Christmas greetings in antique postcards

By BARBARA WINFIELD
Posted 12/22/21

Collectors love antique Christmas postcards, especially ones that feature Santa Claus. He is even more desirable if his red suit is not red but some unconventional color such as blue, green or, …

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Christmas greetings in antique postcards

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Collectors love antique Christmas postcards, especially ones that feature Santa Claus. He is even more desirable if his red suit is not red but some unconventional color such as blue, green or, better yet, purple.

Since paper can disintegrate over time unless it is preserved, many early postcards have become rare. So it is exciting to find a collection of family Christmas postcards carefully preserved for sentimental reasons.

Why is Santa so valuable to collectors? He is one of the most beloved of all holiday symbols. Plus, antique postcards show the development of the image of the religious figure of St. Nicholas, a medieval saint known for his compassion and kindness, especially for the poor.

If you had to describe Santa Claus today. you would probably portray him as a jolly big man with a white beard, in a red suit, carrying a sack full of toys and flying in a sleigh pulled by reindeer.

But that wasn’t always the case. On very old postcards he is shown as a slender figure in religious robes in somber colors.

Over the years, St. Nicholas morphed into Father Christmas, Kris Kringle and finally Santa Claus.

The way he was portrayed began to change in 1823 with the publication of Clement Clarke Moore’s poem, ”T’was The Night Before Christmas.”

This physical change can be seen in antique Christmas cards printed between the 1870s and the 1920s. The Victorians were very fond of sending seasonal-greetings postcards, especially during Christmas. Most of these cards were printed in Germany where the art of lithography and chromolithography excelled.

Despite Moore’s description of Santa in a flying reindeer sled, many early artists had him walking around the world with a walking stick or cane, often carrying a Christmas tree or lantern in addition to his bundle of toys.

Throughout the centuries artists have depicted Santa in many ways, but the one thing that every artist seemed to agree upon was that Santa had a white beard.  

In 1931, artist Haddon Sundblom created an illustration for Coca-Cola’s new ad campaign that depicted Santa as a kind-looking, grandfatherly man wearing the soda company’s traditional red and white colors. This was the image that helped reinforce a new image of Santa Claus in the public’s mind—an image that is still popular today.

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