Christmas cards began around 1850 when an English postal employee thought the idea would encourage more people to use the postal service. They truly became popular around 1900 as a result of Queen Victoria celebrating all things Christmas. Her husband Albert was German and he brought many customs with him such as the Christmas tree. Cards quickly became a trend not only in England but in the USA too.
Early Christmas cards were mostly printed in simple color separated motifs. Printing presses at the time allowed up to a four color process and using a block color theme cards were inexpensively produced. Black ink on white paper gave the appearance of two colors and with the addition of a plate of red ink became a Christmas color trend for many years.
This style reached it's peak of popularity in the 30's and even into the 40's. In many vintage cards the emergence of art deco design is visible.
Working on card design for the 2013 season, I tried to echo that discipline of 3 colors. It quickly became a fun challenge. You can see some of my results here: