Last week, I started making notes for my annual Christmas letter; I hope to have it in the mail in a few days. We love to send greetings to relatives and friends far and near — and because the letters go across the country and a few around the world, I like to get an early start on this holiday project.
My husband grew up in upstate New York and has many relatives in Canada. His friends are scattered across the country. I’ve worked as an Extension agent in four counties and made friends in each location that I want to keep in touch with. And I still send cards to a couple of host families in the Philippines from my 4-H exchange trip more than 30 years ago. We correspond with some of these people only once a year, so our Christmas cards are an important way to stay connected.
We’re not alone. In the U.S., more than a billion Christmas cards are sold every year. Ever since the first Christmas card was sent by England’s Queen Victoria in the 1840s, they have represented a way of sharing holiday cheer with friends and family.
Author Annalisa Merilli, writing online in the article “The History of Christmas Cards From Victorian Britain to the Internet,” said the cards meet a “widely held desire to share greetings with friends and family in a personal, yet efficient and affordable way.”
“This need is as relevant today as it was nearly two centuries ago, when greeting cards were first introduced. Since then, they’ve become entrenched in our holiday customs and remained so, despite the fact that most of our communication has shifted to digital media,” Merilli says.
In the internet age, with electronic greetings of all kinds now available, sales of traditional greeting cards have been on a long, gradual decline. In 1995, the national Greeting Card Association estimated 2.7 billion Christmas-holiday cards would be sold that year. This year, that number has dropped to 1.4 billion cards. Even so, greeting-card makers say don’t count them out. The industry estimates overall sales of 7 billion greeting cards annually.
With everything increasingly becoming more digital, the Stationery Studio, an online paper products vendor, wanted to know if sending holiday cards still is relevant in 2017.
The first question of their October 2017 survey asked if respondents were planning to send holiday cards this year, and 89 percent answered yes.
Seeing the trend in photo cards, another question asked what kind of cards respondents were planning on sending. Custom printed with photo(s) was the biggest response (49 percent of respondents) followed by pre-printed (boxed or individual) at 35 percent.
So while some might have seen a decline in holiday cards in their mailbox, many people still feel sending holiday cards is relevant. "Sending holiday cards is still a wonderful way to stay connected to family and friends," says Renee Redman, president of the Stationery Studio. "Now more than ever, a holiday card is appreciated in the digital age we live in.”
I’m a supporter of mailed Christmas greetings, yet my methods have changed through the years to take advantage of increasing technology and cope with rising costs. But as my generation ages and the children of the digital age take over family holiday traditions, it will be interesting to see how this custom changes into the future.
How about you? Will you be mailing Christmas greetings this year?
Linda K. Beech is Cottonwood District Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.