Right about now, many of us are feverishly buying (or printing!) holiday cards. “Holiday” now stands in, non-denominationally, for “Christmas,” but after all these years immersed in the late middle ages, I can’t help seeing where these greetings came from. “Holiday” comes from “Holy Day,” just as “Christmas” comes from “Christ’s Mass”; back in 1454, that is how the people who invented these celebrations saw the thing. No, they didn’t send each other pictures of St Nick. But, as the picture above shows, it is a true fact that the world’s first holiday greeting was printed by—-you guessed it—-Johann Gutenberg.
That is, the scholarly community believes that the famous “Turkenkalendar” reproduced here was printed by the master and inventor. He didn’t sign it, or anything else he ever printed. But this is indisputably the first printed New Year’s greeting. It appeared in late December 1454, in Mainz, Germany, appended to a rousing call to arms against the Turks who had captured Constantinople in a bloody siege the year before. The leaflet, which appealed to a different group for every month, was unsigned and written in the Alsatian dialect, likely at the direction of Gutenberg, who had lived for many years in Strassburg.
What we want to remember here are its final words, stroked in red for emphasis:
Eyn gut selig nuwe Jar. Or as we say today, A blessed good New Year.