The custom of sending Christmas cards was started in 1843. Sir Henry Cole, asked artist John Horsley to design a card for him, to ease his Christmas correspondence.
The card had three panels. The outer panels showed people caring for the poor and in the center panel was a family having a large Christmas dinner. 1000 copies were printed and sold. The original cards were advertised with the slogan: “Just published, a Christmas Congratulations Card; or picture emblematical of old English festivity to perpetuate kind recollections between dear friends”!
The new penny post  had made sending letters affordable to many and cards could be sent even cheaper than a letter for one halfpenny. They were an easy and inexpensive way to let friends and family know they were being thought of during the festive season. This led to Christmas cards growing in popularity and by the 1860s they were produced in large numbers. Unfortunately, as today, they were usually discarded after Christmas so it is rare to find them amongst family papers , so we do not have a record of whom our ancestors received cards from. However, since the Victorian times it is a tradition that generations have shared.
Based on “Did You Know that…” from IHGS newsletter to subscribe visit www,ihgs.ac.uk