With so many wonderful Christmas card styles available from all manner of high street stores, individual gift shops and craft fairs, it would be presumptuous of us to provide a definitive list. You will each doubtless have your own card preferences. Traditional, contemporary, scenic, religious, cute or comic all have their place in the festive season.
Therefore the How to Christmas team thought we would instead review a few specific card options available to you in both traditional materials and electronic form, as well as consider a little more closely the benefits of the charity Christmas card. We start, though, with history.
Christmas Cards: A Brief History
Sir Henry Cole, who helped introduce the penny post in Britain in 1840, also created the world’s first commercial Christmas card in 1843. They sold for as much as a shilling each – an average man’s weekly wage at the time. Before cards came along people would add Christmas messages to letters – but often with only the briefest of references to the festive season. In those days, the receiver had to pay for letters and if he/she didn’t want to pay, letters went to a ‘dead letters office’. This lost the post office a great deal of money: thus the introduction of the Penny Black. Most of the original 1,000 print-run of Cole’s cards was in colour, with only a small selection in monochrome. There are believed to be just 12 in existence today – only three monochrome. They can fetch thousands of pounds at auction. One sold at Devizes, Wiltshire in November 2001 for £20,000. It was originally sent by Cole to his grandmother in 1843 and was hand-coloured by London illustrator John Calcott Horsley. The pictured scene was criticised for promoting drunkenness…it included an adult feeding wine to a child. Cards eventually became more affordable for all, but it wasn’t until 1881 that Christmas cards became so popular as to force the Postmaster General to make the first appeal to “post early for Christmas”. Now more than 800 million cards are sent annually in the UK.
Charity Christmas Cards
It’s good to feel not only have you purchased cards you love, but you’ve also made a small contribution to charity in the process. Exactly how much of the purchase price goes to the charity can vary tremendously. The Charities Advisory Trust (charitiesadvisorytrust.org.uk) holds its annual Scrooge Awards for those retailers who have been a little less than generous. If you believe small contributions don’t matter or make a difference look at the following extract from the Trust’s website.
“ Does it matter? It matters! A charity Christmas card can make a lot of difference. Just one pack of Potting Shed pays for two weeks’ schooling for a child in Africa. ‘London Vista’ – sold in aid of Knit for Peace – provides materials for a woman in a refugee camp to knit warm clothing for a child in the camp. Just one pack of ‘St Pauls from the Millennium Bridge’ provides eight school notebooks. Just one pack of ‘Tin Toys’ pays for two courses of antibiotics in India or Africa, where sick people are often sent home to die for a lack of drugs routinely available to us.”
Card Aid is another charity Christmas card website that may interest you – cardaid.co.uk. It’s linked with the Charities Advisory Trust and also has a wide range of pre-printed, personalised and charity e-cards to purchase. There’s also charitychristmascards.com which has raised over ten million pounds over the last thirty years for more than two hundred UK charities. Personalised cards start from just under £1 each with between 10p and 50p per card going to your chosen charity. You don’t need to lose the charitable aspect of sending cards if you are buying in bulk, perhaps for you, your company or workplace. Company Christmas Cards is a family-run business and supplier of excellent bespoke cards from which several UK charities can benefit. Scroll down to the next segment – Personalised Cards – to see more on this growing business or visit companychristmascards.co.uk.
Personalised cards commonly fall into two categories. There are those in which you can have your own message and contact details printed – maybe even incorporated into the design on the front of the card. And there are photo cards that upload images of your family, friends or pets onto a Christmas template. You will likely have heard about Moonpig and most certainly Hallmark. Both offer card personalisation services and may be more suitable for individual cards or small, single figure orders.
But if you are looking to buy unique and rather splendid personalised Christmas cards in bulk, desire wonderful service with a personal touch and want to support a family-run British business that manufactures in the UK then you need look no further than Paper Isle at paperislechristmas.co.uk.
Founded in 1998 as a division of its parent wholesale firm, this business was formerly known as Company Christmas Cards. Chris Gray heads up marketing, his talented artist wife Christina helps with the creation of designs and his Dad Alan brings to the table 20 years of experience in greetings card retail. The name change came as a result of branching out into other forms of greetings cards. and stationery.
