22 Things You Might Not Know About the Stanley Cup

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Interesting facts and crazy stories about the trophy—which is older than the National Hockey League.

1. Who is Stanley, and what’s his cup?

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The Stanley Cup is named after Lord Stanley of Preston, the 1892 Governor General of Canada. He purchased the decorative cup in London for 10 guineas (around $50 at the time). Stanley donated the Cup to award Canada’s top amateur hockey club after he and his family became infatuated with the sport at Montreal’s 1889 Winter Carnival; it was first awarded to the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association (or MAAA) in 1893.

2. There are actually three Stanley Cups.

the stanley cup
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Stanley’s original Cup from 1892, known as the “Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup" (above), was awarded until 1970, and is now on display in the Vault Room at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

In 1963, NHL president Clarence Campbell believed that the original Cup had become too brittle to give to championship teams, so the “Presentation Cup” was created and is the well-known trophy awarded today. (Skeptics can authenticate the Presentation Cup by noting the Hockey Hall of Fame seal on the bottom.)

The final Cup is a replica of the Presentation Cup, which was created in 1993 by Montreal silversmith Louise St. Jacques and is used as a stand-in at the Hall of Fame when the Presentation Cup isn’t available.

3. But it’s one of a kind.

Unlike other major league sports trophies, a new Cup isn’t made every year. Instead, after each championship, the names of the players, coaches, management, and staff of the winning team are added to the Cup. The first team to have its roster engraved was the 1906-07 Montreal Wanderers, whose names were etched within the inner bowl of the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup. The only other team names engraved on the inner bowl are the 1914-15 Vancouver Millionaires.

4. And it’s always changing.

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More and more teams wanted to be immortalized, so the decision was made to put a separate single ring below the original Cup that each new winning roster would be etched on. Between 1927 and 1947, a new, more streamlined and vertical incarnation of the Cup was used. Thanks to its cylindrical shape, it was nicknamed the “Stovepipe Cup” (above)—but by 1948, the trophy had become too tall to hold or put on display, so the shape was changed to the tiered version used today.

5. Its rings are detachable.

Since 1958, five bands of championship names are engraved around the base of the Cup. When the rings become full, the oldest band is removed and preserved in Lord Stanley’s Vault at the Great Esso Hall in the Hockey Hall of Fame. A blank replacement band is then put in its place to be filled with the names of the next champions. No championship team names from the 1928-29 to the 1953-54 season are currently on the Cup.

6. The NHL has official engravers put each name on the cup.

In its 96-year history, there have only been four official engravers sanctioned by the NHL. The first was the 1948 Stanley Cup designer Carl Poul Peterson, a Danish engraver who moved to Montreal in 1929 and worked with his sons Arno, Ole, and John Paule in his engraving shop until his death in 1977. The current engraver is Louise St. Jacques (creator of the replica of the Presentation Cup), who took over from the second and third official engravers, Doug Boffey and his father Eric, at their shop Boffey Silversmith’s in Montreal in 1989.

To inscribe each name individually, St. Jacques disassembles the Cup from the top down, and then clamps the band being engraved in a homemade circular jig. She uses special small hammers and a series of letter stamps to strike each letter into the silver while using a metal level to keep the names as straight as possible. St. Jacques estimates that each name takes approximately a half-hour to inscribe and that it takes a non-continuous—not to mention patient—ten hours to complete every name for the winning team.

7. But they’re not always perfect.

Many champion player and team names are misspelled on the Cup. The name of the 1980-81 New York Islanders is misspelled as “Ilanders,” and the 1971-72 Boston Bruins’ name is misspelled as “Bqstqn Bruins.” Most of the errors are left on as they are—it would be too costly to fix the mistakes. But fans believe the errors add to the idiosyncratic nature of the Cup.

Corrections have been made, though: When 1996 champion Colorado Avalanche’s Adam Deadmarsh's name was spelled “Deadmarch” on the Cup, it was stamped out and corrected after he publicly stated how heartbroken he was about the error.

8. Sometimes the winning teams don’t play by the rules.

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The NHL will allow no more than 52 names from each year's winning team to be engraved, with the assumption that the people included are affiliated with or have played on that club during the Stanley Cup finals.

