.S.  More than 5 million card were being produced by 1881.  His cards gained increasing popularity through the 1890's.  Prong stopped producing greeting cards when cheaper imports came onto the market.
  • Today's Christmas cards can be bought as singles or in large boxes.  Individual cards are usually sent to somebody special, while the boxed ones are very helpful for your more general Christmas mailing list.  The majority of holiday cards are sold in box form.
  • In 2006, 2 billion people in the U.S. sent cards.
  • That means, 85% of people in the U.S. mailed cards in 2006.
  • Approximately 33% of the holiday cards purchased each year contain a religious message.
  • About a third of all annual greeting card sales are related to the holiday season.

  • Christmas cards are the most popular cards of any season.  Christmas cards account for 60% of all card sales.  A distant second is Valentine's Day at 25%.
  • The U.S. is home to approximately 3,000 greeting card publishers.
  • "Merry Christmas" is the preferred text for 54% of holiday card purchasers.  "Season's Greetings", is liked by 12%, and "Happy Holidays" is preferred by 21%.
  • When it comes to deciding which boxed card to buy, 56% of us take the decision based on the variety of cards available, and for 63%, price is the most influential factor.  Shopping with online distributors can easily satisfy both conditions.  Unlike a typical store, they can display more cards without space limitations.

   Many people are now becoming very environmentally conscious when it  comes to sending out their Christmas cards.  Every year, with millions of cards being bought, they are read once and then thrown away.  However, there are now receptacles in place for recycling these paper goods.  Several companies are even selling cards which are made only from recycled materials.  Another great way that people are utilizing for giving out Christmas cards that are environmentally friendly are with E-cards.  With E-cards, one can send out as many cards as they could possibly need over the Internet, eliminating any paper waste and saving the cost of stamps.  In addition, E-cards are often free.  If the past history of Christmas cards is any indication, no matter which type of card one chooses to send, the card industry is still going to be booming for years to come.


   Are you a trivia buff?  If so, perhaps you'd be interested in knowing a little bit more about the poinsettia plant you buy every Christmas season.  This knowledge should really impress your friends and family at the holiday dinner table.
   Did you know that the poinsettia's main attraction is not its flowers, but its leaves?  The flowers of the plant are the yellow clustered buds in the center.  The colored leafy parts are actually bracts or modified leaves.
   Red is the most popular color, accounting for roughly tow thirds of all sales nationwide, followed by white, pink, marble and peppermint candy.   Poinsettia's also come in a variety of other shades of salmon, apricot, yellow and cream.  There are also unusual speckled or marbled varieties like "White Glitter".  New varieties are introduced yearly with even more variation in height and colors.

   How many poinsettias do you think are sold each year?  Would you believe over 5 million!  In Canada, Poinsettia's accounted for one third of sales of all flowering potted plants.
   Because of the plants dislike of traveling long distances, there are growers of poinsettias in  almost every state and in Canada they are in every Providence.
   In the wild, the poinsettia can reach heights of 12 feet with leaves measuring six to eight inches across?  It is actually a small tropical tree belonging to the Euphorbia plant family.  Its botanical name is Euphorbia.  A native of southern Mexico, the poinsettia blooms in December and has been used in that country to decorate churches for centuries.

   In the 14th to 16th centuries, the Aztecs used the poinsettia leaves to dye fabric for clothing and the sap for medicinal purposes, including to help control fevers.  They also considered the red color a symbol of purity, and so poinsettias were traditionally part of religious ceremonies.
   Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett, an amateur botanist and first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, introduced the plant that became known as the poinsettia to this country.  He discovered a shrub with brilliantly colored red leaves growing by the side of the road in Taxco,Mexico.  In December 1828, he sent cuttings home to his plantation in Greenville, South Carolina.
   However, most botanists at that time dismissed the poinsettia as a weed.  Fortunately, Poinsett continued to study and breed this plant in his greenhouse, sharing plants with his horticulturist friends.  It soon gained acceptance as a holiday plant, despite its very short bloom time.  It wasn't until the 1960's that researchers were able to successfully breed plants to bloom more than just a few days.

Some painted poinsettia's

   True or False?  The poinsettia is a poisonous plant.  If you answered false, you're correct.  The plant has been tested repeatedly and cleared of this charge by the National Poison Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and the American Medical Association.  The POINSINDEX Information Service reports that even if a 50 pound child consumed more than 500 poinsettia bracts--the amount tested in scientific experiments--the consequences would not be fatal.  Even at this high level, no toxicity was found.
   However, this doesn't mean that poinsettia's are meant to be eaten.  If ingested, this plant can cause stomach irritation and discomfort.  Cats and children also may choke on the fibrous parts, so be sure to keep these plants out of their reach.  The sticky white sap also may cause skin irritation for some people.

