Project Britain found that the average person sends 50 Christmas cards a year, but many claim sending cards is a dying practise in the UK. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that each year my Christmas card list gets shorter and shorter, and nowadays only send them to close friends and family. But why is this?
One of the main problems is the fact that it’s so expensive. A book of 12 First Class stamps will set you back £7.20, and that doesn’t even factor in the cost of the cards themselves. Christmas is an important time for charities as it has been estimated that they make around £50m a year, according to the Greeting Card Association. Many people are happy to pay a bit extra if that money is going to charity; however shops can sometimes mark-up the products for a bit of extra profit, making the cost that little bit steeper.
With high postage prices and shops pushing for high profit margins on cards, it’s easy to see why Christmas cards would be the first to go when the bank balance is looking a little low. Nowadays we can talk to old friends on Facebook, or see what they’ve been up to on Twitter, yet even with these spaces for communication, I can’t help feeling nostalgic for the humble card. With its personal touches, often carrying lengthy newsletters on old family friends, the practise of clicking on someone’s name and scrolling through their images just isn’t quite the same. Perhaps in our becoming more contactable, something has been lost and cannot be recovered. If people did send lengthy newsletters now surely they would only contain what had already popped up in your news feed months earlier.
But is this decline necessarily a bad thing? Writing Christmas cards becomes merely an exercise in writing name after name, greeting after greeting and, if we’re honest, there’s nothing personal in that. Christmas cards seem important because they act as a sign that you remember that person, yet isn’t that something that a quick message via social media will do just as well, minus the postage costs and minus the environmental damage that creating Britain’s cards cause each year? And does this move towards more environmentally friendly means of contacting our friends, along with the ease of social media, mean our parents will be the last generation that send cards?
I think not. While my Christmas card list has definitely diminished, it is by no means gone altogether. In fact, by spending less time writing generic cards, there’s more time for me to write lengthier, more personal cards to those I care about, those I wish I got to talk to more and family members who live far away. Perhaps social media has got rid of the need for the generic Christmas card, sent out to all old neighbours, work colleagues and school friends, but this is not a huge loss. What remains are those personal cards sent to those we care about, not littering homes with cards stating merely the names of the people involved, but adding that special something to a loved one’s Christmas.