The Scandinavian Christmas Card History


Posting Christmas cards has been all about networking and nurturing friendship, with smooth, multi-colored motifs. The cards have been central in spreading the “real image” on how a real Christmas will look, with pictures of green, sparkling trees. Even though tradition is not completely dying, Christmas cards are at least in a downturn compared to its glamor in the 20th century. Read the Scandinavian Christmas Card History.

Advances in digital photography and printing have provided the technology for many people to design and print their own cards, using their original graphic designs or photos, or those available with many computer programs or online as clip art, as well as a great range of typefaces. Read more about the Scandinavian Christmas card history.

The Scandinavian Christmas Card History
Danish New Year by Wilhelm Larsaen

Related: A Merry Scandinavian Christmas with Song and Music

The Scandinavian Christmas Card History
In Scandinavia Christmas cards became popular in the late 1800s and the tradition is still very much alive, although electronic messages today are dominating. Christmas cards are usually exchanged during the weeks preceding Christmas Day by many people (including some non-Christians) in Western society and in Asia. The traditional greeting reads “Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year”.

The Scandinavian Christmas Card History
Modern Scandinavian Christmas card

The custom of sending Christmas greetings in this way spread from England to the USA and via Germany and Denmark to Sweden and Norway. The first Norwegian Christmas card is said to have been mailed in 1870, produced by a printer in Bergen by the name of Beyer. It was not until 1880 that mass production of cards got started. Some cards were imported from Denmark or Germany.

Related: Christmas in Scandinavia

The Scandinavian Christmas Card History
Norwegian vintage Christmas card

A time consuming task
Many people sent cards to both close friends and distant acquaintances, potentially making the sending of cards a multi-hour chore in addressing dozens or even hundreds of envelopes. The greeting in the card was normally personalized but brief, or could include a summary of the year’s news. Because cards were usually exchanged year after year, the phrase “to be off someone’s Christmas card list” was used to indicate a falling out between friends or public figures.

The Scandinavian Christmas Card History
Santa feeding a goat

The custom did not really take hold in Scandinavia until the early 1900s – but then it became customary for people to send each other Christmas cards. The custom was encouraged by the postal service for reasons that are not hard to understand. By 1871 it was “permitted” to send private cards in Denmark, followed by Norway in 1883. In both countries there was a great deal of skepticism about sending private messages on postcards that could so easily be read by others.

Related: The Tomten

The Scandinavian Christmas Card History
Danish Glædelig jul, 1913

Scandinavian Christmas card tradition
Postcards, which were a new concept at that time, were an important prerequisite for the tradition of sending Christmas cards. In 1882, people could buy the first preprinted cards with Christmas greetings produced in Denmark. Furthermore, the Danish and Nordic Christmas card tradition is characterized by a somewhat humorous content, such as elves playing in snow, getting into trouble etc., whereas religious motifs were somewhat rarer.

In the beginning Sweden’s Christmas cards were imported from Germany and England. Gradually the typical Scandinavian motives became more prevalent. The tomte or nisse was at first dressed like an old-fashioned farmer. The Swedish tomten had its origin in the legends of the hustomten.

The Scandinavian Christmas Card History
The ‘Yard and Wash-house” by Swedish Carl Larsson

The Daily Scandinavian team wishes all our international readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Here’s a list of the greeting in most international languages:

Albanian: Gëzuar Krishtlindjet dhe Vitin e Ri

Basque: Gabon Zoriontsuak eta urte berri on

Breton: Nedeleg laouen na bloavezh mat

Bulgarian: Весела Коледа и Честита Нова Година

Catalan: Bon Nadal i Feliç Any Nou

Chinese Simplified (China, except Hong Kong): 圣诞快乐,新年进步

Chinese Traditional (Hong Kong & Taiwan): 聖誔快樂,新年進步

Cornish: Nadelik Lowen, Bledhen Nowyth Da.

Croatian – Hrvatski: Čestit Božić i sretna Nova godina

Czech: Veselé vánoce a šťastný nový rok.[30] But mostly used is secular ‘P.F.’ standing for French ‘Pour féliciter’ (literally ‘For happiness in the year…’).

Danish: Glædelig jul og godt nytår! or simply God jul

Dutch: Prettige kerstdagen en een gelukkig nieuwjaar

Estonian: Häid jõule ja head uut aastat

Esperanto: Gajan kristnaskon kaj feliĉan novan jaron

Filipino: Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon

Finnish: Hyvää joulua ja onnellista uutta vuotta

French: Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année

Galician: Bo Nadal e Feliz Aninovo

Georgian: გილოცავთ შობა-ახალ წელს

German: Fröhliche Weihnachten und ein glückliches/gutes Neues Jahr

Greek: Καλά Χριστούγεννα και ευτυχισμένος ο Καινούριος Χρόνος

Hungarian: Kellemes karácsonyi ünnepeket és boldog új évet or simply B. ú. é. k.

Icelandic: Gleðileg jól og farsælt nýtt ár

Indonesian: Selamat Hari Natal dan Tahun Baru

Irish: Nollaig Shona Duit

Italian: Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo

Kashubian: Wiesołëch Gòdów i szczestlewégò Nowégò Rokù

Korean : 메리 크리스마스

Japanese: メリー・クリスマス

Latvian: Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus un laimīgu Jauno gadu

Lithuanian: Linksmų šventų Kalėdų ir laimingų Naujųjų metų

Macedonian: Среќна Нова Година и честит Божиќ

Malay: Selamat Hari Krismas dan Tahun Baru

Maltese: Il-Milied Hieni u s-Sena t-Tajba

Mongolian: Зул сар болон Шинэ жилийн баярын мэнд хүргье

Norwegian: God jul og godt nyttår

Persian: کریسمس و سال نو مبارک

Polish: Wesołych Świąt i Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku

Portuguese: Feliz Natal e um Feliz Ano Novo

Romanian: Crăciun Fericit și La mulți ani

Russian: С Новым годом и Рождеством Христовым!

Sinhala: Suba naththalak wewa, suba aluth aurudhak wewa

Slovak: Veselé Vianoce a Štastný Nový rok

Slovenian: Vesel Božič in Srečno Novo Leto

Spanish: Feliz Navidad y próspero Año Nuevo

Swedish: God Jul och Gott Nytt År

Vietnamese: Chúc mừng Giáng Sinh và chúc mừng năm mơi (acute accent over ơ in “mơi”)

Ukrainian: Веселих свят! (Happy Holidays!) / З Новим роком і Різдвом Христовим!

Urdu:آپکو بڑا دن اور نیا سال مبارک ہو

Welsh: Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

The Scandinavian Christmas Card History, compiled by the Daily Scandinavian team


Previous articleA Norwegian Christmas Star
Next articleFinn Juhl – The Golden Age of Danish Design
Avatar photo
Journalist, PR and marketing consultant Tor Kjolberg has several degrees in marketing management. He started out as a marketing manager in Scandinavian companies and his last engagement before going solo was as director in one of Norway’s largest corporations. Tor realized early on that writing engaging stories was more efficient and far cheaper than paying for ads. He wrote hundreds of articles on products and services offered by the companies he worked for. Thus, he was attuned to the fact that storytelling was his passion.