Holiday cards bring me joy. It’s the truth. While this age-old tradition first began in the 1840s, allowing Victorians to respond to mail in a timely manner that proper etiquette required. It was not, however, affordable for many of the working class. The Industrial Revolution of the late 1800s created technology that allowed the production of cards on a scale that provided affordability to the masses. This, in turn, created a burgeoning industry for the holiday card. Even though we have so many ways to keep connected to those around us in the modern world, the custom of sending and receiving holiday cards brings me joy every single season.
Holiday cards bring me joy because they allow me to feel connected to so many people in my life that I may or may not stay in regular contact with. There are so only so many hours in the day, and the truth is that we cannot realistically keep in as much touch with all the people as we would like to. I place a big emphasis on my relationships with the people I care about. Keeping in contact with those with whom I share history and memories fills my cup. Holiday cards bring me joy because they provide a predictable timeframe to reconnect with so many whom I may not talk to much throughout the year but still care about. They allow me to reach out to people who have often played an important part in my life at one point or another. It brings me joy to see the travel my professors from college are up to in retirement or seeing how much our friends from our time in Arizona have grown.
A scientific study indicated that more than half of Americans are lonely. In a country where loneliness and lack of connection are extremely concerning realities, the holiday card offers a chance to reach out to those we know from all different walks of life and let them know we are thinking of them. Each holiday we replace a piece of artwork in our kitchen with our “Merry Mail” sign, where we excitedly attach the holiday cards we get from those down the street and across the country. It allows my family to reflect on all the people who have left an imprint on our lives.
When I look at my wall each December as it fills with cards, I get to remind myself of the importance of taking time to build and foster relationships. I can revisit memories made with each sender, which helps me feel more connected to people I know. It is a visual reminder all month long of the importance of prioritizing the gift and value of people in my life. An added benefit is that research shows that there are real psychological benefits for both the sender and receiver of a card.
While holiday cards bring me joy, the truth is that I love to send and receive cards year-round. An article published in 2021 in Marie Claire indicates I’m not alone. Perhaps my love of sending and receiving real cards developed in college when my high school friends and I would take turns sending cards to each other. The now antiquated (and in some instances removed) mail rooms of my dorm and sorority house would bring a smile to my face when I would receive a handwritten note from a friend. Many of my friends and I have continued this activity today, which may help to explain why millennials are often the biggest customer base for paper goods. Dayna Isom Johnson, an Etsy trend expert, noted, “because our lives are so filled with technology, it’s great to prioritize something that’s a personal gesture, that’s handwritten… actually stepping outside of that digital box.”
Even if holiday cards don’t bring you joy, consider the benefit of sending an old-fashioned paper card throughout this next year. I tend to pick up various cards when I’m out and keep a container of cards at the ready for all sorts of occasions: thanks, celebrations, sympathy, support, and sometimes that most appreciated kind of card… no reason at all. I have found this makes it much easier to pop a card in the mail when appropriate or timely.
During December, you can find me checking the mailbox regularly for holiday cards. I’ll stand in my kitchen cherishing the tradition of taking a moment as I hang them up to reflect on the imprint each sender has left on my life because holiday cards bring me joy.