But Peter Pocklington—the former Edmonton Oilers owner perhaps best known for trading away The Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky—included his father, Basil, on the list of names to go along with the 1983-84 champion Oilers, despite the fact that his father wasn’t officially affiliated with the team. Once found out, the league had the engraver strike out Basil’s name with a series of capital Xs (above).

9. But sometimes, there are extenuating circumstances.

When the Detroit Red Wings won the Cup in 1998, the team asked that Vladimir Konstantinov's name be engraved on the Cup, even though he didn’t play that year. The NHL allowed it because Konstantinov was a team member who was seriously injured in a car accident before the Wings defended their title.

There are also a couple of instances where no names were inscribed at all, like when the Cup wasn’t awarded in 1919 due to an outbreak of Spanish Flu. It also wasn’t awarded for the 2004-05 season because of a lockout between the league and the players union. The entire space for the players’ names reads “SEASON NOT PLAYED.”

10. Some people make multiple appearances.

Henri Richard, brother of Montreal Canadiens legend Maurice “Rocket” Richard and a hockey great in his own right, is on the Cup a record 11 times as a player, while the legendary Scotty Bowman appears on the Cup the most for a coach with nine Stanley Cup wins as the skipper for the Red Wings, Penguins, and Canadiens.

With 24 victories, the Canadiens have taken home Stanley Cup more than any other NHL team—though their last win, unfortunately for Habs fans, was back in 1993. Montreal also holds the record for most consecutive Cup wins with five in a row from 1956 to 1960.

11. One fan tried to steal the Cup—but not for the reason you'd expect.

Montreal fans are so adamant about the Cup that during the 1962 playoffs, when the Cup was on display at Chicago Stadium for the defending champion Black Hawks (the name was compressed to “Blackhawks” in 1986), Habs fan Ken Kilander attempted to take the Cup and walk right out the door with it. When a police officer caught and questioned him, Kilander responded, “I want to take it back where it belongs, to Montreal.”

12. The Stanley Cup isn’t only for men.

Twelve women have their names inscribed on the Cup. The first was Marguerite Norris, who was the president of the Detroit Red Wings for their 1954-55 season victory. Sonia Scurfield is the only Canadian woman to have her name inscribed; she was the co-owner of the 1988-89 champion Calgary Flames.

13. Some people are superstitious about it.

Various players are wary of the Cup if they haven’t won it yet, and steer clear if they’re still in contention—in fact, some players on conference champion teams won’t even touch the respective Western Conference Campbell Bowl or Eastern Conference Prince of Wales Trophy so they don’t jinx their team’s chances at the real prize!

14. The Cup has a chaperone.

The Cup is always accompanied by at least one representative of the Hockey Hall of Fame, dubbed the “Keeper of the Cup.” The current Keeper, Philip Pritchard, has held the position since 1991 and even maintains a Twitter account to update followers on where the Cup goes from day to day.

Way back when the Cup was first donated, Lord Stanley mandated that two trustees must always be appointed to care for the Cup and ensure it was kept in proper condition. The two current trustees are Brian O’Neill and Ian “Scotty” Morrison, and according to the Hockey Hall of Fame, they “have absolute power over all matters regarding the Stanley Cup.”

15. The Cup belongs to the players … for one day.

The NHL allots each championship team one hundred off-season days with the Cup (accompanied by the Keeper, of course) to do with it as they wish. It was the 1994-95 New Jersey Devils who formalized the tradition of giving each player one personal day with the Cup during the off-season. In fact, since the ‘03 season, the Hall of Fame has been keeping journals of the Cup’s travels with each winning team. Though some players use their day with the trophy for peaceful reflection, others have gone a bit crazy with Lord Stanley’s Cup, as you’ll see below.

16. The Stanley Cup has gone swimming at least three times.

Following their 1991 victory over the Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins legend Mario Lemieux hosted the team at his house. When Lemieux wasn’t looking, Penguins winger Phil Bourque decided he wanted to see if the Cup could float—and threw the trophy into the captain’s in-ground pool. It didn’t float, and immediately sank to the bottom (thankfully, it was recovered unharmed).

