Before e-cards, people used to send cards to their loved ones by post (hence the original name: postcard). And would you believe that the postcard is a Hungarian invention? Every occasion had their specific cards, there were ones to say ‘We’re on holiday and you’re not’, ones that wished you anything from Merry Christmas to Happy Nameday, and funny ones you used just to drop somebody a line. Here’s a short selections of postcards to you from us, with love.
The first 50 years
The first postcards were released by the Hungarian Post Office in 1896, commemorating the millennium ofHungarywith historical scenes and images ofBudapestand the country. Up to 1905, the blank side of postcards was used for the address field, so the poor senders had to write their message on either the tiny space not taken up by the picture, or simply scribble over the image. Due to improvements in press technology and an unlimited creative flow, this is the era when the funniest and weirdest postcards were born. Eager collectors should watch out for the hit of the time, the see-through card. (Depicting a lady playing the piano, but turned against the light it also showed the neighbors trying to escape from the noise.)
World War I brought along not only purely propaganda postcards, but also, to provide for an increased demand, a new genre, the postcard poetry with such gems as ‘I think of you night and day/ You take my blues away’.
After the calling for reconstruction postcards of WW II came the privatization of postcard production. The Fine Arts Foundation Publishing Company released commie cards galore, celebrating everything from our beloved leader Rákosi to the successful completion of yet another five-year plan. As differing from the norm was regarded rather suspicious at the time, this period (lasting to the end of the ‘80s) was the golden age of standardized postcards.
Flowers with love
Before Facebook, namedays were way easier to remember than birthdays (as all Hungarian desk calendars and diaries highlight them), and in the old days before texting was invented, we celebrated namedays by sending flowery postcards. To make the job easy-peasy, we could choose from the plain gerbera ones to fancy rose bouquets with or without glitter and text. The all-rounder flower card only said Szeretettel! (With Love), and it was up to you whether to simply sign it or elaborate on the subject. For more specific occasions you had the happy birthday or nameday cards, which, however pretty the flowers were on the picture, had a strictly white text in awkward fonts.
Cards for kids
Kids have always been spoilt for choice when it came to postcards. Hungarian relatives couldn’t really congratulate on your having a newborn girl/boy with relevant pink or light blue card, but there were plenty of alternative options. For my 1st birthday, I (or rather my literate mum) was sent a card depicting a litter of puppies. Beside pictures of real cutsie animals, there were the pimped up versions with additional graphics and plastic googly eyes. And the ultimate kiddie card was the one with the built-in horn. You pushed on the card, and it gave out a not very parents-friendly sound. Weirdly enough, those cards had only a very limited life expectancy.
Best of the rest
The second part of the 20th century was not famous for its innovative holiday greeting cards. The pictures were the same old sights wherever you went (in small villages, it could have been the very same sight shot from different angles), and the messages weren’t more creative either. We actually wrote the lines you’re drilled to write in language courses: ‘Greetings form Tihany. The weather is nice, the food is good. We swim a lot. With love, X’. But let’s face it, nothing much has changed in the past 20 years in this regard.
Way better than holiday cards were the musical cards. When you had something thick in the post, you didn’t automatically throw it in the bin but carefully opened the envelope (as they weren’t postcards in the strict sense of the word) to find the folded card with its tiny battery. You opened it, and it sang anything from Happy Birthday to Kiskarácsony, Nagykarácsony, and the whole room was filled with heartwarming melodies. And then you closed it again, as heartwarming in this case didn’t equal bearable.