Christmas is frighteningly close and if you’re like us, then you need something to distract you from the fact you still aren’t done shopping for gifts, and lucky for all of us, we have just the thing you need, drumroll please, a morbid Christmas backstory! Buckle up, folks.
So as we know sending Christmas cards is a thing that people do. Now, let’s talk Christmas card trends; today, as with most things, anything goes. A lot of people opt for a collage of professional photos capturing picture-perfect moments while some prefer to keep it weird by theming theirs or adding a funny element to theirs such as ‘90s attire or someone wearing a Michael Myers mask because it’s 2021 and why not? In years prior Christmas card season was a time for families to not only share a family photo but also the dreaded family newsletter where your mom definitely over-exaggerated what you had been up to all year. And even before that people simply went out and bought boxes of Christmas cards they liked and included a family photo or single school photos of the kids. But did you know long before that, Christmas cards featured a myriad of morbid illustrations such as giant half-human-half bug creatures, dead birds, and children that appeared to be drowning in teacups? Consider this brief history of Christmas cards to be our official petition to bring back creepy Victorian traditions. Let’s get started!
(image via: bored panda)
What we view as morbid now, such as grave robbing and posing for photos with corpses, Victorians considered par for the course; while we would love to get into all of that, we’ll save that for another day and instead focus on Christmas cards that featured clowns and the devil himself. The year was 1843 and Sir Henry Cole designed and printed the first Christmas card, charging exactly one shilling for each card. And of course, people had some issues with it, tale as old as time, right? Folks didn’t appreciate that the card appeared to promote drunkenness and children holding wine; in reality, the meaning behind the card was simply multiple generations sharing a meal, and raising a glass to their good health, while the side illustrations depicted good deeds done such as feeding and clothing those less fortunate.
(image via: ripley’s)
Christmas cards didn’t exactly go flying off the shelves so to speak in fact, it wasn’t until 1870 when the British government introduced the half penny that most people could even afford to send mail, and Americans soon followed suit. It’s also important to note that Hallmark wouldn’t become a viable option until 1910 and Santa Clause wasn’t being commercialized just yet, which meant people were left to their own creative devices when it came to illustrating cards. And they did appear to go with the stuff of nightmares as their holiday theme.
(image via: bored panda)
While Christmas cards appear to depict only things that make absolutely no sense at all, these illustrations actually help us understand a lot about the time. For instance, there were a lot of dead birds depicted on cards, and sure that seems like an interesting choice now, but at the time it was symbolic of the poor who would often be found dead on the streets due to harsh weather. So, still morbid, but there was a meaning behind it. In fact, because life expectancy was so low at the time, attending a lot of funerals wasn’t uncommon or even thought of as weird so portraying death via Christmas cards didn’t feel all that strange for the time. (gravityhair.com) As for a lot of the illustrations such as frogs, fairies, and kittens, the Victorian’s just found them entertaining.
(images via: bored panda)