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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Put a stamp on it

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

first Christmas card

Do you send greeting cards to family and friends during the holidays? This tradition, though far from dead, is becoming less common, especially among younger generations. Over time, it may become extinct.

Should we allow this to happen or keep the tradition alive?

Christmas card tradition in decline

According to the Greeting Card Association, the number of Christmas cards sold annually dropped from 2.7 billion in 1995 to 1.6 billion two decades later, in 2015. We’ve replaced this tradition with holiday posts on social media and with group emails or texts.

I wonder, do these connect us as well as the old-fashioned Christmas card – something personally signed and delivered with a stamp?

What do you think? What do you prefer? Do you get excited when holiday cards arrive in your mailbox? I know I do. I love seeing the pretty cards and photos of growing families and reading the news about people’s lives.

Cards can connect us

Cards can help connect us. As many others do, we display the cards we receive for all to see and thus they become part of our holiday decorations. After the holidays, I save the photo cards and Christmas letters and use the pretty cards to create package tags.

I send about 60 cards each year, 4 times the current household average of 15. I like to send a Christmas letter filled with photos and family news. Sometimes what I write is comical and other times sentimental. I’ve written them from the perspective of a grandchild and I’ve also written poetry.

I always begin my letter-writing session by rereading dozens of our previous letters, which becomes an annual walk down memory lane. I am thankful to have created a chronicle of our lives.

There are certainly many reasons to NOT send Christmas cards – they aren’t especially environmentally friendly, they can be costly, and they are time-consuming. However, I believe there is something about this tradition that makes them worth it. They help keep us connected.

The people we exchange cards with are those we want to stay connected with at a level greater than we experience on social media. These are the people we seek to spend time with face-to-face when we’re in their part of the world and invite to visit us. Let’s face it, all of your social media “friends” probably don’t fall into that category.

Cards can keep us connected

When I think of the old friends we have remained in touch with for 40-50+ years, they are primarily those we’ve exchanged Christmas cards with. The ones who stopped this tradition we have largely lost track of. Good friends are priceless – no number of Facebook friends or followers even comes close.

In researching the tradition of sending Christmas cards I learned they originated in 1843 in England. This is the same year Charles Dickens penned A Christmas Carol – another wonderful holiday tradition from the UK.

Sir Henry Cole, who helped set up the postal service, wanted to encourage ordinary people to use the “penny post.” He hired his artist friend, John Horsley, to design the first Christmas card (pictured), which they sold for 1 shilling apiece. The few remaining cards are now worth thousands of pounds.

Do you send holiday greeting cards? Why or why not? What other ways do you try to meaningfully connect with others over the holidays and throughout the year?

I propose that we resurrect the humble holiday card as one way to create meaningful connections during this season of love, peace, and goodwill.

Merry Christmas!

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others.” ~ Bob Hope

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