Two years later the Cup also found the bottom of Montreal Canadiens goaltender Patrick Roy’s pool. But in 2002, when Red Wings goaltender Dominik Hašek attempted to swim with the Cup, the Keeper had had enough: He demanded Hašek dry off the trophy and give it back, thus cutting short his allotted personal day.

17. And it once spent all night in an Ottawa canal.

When the Ottawa Hockey Club, now known as the Ottawa Senators, won the Cup in 1905, the members of the “Silver Seven” had a little too much fun celebrating their victory. After the team banquet, some not-so-sober players brought the trophy outside and decided to test their accuracy by trying to kick the then-small Cup into Ottawa’s Rideau Canal.

Once successful, they went on their drunken way and forgot all about it—until their teammates realized the next day that the trophy was missing. Lord Stanley’s Cup was retrieved and given to a player named Harry Smith, the most responsible man on the team, for safekeeping.

18. The Montreal Canadiens won the Cup in 1924, and then promptly forgot about it.

When the members of the 1924 champion Canadiens got a flat tire on the way to the team’s victory banquet at owner Leo Dandurand’s house, they had to remove the Cup from the trunk of the car to get to the spare tire. The players, eager to celebrate their win, quickly changed the tire and made their way to the party. When the traditional time came for each player to drink champagne from the silver bowl, the Cup was nowhere to be found. The players had left it on the side of the road! They hopped in their car and sped back to the place where they had changed the flat and found the Cup in a snow bank on the side of the road—right where they had left it.

But that wasn’t the first time a Montreal hockey team had forgotten the Cup. The 1907 Montreal Wanderers left it at the home of a team photographer; the photographer’s mother used the Cup as a flower pot until the team came back to retrieve it!

19. Two babies have been baptized in the Cup.

After the Colorado Avalanche won the 1995-96 championship, defenseman Sylvain Lefebvre used his personal day with the Cup to have his daughter christened in the top bowl.

Eleven years later, after the Detroit Red Wings won in 2007-08, Swedish left-winger Tomas Holmström brought the silverware back to his native country so that his cousin could baptize his 7-week-old daughter in the trophy.

20. And it has seen its fair share of vice.

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The Edmonton Oilers were a force to be reckoned with in the 1980s. Between 1984 and 1990, the team won five Stanley Cups and were led by two hockey greats, Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier (above). Legend has it that after their 1986-87 win, Messier brought the Cup to an Edmonton strip club called the Forum Inn and set the trophy on the main stage. One of the ladies dancing at the club then reportedly incorporated the Cup into her risqué routine.

When he won the Cup again in 1994 with the New York Rangers, Messier and his teammates brought the trophy to another strip club—Scores in Manhattan.

21. It also might hold a curse, among other things…

When Messier and the Rangers won in 1994, it ended a record 54-year championship drought for the Broadway Blueshirts (the team hadn’t won since the 1939-40 season). Fans believe that the curse might have been brought on because the Rangers disrespected the Cup.

During the ’39-’40 season, the mortgage on the Rangers’ home rink—at the time the third incarnation of Madison Square Garden—was finally paid off. To celebrate, the management of the team symbolically burned the mortgage documents in the bowl of the Stanley Cup. Then, left-winger Lynn Patrick and his teammates allegedly urinated in the Cup’s bowl to bizarrely celebrate their victory. The Rangers finally took home the trophy again in 1994, but they haven’t won hockey’s ultimate prize since.

22. And the Cup went to war.

It’s been all over the world, from Russia to the Czech Republic to Sweden, but in 2007, the Stanley Cup went to war. To boost morale for Canadian and American troops serving in the Middle East, the Cup was flown into an active war zone at Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar, Afghanistan, for a meet and greet. Canadians love nothing more than hockey, and you can read up on the reactions from the troops on the Hall of Fame’s Stanley Cup Journal when it went to Afghanistan here.

