The notion of wishing a loved one well on special occasions is a longstanding one. Ancient Chinese, Korean and Japanese cultures revered New Year in much the same way as modern western society values Christmas, sending messages of good fortune and luck to their acquaintances. This well-wishing was traditionally communicated in Japan via the giving of money to children in a special envelope. The sending of personalised New Year postcards is a current trend in Japan particularly.
The significance of emotional messages is a simple one of gratitude and appreciation that perhaps is not expressed ritually in daily life. The idea of a written note to a mother on Mothers Day, the annual Christmas card to Great Uncle Roger in Canada to let him know youre there. Much of the idea revolves around that exact sentiment of Im here, I remember you, and I love you
So when did the western letter or message card evolve into the greeting card format of today? The Victorians were great ones for messages and sentiment lockets, cameos and so on were a common sentimental message format. The language of flowers was one of their favourite secret message tools, for example, the sweet pea flower means bittersweet farewell
For the Victorians and those before them, tradition cited that the well-wisher ought to visit the birthday fellow and greet them in person, however since this was not always possible, it became prudent to send a token greeting card in their place to express their regret at being unfortunately absent.
Greeting cards were, in general, almost exclusively associated with birthday celebrations. However the development of the steam-powered rotary press in the mid 1800s catered unexpectedly for the niche industry of greeting card production as well as books and newspapers etc.
From the mid 1800s on, the greeting card industry quickly became a habitual element of the printing industry. Europeans particularly loved the notion of Christmas cards, and for a time occupied the slot of top greeting card consumers in the world.
As expected, sales and production dropped during WW1 and WW2, although production of simple homemade cards (particularly for children) often replaced the unattainable birthday or Christmas present during wartime, leading to a wonderful array of uniquely creative specimens, some of which survive in museums today.
Post-war greeting cards tended to be far more humorous than their pre-war relatives. The mood of a nation was certainly reflected in its written salutations. Silly one-liners and caption cards filled a market niche so easily defined as the British sense of humour!
And then the age of computers dawned. It wasnt until the mid 1990s that these little dancing sheep and cartoon creations began to pop into inboxes the world over. E cards tend to be sent via email, and are viewable via Java or Flash technology. The easy personalisation and exceptionally vast variety of E cards available makes them the greeting card of choice for a world of technophiles. The environmental resonance of E cards is another fantastic benefit (along with the adorableness of watching cartoon mice sing Happy Birthday in a chorus line!)