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Christmas Cards

by Alan Townend

Queen Victoria reigned (ruled) for most of the 19th century in the UK. It was a time of great splendour and also of great poverty. If you want a true picture of what life was like for those who had a lot of money and those who had very little, you should read the novels of Charles Dickens. One of his most famous (well known) books is The Christmas Carol. It tells the story of a man called Scrooge who never liked spending money and always called out: 'Humbug' (suggesting that someone is tricking/deceiving you) when anybody wished him a Happy Christmas. On the night before Christmas day he has a series of dreams. The first is about when he was a young man in love. The second is about how he is now as a mean old man and the third is a possible description of when he dies and everyone remembers him as an unpleasant old man. When he wakes up, he is so pleased to be alive that his whole life changes and he decides to spend money and make everyone happy. The name Scrooge' is now part of the language and is used to describe anyone who never spends any money. It is on traditional Christmas cards that you often see a Victorian household of the family enjoying their lunch, eating and drinking, which is where Scrooge decided to spend his Christmas day after his bad dreams. It was in 1843 that these cards started life. That particular year a certain Sir Henry Cole, a successful businessman wanted to send his colleagues and members of his family a card wishing them a Happy Christmas. He put this idea to his friend, John Calcott Horsley who printed a thousand copies at the cost of one shilling each. A shilling is equivalent to one twentieth of a pound sterling. America joined the postcard business in 1875 and in Canada in 1898. For the following 70 years different organizations arranged to cut out the pictures from the cards and pasted (stuck) into scrapbooks (books containing pictures and small pieces of information). This practice at least made sure that the cards were not wasted.

Today of course an important buzz (popular/fashionable) word is 'green' because we want to keep our planet clean and recycle as much as we can. It was with that in mind that the Woodland Trust was set up about forty years ago both to protect trees and plant new ones. In its first decade they were responsible for recycling 600 million Christmas cards and as a result they were able to plant over 140,00 trees, save huge amounts of CO2 from going into the atmosphere and that quantity was the same as keeping more than 5,000 cars off the road. Just think about it! How many Christmas cards will you be sending this year?

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