By Karen Hendricks
It’s one of the most important traditions of all the Christmas holiday traditions, to me personally—sending Christmas cards.
And it pains me to see this tradition slowly falling off.
As a writer (of course), I’m going to speak out in favor of this time-honored tradition. And as a Christian, I believe there is no better news to share, than a Christmas greeting.
Yet it’s one of the biggest debates of the holiday season: To send Christmas cards—or not. There are many pros and cons debated on social media every year, starting around Thanksgiving.
- “I can’t decide whether to send Christmas cards…what’s everyone else doing?”
- “It’s so expensive to send cards, and we hardly receive any….”
- “I don’t have the time to send cards, so I’m going to say Merry Christmas here.”
- “I’m so stressed, I can’t get organized enough to send cards.”
- And so on.
The truth is, it IS expensive to mail anything today—especially if you’re mailing a mass quantity of cards. Our Christmas card list includes family—including many extended family members across the entire U.S. with whom we might only communicate once a year—at Christmas. Then there are friends from all walks of life—childhood friends, college friends, family friends, former and current colleagues, neighbors past and present (of course some of those cards can be hand-delivered next door accompanied by homemade cookies), and the list goes on. While many people trim “the list,” I rarely do. I feel like Christmas is the one time of year to reach out and reconnect, to let people know I’m thinking of them.
There’s growing evidence that, despite all of our communication tools today, our communications are suffering. Personal connections are suffering. We may be texting more, but our phone calls are not as frequent, and the amount of mail—let alone (gasp) hand-written letters and cards—has dropped in the U.S. every year for years. Why are these communications important? Phone or video calls are more personal—we can see or hear each other, convey emotions, and maintain deeper personal relationships. Making a case for cards and letters: These are tangible items we can hold, including personal photos and hand-written messages, signifying that someone took the time to touch our lives.
In many families (mine included), there are Christmas traditions related to displaying and honoring Christmas cards that are received. We have done everything from clipping cards onto ribbons framing doorways, fireplaces or kitchen cabinets. We have several old shutters we sometimes slide the cards into, to display them throughout the house. And sometimes we keep Christmas cards in a big basket, adding the new ones at the dinner table every night. Any time of year, you can find that year’s Christmas cards in a big basket in my living room, where I do look at them throughout the year, rereading the precious letters, admiring a few handmade cards from talented artists and crafty friends, looking through the photos that were sent, and even though it sounds cliché—keeping the spirit of Christmas alive throughout the year.
I know people feel stress over the holidays, and in the hustle and bustle of making sure we’re buying all the right gifts, decorating in the most perfect ways, going to all the right events, etc, it’s often Christmas cards that get lost in the shuffle. They’re time consuming—I get it. But looking at the big picture, so many of the things causing holiday stress are superficial. Not everything has to be perfect, as we define it, for the holidays. That’s the whole point of the Christmas story—Jesus was born, not under perfect conditions, but in a stable under the most unlikely circumstances to the most unlikely parents. Isn’t that message worth sharing in a Christmas card?
If you’re on the fence this year, I encourage you to keep the tradition alive. Send the cards. Pick out messages and artwork that are meaningful to you. Sign them all. Add a note—even just a sentence if you can. There is value in your words. There is care in your words. There is love in your words. The true meaning of Christmas is that God cares about us, so much that he sent His Son Jesus into our lives to live and die for us. That’s real love. And real love deserves to be shared—through Christmas cards.