Where Are All the Christmas Cards?

I’m a bit freakish about sending holiday cards out. Obsessed, one might say.

I start handmaking my cards–usually 120 of them–around Halloween every year. Last year’s were all collages, each one sporting different festive images. My daughter had a great time cutting out pictures from other years’ cards and gluing them into new formations. Until she got tired of day after day of my cheery “Hey, let’s go to the playroom and collage!” Then I was on my own.

This year, we’re planning to send out a family photo card in January. I can’t remember the last time I skipped Christmas cards, or didn’t make them by hand, but this is what works for our family this year.

Despite my decision, at the start of December, I began waiting for the annual flood of good cheer in my mailbox. But there wasn’t a flood at all. One card trickled in. And then a second dribbled in. Now, less than a week before Christmas, we’re up to 14. Usually our walls and card holders are filled with cheery messages by this point.

At first I figured I was getting fewer greetings due to not sending my own cards out early. But then I started hearing that others had only received one or two messages in the mail. One of my mom friends said all her friends are discussing this very situation on Facebook. Another cited postage costs on top of the cost of the card as a reason she isn’t making the effort any more.

Of the 14 cards my family has received in the past three weeks, four were hand-delivered, and six of them are photo cards featuring kiddos.

Have Christmas cards become too expensive? Or outdated? They’re one of my favorite holiday traditions and I shudder to think that this pattern might continue in 2012 and beyond. I want my daughter to grow up anticipating December, hoping to hear from friends and family scattered around the country. Keeping in touch with handwritten notes.

So I want to know. Have you received the usual number of cards this December?Β What is your usual holiday card tradition–do you send them? Do you write personal messages inside? And are you sending cards out this year?

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
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20 Responses to Where Are All the Christmas Cards?

  1. Emma Burcart says:

    I don’t do Christmas cards. I never have. But I don’t do birthday cards either. I’m not sure what it is exactly, but something about lacking stamina for the whole process. I bought cards a couple of times and never sent them out. Now I don’t bother. I have two or three friends who send cards. One friend usually sends hilarious photo cards because her hubby is a photographer. I keep those around for a while. But, then they go where all the cards do, into the recycling. I’m just more of a phone person. But, I haven’t checked the mail in a few weeks, so maybe I have some cards in there.

    • It’s way better to skip the whole routine than to keep buying cards and letting them accrue in your house! Oh–and you recycle cards too? I tend to hold on to mine for years (hence last year’s collage project…).

  2. Sadly, I don’t do Christmas cards. Mostly that’s because I forget until like the week of Christmas and then it’s too late. I did receive two cards this year that weren’t from family, so that’s a plus. lol I think with the ease of the internet, people now are more likely to say Merry Christmas online than through Christmas cards. And I speak from experience. That’s what I do.

    • You’re probably the right demographic to be using the internet and email instead of stamps and paper. (I guess I’d be considered part of that demographic too, come to think of it.) It is so much less expensive–and faster–to type a quick greeting! And I have to admit email is a tempting way to go in terms of sending a family photo and “hope you have a good holiday” note. It’s much easier to have a conversation that way. Still, I’m traditional!

      • At times I wish I could be more traditional, but I rarely have the time during the holidays. It’s sad. I should try harder, and I know that. Maybe next year I’ll do better. πŸ™‚ However, it is easier to send a photo through email. I will agree with that. πŸ˜‰

        • But you’re busy doing other things, which include your own family traditions, right? I also think, as writers, there’s pressure to actually write something meaningful in cards. For me that adds some extra pressure (and it’s one of the reasons I went to hand-making cards instead of writing a personal, full letter inside every one).

  3. pennyjars says:

    Every year I’ve been sending cards out into the holiday hubub, until last year. I was just too busy, set myself up with too many goals and reached about half of them. This year, our cards have been fewer and father between, but I chalked that up to my own lack of impetus. Am I wrong? Is this really a trend?

    • So you stopped doing cards last year, Victoria? Did you get cards last year or is that when fewer started coming in? I have heard from other people who have sent their cards out like usual this year that there has definitely been a slowdown. Which makes me think it’s a trend. But I don’t know. It makes sense with the economy and everything, but I do love getting “real” mail throughout December!

  4. Jo Eberhardt says:

    I have to admit, I don’t do Christmas cards. The last time I really gave cards at all was back in high school — and that was an awful long time ago! Every year I buy a few and give them to those people that I’m likely to see, but don’t really want/need to buy a present for.

    I’ve received one card this year, and I found myself thinking that it was curiously sweet and nostalgic to have one arrive in the mail. But as to whether it’s a growing trend… well, I don’t know. I never participated in the Christmas card thing anyway, so it’s not really a change from my part.

    Although my Aunt and Uncle, who always posted out a family newsletter with a card, started just emailing it last year.

    • I do love giving gifts at this time of year, but I also love seeing faraway friends’ handwriting and personalized notes and photos arrive. I moved from the East Coast to the West Coast ten years ago, and a number of the folks on my mailing list aren’t in contact with me through email (and I’m not on Facebook).

