What Happened to Traditional Christmas Cards?

‘Tis the season to sit down and get down to the business of holiday cards if you’re into that kind of thing, which I most assuredly am. Seeing how my friends on social media are dealing with it, though, has me thinking: Have people forgotten the point of these seasonal greetings? I know that we can keep up with each other in real time now through social media, texting, and even live-streaming our lives if we want to, but a holiday card is supposed to tell the recipient that the sender took the time think of them at this special time of year. So, what are your holiday cards saying about you?

It started with labels.

When people started sticking labels on their envelopes instead of hand addressing them, I was young, but I remember being skeptical. I fought my parents on it, questioning their commitment. Do people want to feel like they weren’t worth the time to address an envelope? At least there was still a hand-written card inside with a greeting, though. Then came the pre-printed Christmas letters and cards. At least they still had a signature and, maybe, a little note. Not anymore. The card one person gets could have gone to any other person on the list. When I get one of those, I honestly have to wonder if those people even know they sent me a card, since I appear to have been just a stuffed envelope on an assembly line. That brings me to the most bizarre abomination I’ve seen in recent years. The call for card requests.

You’ve seen it on social media: “If you want to get a card, let me know!” “Send me your address if you want to get a holiday card this year!” or my personal nemesis: “Click here to add your address to this google document to be added to our card list.” Excuse me? I know and love people who do this. I know they have no ill intentions; they want correct addresses and they don’t want anyone to feel left out. These are noble thoughts. Think of what it actually says to the recipient, though. I don’t want to think I got a card because I asked for one. I want to think that I got a card because this friend thought of me while they celebrated their holiday, remembered me and wanted to send me a greeting. That’s what holiday cards are for. I shouldn’t have to ask to be remembered, to tell a friend that I want to be thought of at the holidays, or sign up online like it’s a newsletter. At that point, the entire spirit of the season has been removed from the experience. We have forgotten the entire point of the thing.

We need to get back to the “why.” We are all incredibly busy. Work, kids, family, travel, whatever it is, these are busy times. A holiday card is a small way to say that you set aside some time amid the chaos to tell someone that you were thinking of them and wanted to wish them the best. A card that is completely automated, right down to you having had to request it, says, “this was a chore.” That’s not what Christmas is supposed to be about, or Hanukkah, or most holidays, for that matter. These are meaningful holidays about miracles and love. These are days that matter, and we want to reach out to the people that matter. Our lives are so automated already. Take the time to put pen to paper and let people know that you actually thought about them. These are the little things that count.

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