10 Surprising Facts About Wham!’s 'Last Christmas'

Michael Putland/Getty Images
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Over the course of his illustrious career, George Michael gave the world many gifts. One that keeps on giving is “Last Christmas,” the 1984 holiday classic by Wham!, Michael's pop duo with Andrew Ridgeley. “Last Christmas” is such a uniquely beloved song that it inspired a 2019 film of the same name. That’s just one interesting part of the “Last Christmas” story. Read on for 10 fascinating facts about this seasonal synth-pop favorite.

1. George Michael wrote "Last Christmas" in his childhood bedroom.

“Last Christmas” was born one day in 1984 when George Michael and Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley were visiting Michael’s parents. While they were sitting around watching TV, Michael suddenly dashed upstairs to his childhood bedroom and composed the modern Xmas classic in about an hour. “George had performed musical alchemy, distilling the essence of Christmas into music,” Ridgeley said. “Adding a lyric which told the tale of betrayed love was a masterstroke and, as he did so often, he touched hearts."

2. “Last Christmas” isn’t really a Christmas song.

There’s nothing in “Last Christmas” about Santa, reindeer, trees, snow, or anything we typically associate with the holiday. Rather, the song is about a failed romance that just happens to have begun on December 25, when Michael gave someone his heart, and ended on December 26, when this ungrateful person “gave it away.”

3. George Michael wrote and produced the song—but that’s not all.

Singers George Michael (left) and Andrew Ridgeley, of the band 'Wham!', performing on stage, July 1986
Dave Hogan/Getty Images

By the time Wham! recorded “Last Christmas” in August (yes, August) 1984, Michael had taken full control of the group. In addition to writing and producing the song, Michael insisted on playing the Roland Juno-60 synth in the studio. “George wasn’t a musician,” engineer Chris Porter said. “It was a laborious process, because he was literally playing the keyboards with two or three fingers.” Michael even jangled those sweet sleigh bells himself.

4. “Last Christmas” didn’t reach #1 on the UK charts.

As the movie Love Actually reminds us, scoring a Christmas #1 in the UK is a really big deal. Unfortunately, “Last Christmas” didn’t give Wham! that honor. It stalled at #2, and to this day it has the distinction of being the highest-selling UK single of all time to not reach #1.

5. George Michael sang on the song that kept “Last Christmas” at #2.

“Last Christmas” was bested on the UK charts by Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” an all-star charity single benefiting Ethiopian famine relief. Michael sang on “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” and was so committed to the cause that he donated his profits from “Last Christmas” to helping the African nation.

6. George Michael was sued for plagiarism over “Last Christmas.”

In the mid-1980s, the publishing company Dick James Music sued George Michael on behalf of the writers of “Can’t Smile Without You,” a schmaltzy love song recorded by The Carpenters and Barry Manilow, among others. According to Chris Porter, the recording engineer on “Last Christmas,” the suit was dismissed after a musicologist presented 60-plus songs that have a similar chord progression and melody.

7. "Last Christmas" has been covered by a lot of other artists.

Andrew Ridgeley (right) and George Michael (1963-2016) of Wham! performing on stage together in Sydney, Australia during the pop duo's 1985 world tour, January 1985.
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Jimmy Eat World, Hilary Duff, Good Charlotte, Ariana Grande, Carly Rae Jepsen, Gwen Stefani, and Taylor Swift are just a few of the artists who’ve covered “Last Christmas” over the years. The strangest rendition may be the 2006 dance version by the Swedish CGI character Crazy Frog, which reached #16 on the UK charts.

8. Some people make a concerted effort to avoid hearing “Last Christmas.”

While millions of people delight in hearing “Last Christmas” every year, an internet game called Whamageddon encourages players to avoid the song from December 1 to 24. The rules are simple: Once you hear the original Wham! version of “Last Christmas” (remixes and covers don’t count), you’re out. You then admit defeat on social media with the hashtag #Whamageddon and wait for your friends to suffer the same fate. Note: The rules prohibit you from “deliberately sending your friends to Whamhalla.”

9. “Last Christmas” finally charted in America following George Michael’s death in 2016.

Back in 1984, “Last Christmas” wasn’t released as a commercial single in the United States, and therefore it wasn’t eligible for the Billboard Hot 100 chart. However, Billboard changed its rules in 1998, and in the wake of George Michael’s unexpected death on Christmas Day 2016, the song finally made its Hot 100 debut. In December 2018, it reentered the charts and peaked at #25.

