20 Disturbing Vintage Holiday Cards

People had odd ways of spreading holiday cheer.
People had odd ways of spreading holiday cheer. / TuckDB // Public Domain

Ever since the Victorians invented the Christmas card, people have gotten creative—and a bit bizarre—with their holiday greetings. Forget serene woodland scenes or snapshots of a family decorating a tree beside a roaring fire. From dead birds to sinister snow people, these vintage holiday cards are more disturbing than delightful.

1. “Loving Christmas Greetings”

two children staring at a dead bird
TuckDB // Public Domain

Because nothing puts you in the holiday spirit like staring at a dead bird.

2. “Have a Cake”

a child eating a star-shaped cake that has another child's head in the center
TuckDB // Public Domain

A giant dessert with a child’s face baked inside it isn’t on most holiday menus.

3. “Thoughts of You”

a lion that has just eaten a man
TuckDB // Public Domain

Being eaten by a lion will ruin even the jolliest festivities.

4. “A Happy Christmas To You”

kids watching in horror as their snowman melts
TuckDB // Public Domain

The kids watching their snowman melt were probably not having a happy Christmas.

5. “A Happy Christmas”

santa throwing a child in a bag
TuckDB // Public Domain

No one told this Santa he’s supposed to leave presents, not take children.

6. “Merry Christmas Greetings”

pigs dancing around a terrifying pig snowman
TuckDB // Public Domain

A circle of beasts dancing around their icy overlord is what nightmares are made of.

7. “A Hearty Christmas Greeting”

a row of dead frogs fallen on ice
Nova Scotia Archives, Flickr // No Known Copyright Restrictions

The Victorians were into sending morbid holiday greetings that featured dead or injured animals.

8. “A Merry Christmas”

an egg teacher whacking an egg student with a stick while another egg kid looks on
TuckDB // Public Domain

An egg teacher threatening to strike her equally yolky students with a cane doesn’t exactly scream “Merry Christmas.”

9. “With Loving Christmas Greetings”

a witch luring hansel and gretel into her cottage
TuckDB // Public Domain

Anyone familiar with the tale of Hansel and Gretel knows that despite the witch’s festive attire and abundance of gingerbread, those kids were not actually in for a loving Christmas.

10. “A Happy New Year to You”

a sad, melting snowman
TuckDB // Public Domain

No one wants to ring in the New Year with the death of a snowman.

11. “With Merry Christmas Greetings”

a pack of dogs stealing the christmas goose
TuckDB // Public Domain

As any fan of 1983’s A Christmas Story knows, watching a pack of dogs tear into your holiday dinner is a terrible experience.

12. “With Best Christmas Wishes”

a doll carrying a scale, on one side is a pudding shaped like a human head
TuckDB // Public Domain

It’s unclear whether these dolls plan to eat the human-like pudding.

13. “An Unwelcome Christmas Greeting”

an emu stalking and cornering a terrified girl
State Library of Queensland, Flickr // No Known Copyright Restrictions

Emus are such intense birds that Australia once waged a war against them.

14. “Who’s Afraid?”

a wren investigating a nutcracker
TuckDB // Public Domain

Afraid of what?

15. “A Jolly Christmas”

a snow creature waiting to club a pedestrian
TuckDB // Public Domain

This looks more like a threat than a greeting card.

16. “May Christmas Be Merry”

bugs dancing with a frog
swim ink 2 llc/GettyImages

The dance party nightmares are made of.

17. “Wishing You a Happy Christmas”

human-like robins pushing a stroller of human-like robin babies
Christmas Robins / Hulton Archive/GettyImages

There’s something a bit off about these Christmas robins.

18. “Merry Christmas Greetings”

Christmas card; clown pulling a cracker, early 20th century.
Heritage Images/GettyImages

When it came to creepiness, old Christmas cards did not clown around.

19. “Lobster Jockey”

a rat riding a lobster
Hulton Archive/GettyImages

Who needs reindeer?

20. “Christmas Greetings”

Christmas Greetings Greeting Card and Die Cut Ornament
swim ink 2 llc/GettyImages

A decorative bauble no one would be sorry to lose.

A version of this story originally ran in 2021; it has been updated for 2022.