The sending and receiving of Christmas cards may seem like one Christmas tradition that has been around forever, but its origins actually date back to the creation of the UK's Post Office, or Public Records Office as it was then known, in the 19th century.
To drum up business for the Penny Post he helped launch in 1840, Sir Henry Cole, together with artist John Horsley, created the first Christmas card in 1843. At that time cards cost a shilling, equivalent to nearly £6 today. As printing technology improved, the price of cards reduced and by the 1860s, the Christmas card market was doing a roaring trade throughout the UK, with the custom spreading throughout Europe by the turn of the century.
For many decades, the number of Christmas cards sent and received every year continued to grow, reaching a peak of 1.02 billion in 2005. But ever since the advent of the internet in 1990s and its gradual widespread adoption, people have been predicting their death. By 2010, it looked as though they could be right, with The Telegraph reporting that Christmas card sales were dropping by 14% per year, due to high postage costs and the increasing use of social media to send festive greetings.
882 million individual cards were sent in the UK that year and the precipitous drop continued until just 105 million individual cards were sent in 2015. A survey last year by WorldRemit found that 52% of people now prefer to use social media or messaging apps to say Merry Christmas, rather than putting pen to paper.
But the decline may have reached its nadir in 2016 , which also saw 105 million individual cards sent. What gives cause for celebration is the total value of the cards being sent actually increased by £15 million to £184 million. Card manufacturers have begun to take advantage of the fact consumers are willing to spend more on individuals cards which are of higher quality. This move upmarket seems to have worked.
Certainly, ROSL's annual Christmas card is as popular as ever. If you still have bought yours, head to the ROSL Shop.