10. George Michael was involved in the Last Christmas movie.

November 2019 saw the release of Paul Feig's Last Christmas, a romantic comedy inspired by the song starring Game of Thrones's Emilia Clarke. Producer David Livingstone came up with the idea while George Michael was still alive, and when he pitched the pop star on the project, he was given the greenlight—with one condition: Michael stipulated that actress and author Emma Thompson write the movie. Thompson co-authored the story and the screenplay, and she even wound up playing a supporting role.

The Origins of 12 Christmas Traditions

Tom Merton/iStock via Getty Images
Tom Merton/iStock via Getty Images

From expecting Santa to fill our footwear with gifts to eating cake that looks like tree bark, the holidays are filled with traditions—some of which are downright odd when you stop and think about them. Where did they come from? Wonder no more. Here are the origins of 12 Christmas traditions.

1. Hanging Stockings

While there’s no official record of why we hang socks for Santa, one of the most plausible explanations is that it's a variation on the old tradition of leaving out shoes with hay inside them on December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas’s feast day. Lucky children would discover that the hay they left for St. Nick’s donkey had been replaced with treats or coins when they woke up the next morning. Another story says that St. Nicholas learned of a father who was unable to pay for his three daughters' dowries, so St. Nick dropped gold balls down a chimney, which landed in stockings hung by the fire to dry. But this appears to be a modern telling—traditional versions of the story generally have the gold land at the father's feet after being thrown through a window.

Regardless of what started the tradition, people seem to have realized the need to use a decorative stocking in place of an actual sock pretty early on. In 1883, The New York Times wrote:

"In the days of the unobtrusive white stocking, no one could pretend that the stocking itself was a graceful or attractive object when hanging limp and empty from the foot of the bedstead. Now, however, since the adoption of decorated stockings ... even the empty stocking may be a thing of beauty, and its owner can display it with confidence both at the Christmas season and on purely secular occasions."

2. Caroling

Though it may seem like a centuries-old tradition, showing up at people’s houses to serenade them with seasonal tunes only dates back to the 19th century. Before that, neighbors did visit each other to impart wishes of good luck and good cheer, but not necessarily in song. Christmas carols themselves go back hundreds of years, minus the door-to-door part. The mashup of the two ideas didn’t come together until Victorian England, when caroling was part of every holiday—even May Day festivals. As Christmas became more commercialized, caroling for the occasion became more popular.

3. Using Evergreens as Christmas Trees

Rows of Christmas trees at tree farm on cold winter morning
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Before Christianity was even conceived of, people used evergreen boughs to decorate their homes during the winter; the greenery reminded them that plants would return in abundance soon. As Christianity became more popular in Europe, and Germany in particular, the tradition was absorbed into it. Christians decorated evergreen trees with apples to represent the Garden of Eden, calling them "Paradise Trees" around the time of Adam and Eve's name day—December 24. Gradually, the tradition was subsumed into Christmas celebrations.

The tradition spread as immigrants did, but the practice really took off when word got around that England’s Queen Victoria decorated a Christmas tree as a nod to her German husband’s heritage (German members of the British royal family had previously had Christmas trees, but they never caught on with the wider public). Her influence was felt worldwide, and by 1900, one in five American families had a Christmas tree. Today, 25 to 30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. every year.

4. The Colors Red and Green

As with many other old Christmas traditions, there’s no hard-and-fast event that deemed red and green the Official Colors of Christmas™. But there are theories—the green may have derived from the evergreen tradition that dates back to before Christianity, and the red may be from holly berries. While they’re winter-hardy, just like evergreens, they also have a religious implication: The red berries have been associated with the blood of Christ.

5. Ugly Christmas Sweaters

To celebrate this joyous season, many people gleefully don hideous knitwear adorned with ribbons, sequins, bows, and lights. In the past, the trend was embraced solely by grandmas, teachers, and fashion-challenged parents, but in the last decade or so, the ugly sweater has gone mainstream. We may have Canada to blame for that: According to the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book, the ugly sweater party trend can be traced to a 2001 gathering in Vancouver.

