Occasions for greeting cards
New Year’s greetings
In 153 before Christ the Romans changed the year’s beginning from March 1 to January 1 of a year which was their consuls’ inauguration date. Pope Innocent XII. confirmed it in 1691 Anno Domini. Since that time January 1 has been considering as the year’s official beginning in many parts of Europe and the Western culture. Independent of that, other dates existed in different regions and times and are still existing, and, moreover, in the same geographical areas various New Year dates were sometimes used at the same time. Our very early ancestors’ new life cycle started with the awakening of nature after a long and cold winter since they did not know a calendar and hoped to have a new start as well. They celebrated the festival with common meals, dances and small gifts between themselves. It is known from the old Egypt that these gifts were so-called New Year’s bottles, scarabs as well as proverbs written on papyrus scrolls.
Our European ancestors‘ customs were similar. At the end of the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Age people usually visited each other on New Year’s Day to wish good luck for the future.
With the development of the art of book printing members of the French and Austrian aristocracy were the first who ordered printed business cards to surrender them when visiting relatives, acquaintances, and friends, followed by wealthy citizens. Very soon, the number of collected business cards was decisive to demonstrate popularity in the Viennese society. This custom was later so much exaggerated that people ran from house to house on New Year’s Day to quickly distribute as much business cards as possible and, later on, they did not continue to distribute them personally, but ordered their servants to do so.
Thus, this accidental combination of the heart-felt desire to wish loved ones good luck, to surrender a gift and to get one from them, the temporarily exaggerated custom and new techniques and abilities finally created the New Year’s Card. It was the basis for our current cards that we use for different occasions. They have been developing for centuries!
Still long after the Second World War people used to send greetings by post for both festivities at the year’s end – Christmas and New Year. Then, a greeting cards‘ publisher had the idea to combine both texts to „Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year“. Since that time many people who wish to write greetings have been deciding to prefer Christmas, and, as far as they forgot someone before, they could send it as a New Year’s card. Nevertheless, people still wish to share the beginning of a new cycle and its chances with others they love. This is, however, more comfortably managed by using modern communication media in the course of an enthusiastic night of New Year’s Eve.
Günter Garbrecht 2014