How different and unique could your Christmas cards be? Museums of Burlington help you give your Christmas a personal touch.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  December 5, 2012    The smell of the tree sitting in the room all lit up and decorated; you know its close to Christmas when you walk in the room. The small ornate bouquet or Christmas wreath set out is also a large part of the Christmas season.  Who makes these wreaths and bouquets? And where do people learn to make them?

Making Christmas bouquets at Ireland House.

Looks just about right and is going to look beautiful on a table or above a fireplace. Christmas bouquets made during a class at Ireland House.

Lots of wreathes available at the garden centers but those small, almost delicate bouquets that get set out on a table are an art in themselves and last week a group of woman met at the Ireland House interpretative room and were taught how to make the bouquets.   Elizabeth Crozier taught a small group of woman how to make a bouquet that includes silver Christmas candles. You will have missed the course this year but they do it every year – make a not for late November of next year.

Wreathes and bouquets are a small part of the season.  Christmas cards are much more common; sent and received by almost everyone.  They come in the mail; sometimes neighbours and friends drop them off and we use them to decorate our homes over the holidays.  Christmas cards.

Laura Robinson, acclaimed stamping expert will be at the Joseph Brant Museum.

Perhaps in your household the children make up cards of their own.  Laura Robinson, a nationally acclaimed stamping expert will be at the Discovery Room of the Joseph Brant Museum for a two hour stamping class that will have you creating six designer quality holiday cards while learning how easy and fun rubberstamping is. Bring tradition back into the holidays and give something handmade for those close to you. Everything is supplied, all you need to bring is your sense of humour and holiday spirit  How were Christmas cards made When?   December  9TH – 1pm – 3:30 pm

There is a fee of $25which includes all the material you will need to make six special cards.  Refreshments will be served and a tour of the museum will be included. PRE-REGISTRATION REQUIRED.  CALL (905) 332-9888 or 634-3556

The first Christmas cards were illustrated by John Callcott Horsley in London on the 1st of May 1843. The picture, of a family with a small child drinking wine together, proved controversial, but the idea was shrewd. Two batches totaling 2,050 cards were printed and sold that year for a shilling each and an industry was born.

Early English cards rarely showed winter or religious themes, instead favoring flowers, fairies and other fanciful designs that reminded the recipient of the approach of spring. Humorous and sentimental images of children and animals were popular, as were increasingly elaborate shapes, decorations and materials. In 1875 Louis Prang became the first printer to offer cards in America, though the popularity of his cards led to cheap imitations that eventually drove him from the market. The advent of the postcard spelled the end for elaborate Victorian-style cards, but by the 1920s, cards with envelopes had returned.

The production of Christmas cards was, throughout the 20th century, a profitable business for many stationery manufacturers, with the design of cards continually evolving with changing tastes and printing techniques. The World Wars brought cards with patriotic themes. Idiosyncratic “studio cards” with cartoon illustrations and sometimes risqué humor caught on in the 1950s.

Nostalgic, sentimental, and religious images have continued in popularity, and, in the 21st century, reproductions of Victorian and Edwardian cards are easy to obtain.

The estimated number of cards received by American households dropped from 29 in 1987 to 20 in 2004.  Despite the decline, 1.9 billion cards were sent in the U.S. in 2005 alone.   In the UK, Christmas cards account for almost half of the volume of greeting card sales, with over 668.9 million Christmas cards sold in the 2008 festive period.

“Official” Christmas cards began with Queen Victoria in the 1840s. The British royal family’s cards are generally portraits reflecting significant personal events of the year. In 1953, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first official White House card. The cards usually depict White House scenes as rendered by prominent American artists. The number of recipients has snowballed over the decades, from just 2,000 in 1961 to 1.4 million in 2005.

Christmas cards have been avidly collected for years . Queen Mary amassed a large collection that is now housed in the British Museum.  The University College of London’s Slade School of Fine Art houses a collection of handmade Christmas Cards from alumni such as Paula Rego and Richard Hamilton and are displayed at events over the Christmas season, when members of the public can make their own Christmas cards in the Strang Print Room.

Specimens from the “golden age” of printing (1840s–1890s) are especially prized and bring in large sums at auctions. In December 2005, one of Horsley’s original cards sold for nearly £9,000. Collectors may focus on particular images like Santa Claus, poets, or printing techniques.

The Christmas card that holds the world record as the most expensive ever sold was a card produced in 1843 by J. C. Horsley and commissioned by civil servant Sir Henry Cole. The card, one of the world’s first, was sold in 2001 by UK auctioneers Henry Aldridge to an anonymous bidder for a record breaking £22,250.

And that is far more than you ever wanted to know about Christmas cards.  If you want to enjoy an afternoon learning a new craft – try this event.

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