One of the most popular things to do at Christmas is to send festive cards to friends and family. It is a great opportunity to take some time composing a handwritten message full of seasonal cheer, best wishes and news on what you’ve been up to.
In The National Archives’ collection there are many examples of Christmas cards. There are designs which were made for mass manufacture as well as poignant reminders of how people communicated during the First World War. The National Archives’ has a unique connection to the tradition of sending cards too. Henry Cole, a lawyer who worked for the government in the Victorian period and helped established the beginnings of The National Archives in 1838, introduced the first Christmas cards for sale in 1843.
Below are a selection of card designs including an amusing card sent to a furry resident of government! Explore the documents and answer the questions. Afterwards, there is a craft activity to complete so that you can share the joy of sending cards.
Now that you’ve explored archive documents, you can use them to inspire your own Christmas cards. Watch this special Craft Club episode where an artist shows you how to create a pop-up card.
After you watched the video, you could use the designs from the cards above to create a whole set of beautiful cards to send to friends and family.
« Return to Festive greetings
Take a look at this card whose reference is RAIL 253/516:
- What do you see on this document?
- Where do you think these men are?
- Can you spot anything which tells us when this card was made?
- Why do you think the picture is portraying Christmas in this way?
This document is a very special example of a card which was sent from the front in the First World War. It was designed to show that the soldiers away fighting were still able to enjoy Christmas. It is a positive image which would have helped keep people’s spirits up and supporting the war. It comes from documents made people who worked in the Audit Office of the Great Western Railway Company, sent when they were away fighting in the war.
These cards represent different times in history. Do you notice any similarities or differences in the styles or designs between each card? If so, what?
Do you think they seem traditional or still modern/relevant to people in the 21st century? (or 2020?)
What do each of these documents tell us about how Christmas has been celebrated in the past?