Advent stories and messages from around the world
December 21, 2021
“Those Christmas Greeting Cards”
The very first Christmas card was printed and sent in 1843. Sir Henry Cole, a wealthy businessman, was on the ‘A’ list in society and had many friends. So he was looking for a way to wish his friends, family, and colleagues a Merry Christmas.
Sir Henry approached a friend of his, John Calcott Horsley, with the idea of printing a card out to send to people for Christmas. So, John designed and printed it. At the time, it cost a penny to send a letter. So, it wasn’t a problem for a rich man like Sir Henry to send the cards out to people he knew.
The picture above is a copy of that original Christmas card. Some people disliked the card because they thought that it advocated for children to drink (You can see in the picture a woman giving a child a sip of wine).
Some people copied Sir Henry’s cards and sent them to their friends.
The modern-day Christmas card didn’t come into existence until about 1915. A new postcard company in Kansas City, Mo., started by Joyce Hall and later joined by his brothers Rollie and William, published the first-holiday greeting card. The Hall brothers’ company was renamed about ten years later. And yes, you guessed it, the name was changed to Hallmark.
Hallmark came up with a standard format for their Christmas cards. They were 4 inches wide, by 6 inches in length, and inserted in an envelope.
Today, Christmas cards are sent and received around the world. But, we’ve moved past just paper cards given or sent in the mail. Now there are e-cards available that can be sent via the internet. Many include music and personal greetings.
A greeting of “Have a Blessed Christmas,” sending a card with a Christian message, and having an angel atop our tree, are commonplace ways today to share that you are a Christian.
But sharing your faith was not always as easy as it is today. After Jesus died, Christians were persecuted by the government and Roman emperors who regarded themselves as God.
So followers of “The Way,” Christians had a unique way of identifying one another as a Christian. It was the use of the Ichthus or Ichthys.
The Ichthus is a Greek symbol meaning fish. Early Christians used this symbol to identify themselves as a follower of Christ. (Sometimes as simple as marking the sand or dirt they stood on with their feet or finger.)
Sometimes you may see the Ichthus like this:
The Ichthus breaks down like this:
Early Christians also used this symbol because Jesus refers to Himself as a “Fisher of Men.”
“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 4:19 The Greek word anthropoi refers here to both men and women Immediately, they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John, his brother, in the boat with Zebedee, their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” Matthew 4:18-22
This year, whether you send Christmas cards to friends and family or are greeting someone at the checkout corner by saying, “Merry Christmas.” Remember and share with your family how early persecuted Christians greeted one another with a fish symbol. And how we, as His disciples, continue to “fish” for men and women every day.
Dear Jesus. You called your first disciples to be fishers of men. Help to continue your work each and every day. We want to spread the word of how you sent your Son Jesus to save us from our sins. Amen