   Do you know the best way to prolong the life of this Christmas plant?  Avoid hot or cold drafts, keep the soil moist not soggy, and place in a room with sufficient natural light and temperatures of around 60 to 70 degrees F.  Water when the soil begins to dry.  Once the leaves begin to wilt, it's too late.
  Above all, protect it from exposure to wind or cold on the way home from the garden center.  Poinsettia's are highly sensitive to cold temperatures and even a few minutes of exposure to 50 degree or lower temperatures will cause them to wilt.  But when care for properly, poinsettias usually will outlast your desire to keep them.


   Candy canes are a traditional Christmas treat.  There are many interesting facts about candy canes that many people know little or nothing about, however.  For example, did you know that it is possible to find candy canes at other times of the year than Christmas.  Here, we will take a much closer look at some interesting facts about candy canes.

History of the Candy Cane

   During the 1400's, it is rumored that the candy cane was invented by French priests.  When it was first invented, the candy can did not have any curves. It was also called a peppermint stick at this time.  The candy cane was originally a straight stick.
   One little known fact about the candy cane is that it was not originally invented with red stripes.  It was not until the mid 1900's that candy canes with red stripes appeared in Sweden.
   The curvy shape of the candy cane is credited to a choirmaster who worked at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany.  It is believed that he bent the peppermint sticks to look like the canes that shepherd's used.  he gave the newly bent peppermint sticks to children to keep them quiet during performances.
   Other sources credit the bending to a candy maker in Indiana.  It is rumored that he also decided to add three red strips to the candy cane which were meant to represent the Holy Trinity.
   Some people believe that the reason the peppermint sticks were bent into their curvy shape was so they could look like a "J", for Jesus.
  Most people in Europe did not begin putting candy canes on their Christmas trees until the 1700's.  This tradition, which is very popular today, did not hit the United States until sometime during the 1800's.

Candy Cane Flavors, Colors and Sizes

   Although the candy cane is traditionally peppermint flavored, many colors and flavors are constantly being developed in order to increased the overall appeal of candy canes.  One of the most well known colors of candy canes to date is rainbow.
   Some of the different flavors of candy canes,  which are available today, include blueberry, pina colada, strawberry, cinnamon, spearmint, raspberry, cherry, mocha, bubblegum, orange sherbet, chocolate mint, and cherry.
   Candy canes that have been designed to taste like other forms of candy have also been invented.  Some of these include Jolly Rancher flavored candy canes, Starburst flavored candy canes, Life Savers flavored candy canes and Sweet Tart flavored candy canes.
   There are also a variety of different sizes of candy canes.  Mini candy canes and the candy canes that we are used to seeing are two of the different sizes.
   The largest candy cane that has been made to date was 36 feet 7 inches long in 1998.

Candy cane shot glasses

Other Facts About Candy Canes

   More than 2 billion candy canes are sold between November and December.
   There are many different uses for candy canes.  Some people use candy canes to decorate their trees, while others add candy canes to hot chocolate, ice cream and various other desserts.
   The smell of candy canes is known to work like aromatherapy.  Many people believe that it makes people feel calm or happy.
   Candy canes, though high in sugar, only contain 50 calories.  They also have no fat or cholesterol.
   National Candy Cane Day is celebrated on December 26th.  This is a good time to indulge in candy canes of all flavors, colors and sizes!


Seal 2010

Seal 1931

Seal 1981

   It all began in 1907.
   In the early 20th century, tuberculosis was the leading cause of death in the U.S.  Physicians were experiencing the first signs of success treating tuberculosis in special hospitals called sanatoriums, and one of those facilities had fallen on tough times.  The tiny Delaware sanatorium would have to close its doors if $300 dollars could not be raised to save it.  One of its doctors explained the plight to his cousin, a Red Cross volunteer named Emily Bissell.  Bissell was a veteran fundraiser, and she soon came up with a plan based on one that had worked in Denmark: She would design and print special holiday seals and sell them at the post office for a penny each.


Seal 1907

Emily Bissell

Expanding Mission

  The tradition continued and grew year after year through World War I, The Great Depression and Word War II.  As the American Lung Association's mission expanded to include research-into other respiratory diseases, such as lung cancer, more people began to send Christmas Seals.  And as the American Lung Association stepped up to protect children and families from pollution and cigarette smoke in the 1960's, 70's, and 80's, America continued its support each year by supporting the Christmas Seals tradition.

Seal 1926


Seal 1953

Seal 1979

Seal 1961

A Bigger Battle.

   Today, the American Lung Association fights a bigger battle than ever before.  From important research on lung cancer and asthma to the fights against the dangerous poisons in air pollution and secondhand smoke, the American Lung Association's crucial mission is still largely supported by Christmas Seals.

Seal 1949

Seal 1918

Seal 1972

Seal 2004

   Each year, millions observe the tradition of sealing holiday cards and packages with that year's special seal.  And each year, your Christmas Seals donation supports the important fight against lung disease being waged every day by the American Lung Association.
   If you are interested in purchasing some Christmas seals or just want a look at all of the other Christmas seals, you can go to Christmas seals.org. They are not very expensive either, for a sheet or 56 they are $10 dollars.