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First-known Christmas card was slammed for depicting boozing kids

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Some holiday traditions are timeless: gathering with friends and family, sharing a big meal and letting your kid drink just a little too much mulled wine — to name a few.

Merry revelers knew this even 177 years ago when the world’s first-known Christmas card was printed in England. The illustration depicts a middle-class, Victorian-era family seated around a table, smiling with their glasses of red wine while the roast is carved.

Meanwhile, in the foreground, a young child can be seen sneaking a sip of tipple from one of the adults.

“A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You,” the card reads, which is up for sale by antiquarian books vendor Marvin Getman in Boston.

The holiday relic is believed to have been published the same week in December 1843 as Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

Despite its jolly theme, the card shocked 19th-century teetotalers — nondrinkers — whose lifestyle had risen to prominence with the puritanical Temperance Society movement.

“They were quite distressed that in this scandalous picture they had children toasting with a glass of wine along with the adults,” Kingston, NY, rare book dealer Justin Schiller told the Guardian. “They had a campaign to censor and suppress it. Their uproar was so great that another three years went by before another holiday card appeared on the market.”

Christmas card on display at Christie's
The card on display at a preview for Christie’s Classic Week in London.
Guy Bell/Shutterstock

The hand-drawn lithograph was designed by artist John Callcott Horsley and commissioned by public servant and postal reformer Sir Henry Cole — the man thought to have launched the holiday greeting card industry, according to the Victoria and Albert Museum, which Cole founded in 1852 (then called the Museum of Manufactures).

The sample up for bidding is presumed to be a salesman’s sample, though 1,000 copies of the card were made at the time, priced at one shilling each. Experts estimate there may be about 30 still in existence, according to Getman.

At Christie’s, where another copy will be sold, they’re anticipating a value over $10,000.

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