'Scandalous' 1st Christmas card up for sale

Dec 4, 2020

The first commercially printed Christmas card is up for sale, but it wasn't universally greeted as a merry scene when it first appeared in 1843.

The card, being sold online starting Friday depicts an English family toasting the recipient with glasses of red wine.

“A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You,” it reads. But for teetotalers — and there were plenty of those in the 19th century — the imagery included a bit too much holiday cheer: In the foreground, a young girl is pictured taking a sip from an adult’s glass.

It scandalized the puritanical Temperance Society, an anti-alcohol movement, at the time.

It's believed to have gone on sale in the same week in December 1843 that Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" first was published.

Battledore Ltd., a New York-based dealer in antiquarian books, is selling it starting Friday via a Boston rare book dealer's online platform.