- ‘Deep and crisp and even’ becomes a thing of the past, as global warming bites
- Bears now appear on five times as many cards as reindeers
- Father Christmas has lost 12kg in a decade
- Darth Vader and Kylo Ren make an appearance, proving that wherever you are and whatever your politics, Christmas is a family affair
Analysis of the artwork on hundreds of Christmas cards from the last two decades by Clintons, the national chain of greeting card retailers, indicates that global warming, diet-consciousness and popular culture are having a dramatic effect.
The robin redbreast appears on fewer cards than ever before, continuing the decline last reported in Clintons’ card index in 2014. In the last decade, Christmas card designs featuring robins have declined by 29.2%, in contrast to their real-world equivalent population, which has grown by 49% since the 1970s.
Snowmen have increased in frequency on Christmas cards, up by 15.2% in the last decade.
Wider analysis of the animals depicted on Christmas cards this year has yielded several surprises. There are virtually no donkeys. Robins remain a frequent, if more scarce feature. Reindeers have been unaffected by fashion shifts, appearing on 10% of cards. But the surprise four-legged feature is the bear, which features on 32% of cards this year.
Snow remains a popular theme, with snowflake designs up 8.2% in the last ten years. Estimated average snow depth on cards has continued to decline, though, with ‘deep and crisp and even’ replaced in many cases by what looks like the aftermath of a typical British January weather warning. Tim Fairs, a director at Clintons, said: “Snow tends to be more at the Met Bureau end of the spectrum than the Snowpocalypse headline.” Accordingly, few cards now depict sleighs, reflecting the easier travel conditions portrayed.
In most card depictions of snowy scenes, snow appears to be an average of six inches deep.
Christmas trees remain a prominent feature, appearing on 29% of cards this year.
Depictions of Father Christmas continue their slight downward trend (3.6% over the decade) but his fashion influence remains strong, with 8.3% more characters on cards wearing his trademark red hat than this time ten years ago.
Creatures wearing the Santa hat this year include dogs, cats, teddy bears and rabbits. Father Christmas appears to have lost around 12kg in the last decade and his famous rosy cheeks have changed from Pantone colour code 217 to Pantone 177. His famous red outfit has deepened in tone in recent years, moving from Pantone 1795 to Pantone 1807.
However, despite these changes, Christmas card designs remain as traditional as ever. While many people seem concerned that the true meaning of Christmas has been forgotten, it seems that at Christmas, people still stick with tradition. Victorian street scenes remain as popular as ever, with holly bushes, bells and stars all apparently here to stay.
This year there is some evidence the Christmas is a more distant and ancient celebration that we imagined, with several cards featuring Darth Vader and his grandson Kylo Ren from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – and proving, perhaps, that whatever your views on galactic domination, Christmas is a family affair.
Tim Fairs, Clintons, added: “It’s fascinating to see how depictions of Christmas combine tradition and fluidity. We’re surrounded by new technology, but this seems to be the one time of the year when everyone indulges in traditions – the satsuma in the stocking, the Christmas card, the rustle of wrapping paper. Thankfully, though, the light sabers are toys.”
The Christmas card market has become increasingly sophisticated, with complex pop-up cards and luxury options. Glitter, a staple of Christmas, now appears on 27% more cards than it did a decade ago. Cards, from Clintons’ range of more than 1,000 different options, range from £1 (for many) to £25 for a deluxe card.
Cards have also become highly-prized and valuable collectors’ items. The first ever Christmas card was designed by John Callcott Horsley and commissioned by Sir Henry Cole in 1843. The card featured a design showing three generations of a family raising a toast to the recipient – the “eat, drink and be merry” theme remains familiar today. It sold for a staggering £22,500 at auction in 2001.