Why Do We Stop Sending Christmas Cards?

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

It’s that time of year again, the time when you scour your photos in your phone for a decent one of you and the kids that you can upload to some stationery company like Shutterfly, VistaPrint, etc, and order Christmas or Holiday cards to send to people you know. Every year I vow I’m not going to do it again.

I was always under the impression Christmas cards were sent to people you didn’t speak with on a regular basis as a way to keep in touch. I’ve found over the years the people I don’t speak with stop sending cards. Is it out of sight, out of mind? Or is it, well, I have to see her in the supermarket, so I better send her another card. People move away, change jobs, whatever. Why would you stop sending cards just because we don’t live around the corner from each other anymore? I mean, if I do run into you at the CVS and we catch up about your sick dog do I really need the card? Yes, I do!

Christmas cards were first sent in the 1800’s by Henry Cole. He was a very busy man and didn’t have the time to answer the letters sent to him at Christmas time. Letters that were filled with stories from friends about their lives during the year. (See, letters from people he didn’t see often.) He had an idea to create a card with the same thing written inside each one and send that instead. Voila!

So, the cards I receive each year are dwindling. I like going to the mailbox at Christmas time in hopes of finding a jewel-toned envelope waiting for me. Let’s face it, cards are way more fun than a bill, no? I’ve lived in five towns in my married life. I should be getting a boat load of cards this late in my life. But that’s not the case. Friends I no longer work with or live near have stopped sending and here’s my hard and fast rule: if you don’t send to me two years in a row I stop sending to you.

Does that sound harsh?  Am I perpetuating my own demise? Could there be some rational explanation as to why someone’s card no longer arrives in the post for me? Could the budget be stretched too tightly that cards are no longer an option? (Have you seen the price of some of these cards?) Are these people boycotting Christmas? Is it pure laziness? And there’s always the famous, “I’m too busy!” (Which is my least favorite excuse for anything. We’re all busy. Take a seat.)

Though I said it myself, each year I consider not sending. Why? Well, for one, uploading photos to those sites isn’t as easy as it sounds. It never goes smoothly. I spend hours trying to get the right photo, upload it, edit it, pick a card. Oh, the picking of a card! That’s torture all by itself. We’re an interfaith family. I try to be respectful of the fact we celebrate Hanukkah as well as Christmas and the people I send to might also celebrate more than one holiday. It isn’t easy trying to find a middle of the road holiday card that I like and that has the appropriate number of photo slots, let me tell you.

If I’m going to get fewer and fewer cards in the mail, is it worth it to break a sweat every year over sending these cards? I could go back to the boxed cards bought in the stores. Eventually, my kids are going to get too old to stick on those cards anyway. It’s cute for a while, but how long can you drag out a good thing?

That might be the answer. Boxed cards! I still get a couple of those each year from people whose children are grown and sending out photo cards of their own. I used to send boxed cards before I had kids and my mailbox was filled with cards of other people’s children. Yes, filled. Where have all those people gone?

I would like to still find those cards waiting for me each cold afternoon as I walk the mile to my mailbox. Okay, it’s not that far. Give me a break, I’m a fiction writer after all. I would like to think those people from years ago still pull my name up on a list and say, “hey, I wonder how her year went? Let’s send her a card.”

I am grateful for the cards that continue to arrive from friends from high school, college, old neighbors, and new friends. Thank you for sending those cards. Keep them coming.



6 thoughts on “Why Do We Stop Sending Christmas Cards?

  1. This is a perfectly timed post, Stacey, because my wife and I have been having the same debate with ourselves this season. Kristin is and always has been a reliable sender of greeting cards — for Christmas, birthdays, even hand-written thank-you notes — but, as those are becoming less and less common, we’ve started to question whether we should continue to be so steadfast about it. Which then opens up a deeper philosophical question: By consciously choosing to abstain from the practice, are we contributing to its cultural degeneration? Probably. But at what point does one acknowledge that times and habits change? (I’m asking because I myself don’t know the answer.)

    With the proliferation of electronic communication, Christmas cards don’t seem to serve the function they once did; Facebook and Instagram feeds now keep us updated on people we no longer live near/work with/care much about. But I agree with you: Christmas cards are even more important for those we rarely see anymore, because they are a reminder that just because someone is out of sight, that does not make them out of mind. Maybe it is an old-fashioned custom, but if ever there was an occasion that called for old-fashioned rites and practices, it would be Christmas.

    Hope your holiday is a merry one!


    1. I think there is something to be said about personal communication whether it’s a written note or an actual conversation. Maybe it’s my age, but I think relying on social media as your only means of expressing gratitude, kindness, and well wishes is simply laziness. (Though I do take full advantage of saying happy birthday to everyone on Facebook, but if my relationship is deeper than a screen I wish you well in another way too.) I say continue to send those cards! I know I don’t want to live in a world where the only way I can talk to someone is if I hit the Like Button.

  2. Here’s one reason people have stopped sending Christmas cards: The cost of stamps.
    I’m going to give away my age now but when I was growing up stamps cost .03 cents. And if you didn’t lick the envelope closed, you could use a penny stamp.

    We would send and receive so many cards you could literally paper every wall in your house with them. The mail was so intense the post office delivered mail twice a day during the week and once on Sunday. Who needed garland when you could decorate your home with Christmas cards!

    However, like everything else, the cost of stamps began to rise. The more the cost kept rising, less cards started coming. Now your Christmas card list consisted of only those people you don’t see on a regular basis. Less cards, less stamps. It’s been that way for years, not just today.

    I guarantee you if stamps were still .03 cents, you would be getting an avalanche of Christmas cards.

    1. You bring up a good point with the cost of stamps, but that would have to mean the cost of cards were down too in order to see the influx you remember well. I’m kind of envious of that time, really. How nice to be flooded with well wishes in your mailbox! Though the cost of everything is up, and that does play a role in whether or not people send cards, I think not sending has more to do with time and a person’s perception of it. They think they’re busy so they don’t send or at least in my case, they don’t see me, so why bother sending a card? A card might imply we’re still friends and I guess they’d rather me think otherwise.

  3. I’m always glad to receive but not that good at keeping up with sending cards. When I do (boxed cards) I usually catch up during the “12 days” of Christmas 😉🤗. Also, I’m not big on just signing the card. I love those with a note written on it, and that truly takes up quite s bit of time to personalize each card, lol. Wishing you and your family all the best!

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