New Year's cards date back to the 1400's but it took Christmas card much longer get it's start in 1843. In the mid 1800's from the first Christmas card invented in England, cards depicted cherubs, families, friends, children and and flowers unlike modern cards with Santa, Christmas trees, toys, nativity and sleds. They were very elaborately detailed. It took until the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago for Christmas cards to become mass produced and widely accepted.
This card is the first Christmas card signed by the artist, John Calcott Horsley in 1843. Invented by Sir Henry Cole. Hand colored triptych, addressed to “His old young friends Emma & Agnes” from the artist himself. Both sides show good deeds and the family dinner in the center. Only a 1,000 were printed and sold at Felix Summerly's Treasure House in London for a shilling each. Only 20 or 21 still exist. Find out more here and here.
Cards are identified by “D & S, London”, “Dean & Son, London” or “Dean, London” printed beneath the picture. Source.
Not to be outdone by Henry Cole and John Horsley, this card shows a similar triptych but with a victorian American scene. America's first Christmas card was designed and printed by Richard H. Pease for his "Pease's Great Variety Store in the Temple of Fancy" in 1851. Source.
One of the earliest American Christmas cards from 1849-1853. Nicholson Devereaux, a wood engraver, is credited as the artist under the left panel. As you can see it was influenced by Pease's card. Source.
An example of an early Christmas card printed by Louis Prang & Co. better known as the "Father of the American Christmas card" which was started in 1875.
Example of a late 1800's card by Marcus Ward and Company. Source.