Learn English – Sending Christmas Cards

I love Christmas cards!  Picking them out, writing them and receiving them. In this episode, I explain the tradition and some variations.


Hey there! It’s almost Christmas and Christmas cards are starting to appear. Have you received any, lately? Are you planning on sending some out? Let’s talk

(Intro: English without Fear where you can learn to speak English naturally, through listening to stories.)

As I record and upload my video to you all, we are drawing closer to Christmas. We are approaching Christmas. We are getting near Christmas. I consider Christmas, the 24th and the 25th of December. And we have already received three Christmas cards from different people. I have purchased cards, but I have not yet written any.

Where, where did the tradition of Christmas cards come from? And does everybody send a Christmas card? It appears to have started in England and became popular around 1840. That’s the 19th century. There was a man, Sir Henry Cole, who worked high up in the post office. The post office had just been formed, but only rich people could afford to buy the stamps to send things. And Sir Henry Cole wanted the public, the average person, to begin using the post office. So, he thought about designing a card, a Christmas scene on a card, that the post office could sell and make popular, begin the tradition of sending Christmas greetings through the mail. 

He had a designer friend, a friend who was very artistic, and together the two of them came up with a design for that first Christmas card. They had about a thousand printed. They sold. And for one penny, and I’m not sure how much that would be today, but not very much, and for one penny people could buy the card and send it through the postal system, have it delivered. And that started something called the Penny Post.

Eventually this tradition caught on, this new tradition, and the price of the Penny Post, the price to send a letter dropped. Soon that tradition of sending Christmas cards to family and friends ‘hopped the pond’ to America. That’s what Americans and British people sometimes say. They call the Atlantic ocean that separates America and Great Britain, they call that ‘the pond’ and they say something like: “Oh, he got on an airplane and hopped the pond.”

He flew over or crossed on an ocean liner, crossed the pond, which is no pond! It’s a big ocean! 

That tradition caught on and soon surpassed the number of cards per person sent in Britain. But something happened in Britain in 1891. A famous cowboy girl named Annie Oakley, who was really good with her pistol, she was doing a show, up in Scotland. And she had a photo, a picture, taken of her and she put it on a card and sent it to her family. That was the very first personalized card. 

Well what are cards like today? They’re a big item in America. But you need to know that young adults, they don’t send them very often. They don’t send them. But most older people do, 91% of older Americans, you decide what age that is, 91% of older Americans send Christmas cards.

What, what do the cards look like? A lot of them, of course, are about the Christ child. Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah. So, you will see what they call nativity scenes, scenes of his birth and a stable. You’ll also see scenes with churches. But a lot of cards are what we call secular. Nothing to do with religion. There might be cards of beautiful nature scenes, birds in the snow, anything beautiful. You’ll see Santa Claus with his traditional sleigh and reindeer, or Santa Claus at the beach, enjoying a vacation. You’ll see, you’ll see a lot of these personalized cards, family photos. And oftentimes families will dress up with a Christmas theme.

One other feature of American Christmas cards and some British. We have friends in Britain and some of them do this, but I have never received what I’m going to tell you about from anybody outside of the United States or Great Britain. And that is the traditional Christmas letter. It’s a letter where you write about the year, what your family has done. The big events. 

We write a Christmas letter. We talk about what we’ve done. We talk about our sons and their families. And we include it in a Christmas card. And on the card, I add a personal message to the people we’re sending this to. 

Why would I send a Christmas letter? Don’t people know what’s going on with me? Yes, close friends, local people, family, they know what’s going on with us. But Americans move around a lot and you make friends and then you leave friends and you might not stay in contact with them throughout the year, But you want to give them some news of your family. So, you send them an update, a Christmas letter.

I want to share one more thing. And this is called ‘true confessions’. I have a pet peeve. Do you know what a pet peeve is? A pet peeve is something that annoys you, that bugs you, that you wish people would stop doing well.

Here’s my pet peeve. I don’t like it when someone sends us a card and all they do is sign their name: no Christmas letter, no message that they wrote in pen. You know, don’t bother to pay for a card, buy the postage stamp and go to the trouble of signing your name and putting it in an envelope. Just don’t bother. It, it annoys me. I’d rather not get a card from you. 

I know. Now, you know something about me and my pet peeves. In fact, I think we’ll do an episode on the most common pet peeves. That would be fun.

Well, what about you? Do you like getting Christmas cards? Do you send any at all? Leave me a comment below this video.

And remember if you would like the transcript, the written words….it takes me about a day after this video is uploaded, but I transcribe the words and I will post it on my website. www.englishwithoutfear.com Well, that’s it for this episode. I think I’ll probably do at least one more before December is over, but if I don’t see you or you don’t see me before then, ‘Merry Christmas’.

(Outro: Thanks for watching. For questions or comments, here’s my email.)



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *