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Sending Holiday Cards: Are Traditions Changing?

November 13, 2013

Holiday Cards

People like to get holiday greetings. They enjoy receiving mailed cards from friends, family, new acquaintances, and even businesses. Opening up those cards gives recipients a warm, fuzzy feeling and makes them feel connected to the sender. Even if they are not handwritten, holiday greetings always elicit a positive emotional response. Unless your name is Scrooge, of course.

That’s exactly why people still send holiday greetings. Americans have been mailing holiday cards around this time of year for a very long time—since 1874, in fact. In this digitally-connected society where social media and email are becoming the norm for nurturing both personal and business relationships and staying in touch, I wonder, though, how much longer the tradition of mailed holiday greeting cards will still be around?

How have holiday card traditions changed?

There are most likely several factors influencing us to change the way we send holiday greetings these days:

  • Hand-writing and mailing traditional cards takes a lot of time and effort.
  • We want to save trees by going green and paperless.
  • The costs of both stamps and greeting cards are escalating.
  • Instant e-cards and emails are becoming more and more accepted.

One thing to keep in mind when deciding which type of card to send is that an email card has a brief lifespan and little impact on the recipient. An email will get read, then deleted or buried and forgotten. On the other hand, a lot of folks (and businesses) still have a special place where they display mailed cards they receive for all to read and enjoy.

Sending a handwritten or hand-signed card is still decidedly the best way to convey that warm, personal touch. It’s a tradition that most of us still value. The next best option is a holiday postcard. Done correctly, holiday postcards can leave that lasting personal touch, yet still allow you to send them out to your mass-distributed list.

There are many reasons and ways that businesses can find to send cards during the end-of-the-year season. Whether they are thank you cards, business appreciation cards, or holiday cards, the goal is to keep your name in front of your customer. The fact is, the increasing rarity of receiving mailed physical cards at all only serves to make them more special.

Is it okay to email your holiday greetings instead of mailing physical cards?

Emily Post, an etiquette expert, says it is. According to Emily, everything from a note with an attached photo to an animated e-card is okay. The Manners Mentor, however, advises that, “If your only relationship with someone is a digital one, then an email card is fine. If the recipient is family or a flesh-and-blood friend, then a standard card is going to be the best choice.”

Here are a few points to keep in mind if you choose to go the electronic route:

  • Write your message as you would a traditional card.
  • Limit the size of attachments since there’s a good chance recipients will read your email on a mobile device.
  • Don’t show other recipients’ addresses in the “To” line. Keep their info private by using the Bcc feature. Knowing your email was sent to a slew of people at the same time effectively removes that personal “just for you” touch that holiday greetings are supposed to include.

When is the best time to mail holiday cards?

From the highest authority on greeting cards, Hallmark, the appropriate time to mail holiday cards is “any time after Thanksgiving and before New Year’s Day.”

Ideally, you want your cards to arrive in early or mid December. While you don’t want to send them too early, keep in mind that the post office is extremely busy this time of year. If you want your card to get more attention and be one of the first to be on display, mail them right after Thanksgiving Day. If your card says Happy New Year, then arriving after Christmas is okay.

How will you send your holiday greetings this year? How have your holiday card habits changed?