This company works for the corporate world – but also for the individual. Why not send your own batch of unique Christmas cards that are sure to delight? The selection in the department stores can be all-too-samey and uninspiring at times. We have certainly discovered that in our recent searches. By ordering through Paper Isle you will be guaranteed to send cards you will not find in the shops, with your very own special, personal touch. Christmas should be full of this kind of thoughtfulness – and you know we endorse such behaviour wholeheartedly, as much as we support growing family businesses. Moreover, we applaud the fact recycling and the environment are also important to Paper Isle (as its brochure reads: “…we’re…aiming to be carbon neutral by planting trees across the uk….we’re doubling down on sustainability”). Charity is also a big part of what Paper Isle deliver.
This is how it works in brief: you choose a card from more than 150 designs; select the charity option if you desire; create your proof online; have the proof checked by Paper Isle and make any amendments by email; submit your order; receive your cards promptly. Read the testimonials online and you will discover streams of happy customers. Why not join them?
Individual Christmas cards with detachable tree decorations attached are offered courtesy of Gloucestershire company Country Heart at countryheart.co.uk – a lovely way to send greetings and leave the recipient with a permanent and even personalised keepsake.
Get the Kids Involved: Ed’s Christmas Grotto has some great suggestions for children to make their own Christmas cards (Click Here for Ed’s Things to Make page). But should you wish to use original artwork by a younger member of the family, sites such as littlepaintbox.com will convert children’s artwork into personalised greetings cards, bags, canvases and tea towels. What wonderful keepsakes.
Card – What Card? The Unconventional Route
How about sending an unusual and stylish card that isn’t made of card? Wood, for example.
“Wood Paper Scissors” – personalised handwritten postcards: What could be a better way to preserve a child’s handwriting than engraved on to a unique postcard? Each card is precisely engraved with your child’s handwriting. This isn’t just a greetings card, it is a bespoke and completely original card to keep and cherish forever. To add your child’s handwriting simply send a scanned or photographed image of the writing. For best results ask your child to write the name using a thick black felt tip pen. The image will be reduced to fit the available size if necessary. Check out more details at woodpaperscissors.com.
Timbergram Cards: inspired by the original wooden postcards from the early-1900s and use sustainably sourced wood from FSC certified forests in Eastern Europe. The screen-printed or engraved cards are made out of 3mm birch, are designed and produced in the UK and are available for all occasions, including Christmas. Customers can buy Timbergrams with blank postcard backs or choose to engrave their message on the back. They can be written on with a biro and posted as standard mail. You can order online at timbergram.com. The company also works closely with the charity Tree Aid that helps villagers in Africa’s dry-lands plant trees that will provide both food and income. For every 10 Timbergrams sold, another tree can be planted by a villager in the dry-lands, transforming their life and their landscape for the long term. A link on Timbergram’s website gives further details.
Ceramic cards are an unusual delight and will be treasured long after the conventional cards have been dumped in the recycling bin. Caroline Barnes Ceramics offer a fine hand-made selection at cbceramics.co.uk. A small tile of porcelain is mounted onto a lightly textured white card. Each image is produced using a platinum transfer and packaged with a silver envelope.
Greetings cards with ceramic mementos attached also offer an unusual twist on the regular. Juliet Reeves has a pleasing selection, all designed and hand-made in Britain. Some have tiny ceramic heart keepsakes on the front, while others have ceramic hearts on red and white ribbons that can be hung from tree. Try ceramic-gifts.com. Also see the selection at notonthehighstreet.com.
Textile cards are a joy, exciting the senses of sight and touch. Beautifully bespoke embroidered cards can be found on eBay, which is where you will also discover a selection of hand-made padded fabric cards. Visit ebay.co.uk.
Stitching your own special cards for loved ones is also possible, assuming you have either the skill and patience or the willingness to develop both attributes. You can buy Christmas card cross-stitch kits from the UK’s largest online needlecraft shop sewandso.co.uk. The kits include a chart, instructions and the necessary thread, fabric and adornments.
