A greeting card is a printed message that expresses a thought or feeling suitable to a particular occasion; it is usually illustrated with an appropriate picture. Modern greeting cards are used on civil and religious holidays, on anniversaries, and on a variety of other occasions. Although the origins of the greeting card are obscure, it is known that in the 6th century BC the Egyptians included written messages with their New Yearís gifts. During the Roman feast of Lupercalia, women wrote their names on love notes, which were put into a container; the man who drew a note would then seek that womanís favors. The Christian church ended the Lupercalia, transforming it into the Feast of St. Valentine, a martyr who became the patron saint of lovers; but in Britain the practice of drawing young womenís names from a valentine box persisted. In the 1600s, Samuel Pepys noted that handmade greetings, in the form of engravings and woodcut prints, appeared in Europe by the 15th century.
The great popularity of greeting cards, however, began in the 19th-century England and America, with cheap, efficient color printing methods and low postage rates. By the 1880s, there were hundreds of varieties of mass-printed Christmas, New Yearís and valentine cards. Before long, every holiday of every faith had its cards, and the proclamation of new civil holidays, such as Motherís Day, was inevitably followed by appropriate greeting cards. In recent years total sales of all types of cards have boomed, although rising postal rates may reduce future sales somewhat.