We’ve been running this blog now for two years. When we posted our first literary blog post, on 1 December 2012, we set out to publish a short post every day, or almost every day. To mark the second birthday of Interesting Literature, we would like to present ‘The Advent Calendar of Literature’. Every day for the next 24 days, leading up to, and including, Christmas Eve, we’re going to publish a short post about some interesting fact relating to literature and Christmas. That’s 24 facts, or one for every month that this blog has been going. These are our favourite festive facts that we’ve uncovered over the last couple of years.
But not only that: each fact will be linked, so that tomorrow’s Christmas literature fact will pick up on today’s, and the one we post on 3 December will follow tomorrow’s, and so on, right to the end. So, if you have your first glass of sherry at the ready, and your inaugural piece of chocolate, we’ll begin with the first festive fact…
The first Christmas cards were sent in 1843, the same year as Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol was published. They were designed by London artist John Calcott Horsley. The penny post had been introduced three years earlier, making the process of sending letters and cards through the mail easy and affordable. Of the original 1,000 cards that were printed, only 12 are still in existence – nobody seems to have foreseen the longevity of the Christmas card-giving tradition, so few of them were preserved.
Robins on Christmas cards are, in fact, a little Victorian joke: Victorian postmen were nicknamed robins because of their red uniforms, so if you sent a Christmas card through the post, the robin on the front of the card was a nice little reference to the fact that it was being ‘delivered by a robin’.
Both Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and Christmas cards have been credited with popularising the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’, a greeting which, prior to the 1840s, was not widely used. Now, it can be found all over the place during the Christmas season – particularly on the front of, and inside, the 1.6 billion Christmas cards that are sent each year in the US alone.
If you enjoyed this festive fact, check out our compilation of 24 great Christmas facts.
Image: The world’s first commercially produced Christmas card, designed by John Calcott Horsley for Henry Cole in 1843; public domain.