Take Your Tablet – the App Option
This might be for you if you want to try something novel – or have forgotten someone and want to send a card last ditch. There’s a free app from Inkly Cards that allows you to write your message on a piece of paper, photograph it on your iPhone or iPad, send it to Inkly and have the company turn it into a proper Christmas card. It will cost you just a few pounds. There are 1300 designs to choose from for all occasions.
Wax On – Wax Off? Making ‘Decorative’ Fashionable
“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things: Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax– Of cabbages–and kings” – The Walrus and The Carpenter from “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll
“I like the Walrus best,” said Alice on hearing the poem about the oyster-eating duo. And what we like best is to receive a card that stands out a little from the rest. With that in mind, you might like these ideas best.
Why not customise your cards by using sealing wax and a personal seal on the back of your special cards. Manuscript Pen Company Limited, who trade as calligraphy.co.uk, has a lovely set of three Christmas seals and wax – and they can also be used to decorate all sorts of paper crafts such as cards, gift toppers/tags, crackers, tree decorations and more. amazon.co.uk, hobbycraft.co.uk and stampsdirect.co.uk also sell a wide range of seals and wax colours.
You can’t beat a good Christmas sticker – takes us back to childhood. Five pounds buys a hundred stickers from Amazon or why not browse notonthehighstreet.com for a wonderful and varied range of festive stickers, some of which can be personalised.
Another worthwhile idea is to order sticky labels with your own address on them for use on envelopes, so you don’t have to write it out hundreds of times. Visit vistaprint.co.uk and you can choose your own design. You can also allow younger members of the family to get involved in the whole Christmas card scene by giving them the job of applying stamps and stickers.
E-Cards & Environment
We are told E number additives in food and drinks are not good for us. We have taken heed, especially where children are concerned. Now we are here to inform you e-cards most certainly are good for us. In fact they can considerably help another crucial E…the environment.
Contemporary Touch the E-way
Why not consider an e-card for some of your friends or for the younger members of the family. Many people love to send electronic greetings cards at Christmas for a whole variety of reasons. Some feel it is far more environmentally friendly – reducing your carbon footprint and saving trees. Others love the animations and sounds they deliver – as well as having the ability to personalise them. A website we love is jacquielawson.com. For a small fee you receive a year’s membership and the ability to send not only a wide variety of Christmas cards but also cards for every other occasion throughout the year. A subscription also makes a sweet gift.
V for Video
Feeling adventurous? Want to send a Christmas card that friends and family will certainly remember? Then send a video Christmas card courtesy of jibjab.com with the facial image of yourself and/or your family superimposed onto a cartoon character dancing around to some great Christmas tunes. Video cards are very much in vogue. In 2013, more than 11 million people watched a video card on YouTube posted by an American family in North Carolina. You can send this kind of card via Facebook, Instagram and all manner of other social media outlets.
How about a message from Santa himself? Go to portablenorthpole.com to create a free and personalised video message from the man in red to be emailed to someone special. A thoughtful and magical festive surprise indeed.
Friends of the Earth: Are You Environmentally Friendly?
An estimated 1.5 billion Christmas cards are thrown away in the UK each year according to Imperial College researchers – that’s a whole lot of cards. Perhaps this is one of the reasons some people are choosing e-cards that cut their carbon footprint, save trees and save money. But if you prefer to send cards rather than electronic greetings there are key factors to look out for when purchasing that will make your choices more environmentally sound.
Look for cards that are made from either all or a large percentage of recycled cardboard. You will find the colours more muted on recycled card and the texture is often less smooth, but designers incorporate these features into the card design to make the most of them. If you see the FSC certified logo (Forest Stewardship Council) this means the wood for the card has come from a forest that is managed to specific standards. The FSC’s website quotes their mission is to: “…promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests.”
Cards printed with vegetable and soya-based inks, as opposed to the usual chemical inks, are a better choice. Basically the more colours, gloss finishes, cut outs, die-cut shapes, additional foil and textured finishes, buttons and bells on each card, the bigger the need for greater manufacturing processes – ergo more machinery, energy and transport. So if this is a consideration for you, keep the cards simple…but always festive and beautiful of course. Look at glebecottagestudio.co.uk for lovely cards and a fuller explanation of the many ways in which the manufacturing process can be made more environmentally friendly.