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A card for every occasion?

Updated: Aug 27, 2023

by Stephen Andrews

In Britain, we love sending greetings cards of all kinds - probably more than you might in Japan.

I’ve just done a quick search of Google and found Birthday cards, Wedding Anniversary cards, Easter cards, Good Luck in Your Exams cards, Sorry You’re Leaving cards, Get Well Soon cards and New Baby cards, to name just a few.

Whatever the occasion, in Britain, you’ll probably find a card for it.

Compared to other countries, we seem to be a bit obsessed.

In fact, in the United Kingdom, it’s estimated that, every year, one billion pounds are spent on greeting cards, with the average person sending 55 of them. Are we mad?

Where do cards come from?

You can blame the ancient Chinese, who first started exchanging messages of good will to celebrate the New Year.

By the early 15th century, handmade paper greeting cards were being exchanged in Europe and everyone started doing it.

So, are all these cards strictly necessary? Not unless you want to spend a fortune! Really, there are only three important ones - Christmas cards, Birthday cards and Valentine’s cards. So, if you’re living in Britain, be sure to send these. All three have interesting origins - here are their stories.


The tradition of sending a card at Christmas goes back a long way in Britain.

The very first recorded Christmas card was sent way back in 1611 by Michael Maier, a German doctor, to King James I of England and his son, the Prince of Wales.

In the 1840s, Christmas as a time to celebrate became more and more popular. Prince Albert introduced the idea of a decorated Christmas tree, and Charles Dickens published his Christmas classic ‘A Christmas Carol’.

By the 1870s, advances in printing and publishing technology meant that firms could begin mass-producing affordable Christmas cards for everyone.

In the UK, apparently over 668.9 million Christmas cards were sold in 2008.

So, now, you have to sit down every year, make a list of your friends and toddle off to W.H.Smith to stock up on them!


Of all the greetings cards, birthday cards are the most popular in the UK.

They first made an appearance in mid-19th century Britain.

These days, sending a birthday message on Facebook or Whatsapp might seem like an easier option than sending a loved one a physical greeting card, but people still seem to like getting an actual card.

They can be pretty good fun, too - a lot of cards are simply jokes about someone growing older!

Just be sure to jot down everyone’s birthday in your diary.


Valentine’s cards were being exchanged in various parts of Europe in the early to mid-15th century. And - interesting fact - you can still see the oldest Valentine’s card in existence in the British Museum.

If you’ve got a boyfriend/girlfriend/wife or husband, there’s no way you can afford to miss sending them a Valentine’s, unless you want to be in their bad books!

If you want to make a really good impression, you might also have to take them out to dinner or buy them chocolates! Valentine’s day can be expensive! NB: remember, it’s on February 14th.

Luckily, these days, sending a card is far easier, thanks to the internet.

On websites like you can have cards for any occasion sent for you, so you don’t have to go out and buy them in a shop. They’ll even send you reminders for birthdays and anniversaries, so you have no excuse for forgetting!





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