Christmas cards originated in England over 150 years ago. "You cannot reach perfection though you try however hard to there's always one more friend or so you should have sent a card to," wrote Richard Armour. Sir Henry Cole knew exactly what Armour was saying. The founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London had so many Christmas greetings to send that handwriting them was impossible. Yet he wanted to make his friends aware of the need to help the destitute on that holiday.
The answer. In the year 1843, Sir Henry commissioned John Calcott Horsley to paint a card showing the feeding and clothing of the poor. A center panel displayed a happy family embracing one another, sipping wine and enjoying the festivities. (So much for good intentions. The card drew criticism because showing a child enjoying a sip of wine was considered "fostering the moral corruption of children.") "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You" was printed on that first card. Legend says Sir Henry didn't send any cards the following year, but the custom became popular anyway.