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New Year's Greetings

Posted in This months highlight on 19 Jan 2022

Each New year comes with a revitalised sense of hope for the forthcoming resolutions ahead - 2022 is no exception. We are all familiar with the tradition of giving and receiving Christmas cards, but have you ever received a New Year’s card?

The tradition of greeting cards first began in ancient China, whereby cards with messages of goodwill were exchanged to celebrate the start of a new year. In the early 1400s, people began exchanging Valentine’s Day cards with affirmations of love; becoming one of the most popular occasions to send cards. However, it was not until 1843 that the first Christmas Card was designed and sent by founder of the V&A, Sir Henry Cole, to his friends and family.

Nineteenth century greetings card showing two boys with the words To greet you

Perhaps you remember houses filled with Christmas cards hanging from string across rooms and doorways when you were a child – you may even do this today. Whilst the tradition of sending cards has declined with the introduction of mobile phones and the internet, sending cards to family, friends, neighbours, and colleagues wishing a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year is still an integral part of the festivities.

Examples of such festive greeting cards, dating from 1892-1893, can be found amongst the diaries and papers of Lieutenant General Sir Frederick McCracken (1859-1949) and his wife Ann, affectionately known as Nan (d.1923) [catalogue reference: D/EX55/84].

Here is one example of a New Year’s card.

Nineteenth century greetings card showing a young girl with the words With Loving New Year Greetings

It has ‘Paper lace’, specifically embossed and pierced paper edges, and is from the late 1880s featuring two smartly dressed boys. The card opens to multiple layers revealing a young girl and accompanying flowers, bearing the message:

‘With loving New Year Greetings 

 I don’t forget you dear, you see, May your New Year happy be!’

Children and flowers appear to have been popular motifs at the time. Some also would include poems, such as the above which features a fairy, metallic detailing, and an extract from Peace Be Around Thee by Thomas Moore:

‘Peace be around thee whenever thou rov'st;

May life be for thee one Summer’s day; 

And all that thou wishest, and all that thou lovest 

 Come smiling around thy sunny way’ 

Nineteenth century greetings card showing a fairy with the words A Happy New Year to you

Others included personal greetings, such as this by Helen Burnside (1841-1923) who was known for creating seasonal poetries:

‘Comes the New Year, glad with promise 

Springs young blossoms in his hand, 

On the bell’s sweet music flying – 

Flying gaily o’er the land! 

May he fill your heart with gladness, 

As his wings above you fleet, 

May he fling the fairest blossoms 

 From garland at your feet.’

Nineteenth century greetings card showing two girls with the words A Bright New Year

These handmade greeting cards, intricately cut with delicate images and poems, were an expression of joy and seasonal greetings to all those who received and sent them. Though we cannot send New Year’s cards to all our followers, we’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year and hope these seasonal greetings are fulfilled!