The habit of sending festive greetings dates as far back as the Middle Ages, when worshippers began distributing wood prints with religious themes at Christmas.
The custom of sending Christmas cards as we know them today took off in Britain from the 1840s onwards, when the first “Penny Post” postal deliveries began.
Indeed the first Christmas card was commissioned in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole, who had helped to introduce the Penny Post service three years earlier. It was designed by John Horsley to be printed and then hand-coloured, either by the sender or receiver.
Only 1,000 of these cards were printed and sold. At a shilling each, they represented a luxury item at the time.
By the 1870s the cost of sending Christmas cards, had dropped to half a penny, establishing them as popular tradition.
One of the original cards, sent by Sir Henry Cole to his grandmother in 1843, was sold at auction in Devizes, Wiltshire for £20,000 in November 2001 - making it the most expensive Christmas card on record.