An essential part of any event is closing out the event by expressing gratitude to your guests for not only the gift they gave you but also for taking the time to attend your event. With our busy schedules we all have choices on what we spend our time doing. Acknowledging someone for choosing to spend time with you and giving you a gift, is an excellent way to show your appreciation for their time and thoughtfulness.
Thank-you notes came about through an evolution that started in China in the 15th Century. They first appeared as visiting or calling cards. Eventually calling cards became popular in France and spread into Europe in the 17th Century. Calling cards were engraved with the caller’s name and address and were left by people wanting to expand their social circles at the homes of social or political importance.
Ladies “called” in their carriages and most often left calling cards with the butler or household servant. Eventually a set of customs grew around the practice of “calling” on someone. The presentation and design of a card indicated a great deal to the person receiving the card. For example, a folded top-right corner meant congratulations and a folded lower-right corner expressed sympathy.
The use of calling cards grew in the United States after the Civil War. American ladies established certain rules regarding the distribution of cards including how they were supposed to look and what trays they were presented on.
The practice of leaving and receiving calling cards eventually waned with the end of the servant class. Today we follow a different code of etiquette but the one constant that remains is writing thank-you notes and other cards of congratulations, sympathy and announcements.
I find it fascinating to see how thank-you notes have evolved. Imagine if we had to present our notes to a husband for his wife (since most of us don’t have butlers or servants!) on a silver tray! I shudder to think of the notes I might miss from my husband using the tray as a coaster instead.
It’s also interesting to me to see the trend of calling cards return, although in a different capacity than they were originally used in Victorian times. Many people use them today as a way to exchange numbers with new people they meet. Retirees or college graduates are just two examples of people who can use them as a way of presenting themselves in a polished manner that’s not quite a business card. Some moms even create calling cards for their kids to exchange on playdates! I see them as a unique way to express personality and style.
What about y’all? Did you know the history of thank-you notes? Do you use calling cards and send thank-you notes frequently?