      Hopefully some other regular card senders will chime in about their experiences so we can get a better sense if this is an economy-fueled trend, or an internet-related trend, or whether it’s just something my friends and I have noticed here in Oregon (and New Jersey… and Pennsylvania… and Virginia…).

  5. I’m on the Virginia coastline and we definitely have seen a shift in the Christmas cards. Most of the cards that we’ve gotten have come from a doctor’s office or the vet. :/ We’ve gotten a couple of others, but there’s been a real lack of cards for us. There just seems to be a lack of Christmas cheer here. There’s some lights up, but overall it just doesn’t feel like Christmas. I don’t know what’s changed.

    • Interesting! Thanks for sharing. Our first card was from our newspaper carrier, and that’s when I started wondering what had changed this year.

      I’m surprised to hear you’ve seen less cheer in general, too. Is this because the retailers have tried to start the Christmas season earlier and earlier every year, and people get sick of it? Or primarily economy related? I agree–the season seems a little less magical this year.

  6. Jen E. says:

    We sent out cards this year, most with a family photo. Of course special friends of the boys got a more personal photo of just them πŸ™‚ I hear this was a huge source of happiness for those special friends. After it was all said and done with photo cards and postage we must have easily spent $40-50. I can see why people are cutting back. I feel like we have received quite a few cards this year, at least as many as we have in the past few years. I love going to the post box and having a Christmas card, it is some of the only good mail we get all year long.

    • I can attest that the photo cards are a big hit, Jen!

      After I wrote this post, more cards came in, most of them with photos of kiddos, although I’ve still received way fewer than previous years. It’s so fun to have the pictures hanging on our kitchen wall (using the snowflake dots from Wall Stories). It feels like these friends and family members are right here celebrating the season with us.

      • Jen E. says:

        I like getting the photo cards from friends. Another family and ours has been taking family photos for each other the past 3 years. I find I really like when I get a photo of the whole family. Then I get to see my friend, not just their children. The kids are always so cute, but it is really nice to see the adults too.

        • What a great system, Jen! It’s often so hard to get a full family photo, since usually one of the parents is taking the picture. I love the idea of seeing the parents, too, especially with those families who live far away.

  7. critters and crayons says:

    Jo Eberhardt sent me! I wrote about our Christmas Card debacle (photo cards, of course) and she knew I’d be interested in your post! She’s right! I am guilty of overly digitizing my Christmas greetings. I’ve never sent handwritten cards- probably because I can type faster than I can write in cursive. Christmas is always the way to get the family photos in a montage and out in the most efficient manner- but it is woefully de-personalized that way. But, as for gifts- we are not gift-consumers. We ask and give only consumable gifts that we make- normally a reusable tin of handmade treats and something else (like this year’s Mexican mosaic tile coasters we made with the kids). We don’t stress about buying gifts but we give from the heart and of our time. I do hope you get more cards and it was just a lull. Maybe your friends had similar stories as mine regarding Christmas Card mess-ups. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks for stopping by! I loved hopping over to your blog and reading about the great photo card disaster (as well as your son’s double-eye injury). Yikes! You make a great point about handwriting–I’m fast but mostly illegible, so it might be a kindness to send out photo cards.

      I love your take on gifts and making consumable treats rather than buying more “stuff.” Usually I knit gifts for everyone in my immediate family, and then a few other special friends who get rotated, depending on what I feel like knitting, my yarn stash and who might like the finished product. It’s the same spirit–giving with your heart and time–but then I do end up buying gifts too, because I love picking things out and shopping year-round for the people I love. I’ll have to keep an eye on your blog for more handmade ideas.

  8. Tyuana says:

    I hopped over via Critters and Crayons! I noticed a couple of years ago that the amount of Christmas cards started to dwindle…I chalked it up to economy. Sending 100+ cards costs $50, and that’s BEFORE the cost of the cards.

    Yet, like you, I’m traditional and love sending and receiving them. As for what I keep and what I recycle…I don’t know that I’ve ever thrown a photo card away, and I keep personal handwritten ones for a while. This year, for the first time ever, I did photo cards and a mass letter. It felt impersonal, but I did try to write a handwritten message on each one. (I got a card from someone who just put her address label inside…I figure that sets the bar for impersonal, right?) πŸ™‚

    Here’s my question: why is it so hard to pare down the list?? I send out 100+ cards…that seems crazy to me,but don’t k ow now to whittle it down.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Tyuana! This is the first year I’ve really noticed the card slowdown. Definitely postage is such a huge factor. I’m glad I’m not the only one who keeps cards! It was fun to use some really old cards in our collage project last year, although I did keep the handwritten ones aside.

      It’s nice to hear about your experience with photo cards. I have a feeling we’ll go that way next year, and I like the idea of doing a newsletter along with it, so it’s easy to add that personal note on the bottom.

      As far as paring down the list, geesh, I wish I had a good answer! I’m always in the 100+ range, too, and I’m not always great about adding addresses of new local friends who are important in my life and surely should get a card. It seems important, somehow, to send the ones out to longtime friends and family friends, people who I usually don’t correspond with by email, and I think that accounts for why my list grows. I never quite seem to drop anyone off.

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