This selection of nine historic Christmas cards from the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library combines colourful Christmas imagery with reflections on contemporary events, such as overseas wars. Familiar New Zealand symbolism – tattooed Maori figures, kiwi, tiki and ferns – adds a distinctively local flavour to traditional Christmas greetings and generic symbols, such as flags, clasped hands, maps and Christmas trees.
1. This card from around 1886 commemorates the famed Pink Terraces on Lake Rotomahana that were destroyed by the Tarawera eruption that year. Ref: E-068-002
2. This montage of images showcases the landscape and sea life of the West Coast, about 1886. Ref: E-068-050
3. 'With the Premier's compliments' – this Christmas card was from Premier Richard Seddon, 1899. The inside of the card features images of New Zealand soldiers preparing to fight in the South African (Boer) War, which had begun in October that year.
4. This General Post Office Christmas card from 1901 features a colourful montage of scenes, including telegraph wires above Wellington Harbour, a young Maori woman posting a letter in a postbox while freeing a bird from her right hand, two warriors standing in a Maori pa, a steamship, a train and the Chief Post Office building in Wellington. Ref: Eph-A-CARDS-Christmas-1901-01
5. This novelty cheque was 'issued' by the 'Consolidated Bank of Success' to the value of 'three hundred and sixty-five days of Prosperity, Good Luck and Happiness'. Ref: Eph-A-CARDS-New-Year-1910s-01-2
6. This card from the early 20th century displays the slogan 'Best Yule Tide Wishes' and a tiki marked 'N Z', either side of a fern leaf. Ref: Eph-A-CARDS-Christmas-1900/1919-01
7. This 1917 postcard contrasts an idealised New Zealand rural scene with the bleak horrors of war in Europe. A soldier is depicted writing from 'somewhere in France'. The terrible New Zealand losses at the battles of Messines and Passchendaele would have been fresh in many people's minds that Christmas. Ref: Eph-A-CARDS-Christmas-WW1-1917-02
8. This colourful card features the Union Jack and a kiwi (left), a New Zealand flag and a head and shoulders portrait of a Maori chief (right), and maps of Australia and New Zealand (top) and the British Isles (bottom). Ref: Eph-D-CHRISTMAS-1920-01
9. This Christmas card, issued by 3 New Zealand General Hospital in Bari, Italy, for the first Christmas following the end of the Second World War, features a tiki and the slogan 'Kia kaha' ('be strong'). Ref: Eph-A-CARDS-Christmas-WWII-1945-01