The Origins of the First Christmas Card, A Victorian Tradition

The Origins of the First Christmas Card, A Victorian Tradition

Sometimes I feel like I’m a bit obsessed with Christmas as I already wrote about who invented it, what was the first Christmas movie, and the story of the Royal who invented the Gingerbread Man (a Christmas Story). Well, I’m not finished, because now we are talking about:

The History of The First Christmas Card

The first Christmas card was sent in the early 17th century by German physician and alchemist Michael Maier, who wrote to King James I of England and his son, Prince Henry Frederick, in 1611 and said the following:

A greeting on the birthday of the Sacred King to the most worshipful and energetic lord and most eminent James, King of Great Britain and Ireland, defender of the true faith, with a gesture of joyful celebration of the birthday of the Lord. In most joy and fortune, we enter into the new auspicious year 1612.

On it featured a drawing of a rose, a symbol associated with Rosicrucian imagery, signifying wisdom and cultural heritage passed down through the ages.

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The Royal Who Invented The Gingerbread Man, A Fairytale Story

The Royal Who Invented The Gingerbread Man, A Fairytale Story


Recently, I wrote about the history of Gingerbread. As it was not the main subject of the article, I just evoked the part played by Queen Elizabeth I in the popularisation of Gingerbread in Europe. This story deserved a bit more, especially as it led to the invention of the Gingerbread Man!

Valued by the Romans for its medicinal and culinary uses, ginger vanished from Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. It wasn’t until the 13th century, when Marco Polo brought ginger back from China, that it regained popularity. Over time, ginger became more accessible and affordable, transitioning from a rare spice to a common ingredient.

In the past, people enjoyed ginger-flavored treats in various forms like cookies and cakes. However, the first recorded appearance of the gingerbread man was during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England. So, the story of the Gingerbread Man is not only a beloved fairytale but one that brought us back to the kitchen of the royal court of England.

The Royal Invention of Gingerbread Man

Queen Elizabeth I, who reigned from 1558 to 1603, loved throwing lavish royal dinners that included things like marzipan shaped like fruit, castles and birds. Her court included a skilled gingerbread maker who satisfied her sweet tooth.

Gifts played a significant role in the Elizabethan Court. It was used to show respect and gain favor, assert social status, or climb the social ladder — a way for Elizabeth I and her subjects to consolidate their allegiances and hierarchical order. And Gifts ranged from jewelry and silk stockings to fruit, confectionery, and books. In return, Queen Elizabeth often gave gifts she had received but did not interest her or goods of lesser value than what she had been given.

Queen Elizabeth I (circa 1575, source)

Among her gifts were gingerbread men. She instructed her gingerbread maker to shape them like her suitors, foreign dignitaries, and people in her court. These edibles were decorated with features and outfits, and then served to the very guests who could consume their own likenesses!

Queen Elizabeth also used gingerbread men as a way to assert power within her inner circle. By selectively distributing personalized gingerbread treats, she could confer status or withdraw favor. Receiving a gingerbread likeness from the queen was seen as a royal “stamp of approval” for both esteemed guests and suitors competing for her attention.

These edible works of art became cherished tokens, valued by those fortunate enough to receive them. However, falling out of favor with the queen had its consequences. Courtiers who lost her favor might have felt disheartened as they watched Queen Elizabeth biting off the head of their gingerbread likeness.

The Gingerbread Man Goes Beyond the Royal Court

The tradition of gingerbread men extended beyond the royal court, becoming popular tokens of affection exchanged at fairs in hopes of attracting potential partners. Legend has it that if a young woman could entice the man of her affection to consume one of these biscuits, it would spark love and possibly lead to marriage. Certain gingerbread shapes were believed to hold special meanings, with heart-shaped pieces bringing good fortune in love, and gingerbread rabbits associated with fertility.

However, not all associations with gingerbread men were positive. Superstitions arose, linking these figures with dark powers. Some believed that gingerbread men, especially in human form, possessed dangerous magical properties. Stories circulated about witches crafting gingerbread effigies resembling their enemies, causing death and destruction when eaten.

In Queen Elizabeth’s time, “gingerbread” described something fancy and elegant. But over time, the term took on a negative connotation and became a disparaging term. Gingerbread’s reputation suffered in the centuries after Queen Elizabeth I. Dutch authorities even banned the baking and consumption of molded gingerbread cookies due to fears of witchcraft and malicious intent.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert Loved Christmas and the Gingerbread Cookies

The Fairytail Comeback of the Gingerbread Man

Fortunately, gingerbread enjoyed a revival thanks to the tales of the Brothers Grimm. The tradition of decorating gingerbread houses with colorful candies resurfaced, and gingerbread men became cherished symbols of the festive holiday season.

In England around 1848, Queen Victoria and her German-born husband, Prince Albert, played a significant role in popularizing gingerbread cookies. They introduced these delightful treats as part of the German Christmas traditions they adopted, along with decorating Christmas trees and enjoying the Yule log. Since then, gingerbread cookies have become closely associated with the joyous celebrations of Christmas.

I often write about Christmas it seems, you can also read about the first Christmas card. And to stay focused on food, did you know that Queen Victoria loved the apple crumble.

What Was the First Christmas Movie?

What Was the First Christmas Movie?

Well, Christmas is coming again. You know, it happened once a year! 12 months ago, almost to the day, I published an article about the invention of Christmas. Of course, I can’t do it twice, but I wanted to write something about this season anyway.

And yesterday, I watched Miracle on 34th Street (the original). This was not the first Christmas movie I rewatched this year. A few days ago, it was It’s a Wonderful Life, The Muppet Christmas Carol, and The Ref. More to come. Anyway, the question here is:

What is the very first Christmas movie ever made?

If you already read my article Who Invented Cinema?, you probably know that movies are a bit older than you might think at first. Indeed, for the first “movies,” we need to go back to the 19th century. Strangely enough, when you talk about watching old movies, people tend to think about mid-20th-century films. I do the same.

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Who Invented Christmas?

Who Invented Christmas?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Christmas is upon us. The great capitalist holiday. Well, it didn’t start that way, of course. For a lot of people, it’s even not all about presents, but it’s hard to miss the capitalist part of Christmas. It’s so overwhelming. Anyway, as I said, it was not like that at first… I mean, I don’t know. I just think it wasn’t, because I don’t even know when we went from Jesus’s birthday to Santa Claus. So…

Who Created Christmas?

It was not Charles Dickens. There’s literally a movie called The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017) about Charles Dickens. But it wasn’t him.

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