Since 1908, Canadians have made a difference in the lives of people with lung disease by supporting the Christmas Seal program.
The first Christmas Seals originated in 1903 when a benevolent postmaster named Einar Holboell in Copenhagen, Denmark was inspired to create the stamps to help children with tuberculosis (TB).
The campaign was even more successful than the postmen had hoped. The Danes bought four million of the stickers. With funds from the first two Christmas Seal campaigns, they built two hospitals for treatment of children. This was a turning point in the world history of public health. It was the beginning of the movement to get ordinary citizens to take part in fighting an infectious disease, one which at that time was the leading cause of death, outstripping even wars and famines.
In 1907 the idea crossed the Atlantic to the United States. By 1908, the campaign had reached Canada. Interested people in Toronto and Hamilton began Christmas Seal campaigns to build and support sanatoria, as TB hospitals were called back then.
The old Toronto Globe came promptly to their aid. Early in December, the Globe began running a daily story on the front page giving news of the campaign. The column was bordered by holly so that readers could easily spot it.
One story told how the children of 58 Toronto schools had sold 10,000 Christmas Seals. Another issue announced that out on the Prairies a new paper called the Regina Leader, had written to say its staff would sell the seals and send the money back for the sanatorium being built at Muskoka.
From Saint John, N.B. the Rev. G. A. Moore wrote to say that he and other volunteers would sell 8,500 and send the money to Toronto for the sanatorium.
That first year, the Toronto campaign brought in $6,114.25 and Hamilton citizens gave $1,244.40.
Year by year, other cities across Canada tried the Christmas Seal campaign as a means not only of raising money but of creating the awareness that tuberculosis could be controlled.
Finally, in 1927, it was agreed that the Christmas Seal campaign was to be the official method for tuberculosis associations to appeal to the public for funds. A national seal was established.
Christmas Seal campaigns have played an important role in public health.
At first, the money raised was used for the new and badly needed sanatoria. When these were established, Christmas Seal funds were used for TB prevention. The seals have paid for millions of Canadians to have chest X-ray or tuberculin tests. As a result, thousands of TB cases were discovered before disease spread to others.
Christmas Seals symbolize the grassroots support of Canadians that helped win the fight against TB.
Today, Christmas Seals are an essential fundraiser for The Lung Association nation-wide. The money raised is used to support world-class research, programs and services.
Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2008, the venerable Christmas Seal continues to help all Canadians to breathe easier.
Help us celebrate! Donate to the Christmas Seals campaign.