The 119-year-old tradition that started with a hop

With just six days until families swap eggs, chocolate and cards, Royal Mail is taking a look back at the history of card giving at Easter and how the much loved tradition began.

According to the Greeting Card Association (GCA), the UK buys more cards per person than any other nation - 33 each a year. It is no surprise then that over 9.9 million Easter cards were sent in 2015, an increase of nearly two million on the previous year.

Hopping mad about Easter cards in the late 1890s:

The practice of sending Easter cards began in the late 19th century. The first card was created when an unknown stationer in Victorian England decided to add a greeting to a drawing of a rabbit. This marked the start of a tradition that we still follow today.

The card takes shape:

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Early Easter greetings took the form of a postcard as the early postal service would only allow the address and the stamp on the back side of the card. This limited designs to Easter symbols or even scenery and well-known buildings.

In 1905, the postal service in Austria and Germany made the decision to separate the back side of the cards into two halves, creating the greeting cards shape we know today. The right half was for the address and stamp, while the other side was left blank for a message. A year later the new layout was officially allowed by the Universal Postal Union Convention in Rome.

Animal magic:

By 1910, lambs, poultry, and eggs featured heavily on cards as a symbol of rebirth. The Easter bunny also appeared frequently with eggs to indicate fruitfulness. Young girls were also popular as a representation of luck and hope.

Changes due to the First World War:

The First World War saw images of children replaced with those of soldiers with flowers making their first appearance. The Easter bunny was also given a military makeover. The cards were designed to rally support at home for the troops fighting abroad.

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A Royal Mail spokesperson, said: “Greetings cards have remained a popular medium to express wishes on Easter. The GCA indicates that Easter is now the fifth most popular holiday in terms of sending cards, ranking just behind Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

“It is incredible to think that when we put our Easter cards in the post, we are taking part in a 119 year old tradition.”

See how Easter greetings have changed over years here:

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