The Ailing Tradition of Christmas Cards- Blessing or Loss
It’s not really news that the art of sending Christmas cards is an ailing one. I still like to send Christmas cards, indeed to me it is part of the festive season and the only meaningful way of extending heart felt seasons greetings to those who live a distance away, but then I am talking about taking time to consider what is written in a card not merely a boastful or insincere round robin card or else a mere illegible scribble in biro.
There are perhaps many reasons for the decline in sending Christmas cards. The cost of postage has gone up, the cost of cards has increased; it’s less fashionable to send cards; people don’t have as much time as they used to. Then of course there are green concerns and worries surrounding wasting resources by sending cards that just end up in landfill, but perhaps the decline is really because of laziness. Not so much the laziness that prevents us sitting down and writing cards, but the years of laziness that meant that they became pointless and meaningless. After all once you’ve seen one ”best wishes, from us all”, you’ve seen them all.
So, what do we do instead? Well, instead of sitting with a glass of festive cheer and writing well thought wishes for Christmas and New Year it seems that most people prefer to fire off a Christmas WhatsApp message, post a picture and festive message of Facebook or share a festive Instagram post and tag our hundreds of virtual pals.
There is no escaping the fact that social media is definitely a factor that influences how we utilize Christmas cards. Thanks to social media it is possible to see regular updates from distant friends and relatives, so perhaps a Christmas card or letter is no longer necessary. Although, I still believe that the vast majority of people would still like to receive a card at Christmas rather than a festive greeting via e-mail or social media.
For me sitting down and writing Christmas cards is a simple pleasure. It is an opportunity to show someone that you are thinking of them and a classic Christmas card is a way of spreading genuine Christmas cheer and well wishes to others as well as an update.
The Christmas card offers a great opportunity for writing thoughtful notes for all the special people in your life regardless of the miles between you. I actually feel that the tradition is now more important given our busy, technology driven society than ever before. But it seems that people get writers block when it comes to writing a card or else treat it like a boasting card, in which they can list all the achievements of their dog, cat and child in addition to wildly exaggerated keep-fit and financial successes; of course in these circumstances it is a blessing that sending cards is a declining tradition.
The custom of sending Christmas cards as we know them today started in Britain from 1840, when the first “Penny Post” public postal deliveries began. The first Christmas card was commissioned in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole who was looking for a time saving solution to replying Christmas mail. Henry, came up with the idea of a card that could carry a greeting and turned to his friend, artist John Callcott Horsley to illustrate his idea. The cards were printed and then hand-coloured. These were an expensive commodity and although offered commercially their price made them a retail flop, but as developments in the printing and manufacturing sectors took off then so did the concept of Christmas cards.
Before we get too nostalgic over the demise of the Christmas card, it is worth noting that whilst the popularity of sending handfuls of cards out to all and sundry is waning, buying and sending Christmas cards to our very nearest and dearest is not dead yet. Indeed it seems that today we prefer to send expensive, luxury or bespoke cards as opposed to sending round robin cards…well at least we don’t have to scrutinise hand writing, or fret about missing some distant relative off the card list or agonise over what a child’s, spouses or pet hamsters name is or worse still if someone is still alive.