6. Leaving Milk and Cookies for Santa

Closeup image of wish list and treats for Santa Claus on table next to burning fireplace
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When we plunk a few Oreos or chocolate chip cookies on a plate for St. Nick, accompanied by a cold glass of milk, we’re actually participating in a tradition that some scholars date back to ancient Norse mythology. According to legend, Odin had an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir. Kids would leave treats for Sleipnir, hoping that Odin would favor them with gifts in return. The practice became popular again in the U.S. during the Great Depression, when parents tried to impress upon kids the importance of being grateful for anything they were lucky enough to receive for Christmas.

7. The A Christmas Story Marathon on TBS

If one of the highlights of your holiday is tuning in for 24 hours of watching Ralphie Parker nearly shoot his eye out, you’re not alone—over the course of the day, more than 50 million viewers flip to TBS. The marathon first aired on TNT in 1997, then switched to sister station TBS in 2004. This Christmas marks the 20th year for the annual movie marathon.

8. Yule Logs

Chocolate yule log cake with red currant on wooden background
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Throwing a yule log on the fire is another tradition that is said to predate Christianity. As part of winter solstice celebrations, Gaels and Celts burned logs decorated with holly, ivy, and pinecones to cleanse themselves of the past year and welcome the next one. They also believed the ashes would help protect against lightning strikes and evil spirits. The practice was scaled down over time, and eventually, it morphed into a more delicious tradition—cake! Parisian bakers really popularized the practice of creating yule log-shaped desserts during the 19th century, with various bakeries competing to see who could come up with the most elaborately decorated yule log.

If you prefer a wood yule log to one covered in frosting, but find yourself sans fireplace, you can always tune in to Yule Log TV.

9. Advent Calendars

Technically, Advent, a religious event that has been celebrated since the 4th century, is a four-week period that starts on the Sunday closest to the November 30 feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle. Traditionally, it marked the period to prepare for Christmas as well as the Second Coming. These days, it’s mostly used as a countdown to Christmas for the religious and the non-religious alike.

The modern commercialized advent calendar, which marks the passage of December days with little doors containing candy or small gifts, are believed to have been introduced by Gerhard Lang in the early 1900s. He was inspired by a calendar that his mother made for him when he was a child that featured 24 colored pictures attached to a piece of cardboard. Today, advent calendars contain everything from candy to LEGOs.

10. Eggnog

Eggnog in two glass cups
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It’s hard to imagine why anyone would be inspired to chug a raw egg-based drink, but historians agree that 'nog was probably inspired by a medieval drink called posset, a milky drink made with eggs, milk, and sometimes figs or sherry. These were all pricey ingredients, so the wealthy often used it for toasting.

Eggnog became a holiday drink when colonists brought it over from England, but they found a way to make it on the cheap, nixing the figs and substituting rum for sherry. And how about that weird "nog" name? No one knows for sure, but historians theorize that nog was short for noggin, which was slang for a wooden cup, or a play on the Norfolk variety of beer also called nog (which itself may be named after the cup).

11. Mistletoe

Mistletoe has been associated with fertility and vitality since ancient times, when Celtic Druids saw it as such because it blossomed even during the most frigid winters; the association stuck over the centuries.

It’s easy to see how fertility and kissing can be linked, but no one is quite sure how smooching under the shrub (actually, it’s a parasitic plant) became a common Christmas pastime. We do know the tradition was popular with English servants in the 18th century, then quickly spread to those they served. The archaic custom once allowed men to steal a kiss from any woman standing beneath; if she refused, they were doomed with bad luck.

12. Christmas Cards

Exchanging holiday greetings via mail is a surprisingly recent tradition, with the first formal card hitting shelves in 1843. Designed by an Englishman named J.C. Horsley, the cardboard greeting showed a happy group of people participating in a toast, along with the printed sentiment, "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you.” A thousand of them were printed that first year, and because it cost just a penny to mail a holiday hello to friends and family (the card itself was a shilling, or 12 times as much), the cards sold like hotcakes and a new custom was born. Today, Americans send around 2 billion cards every year.

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