In an Era of Self-Isolation, Christmas Greeting Cards Help You Stay Connected

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Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always liked sending Christmas cards. There is something about sitting down with a stack of cards, a little Christmas music playing in the background or a favorite Christmas movie, and writing heartfelt notes to my closest friends and family members. At a time when most of us are self-isolating and practicing social distancing, however, it may be even more important to send holiday cards to bridge the gap between ourselves and our loved ones.

Christmas cards remain as popular as ever. According to the Greeting Card Association, 6.5 billion greeting cards are sent out every year and 1.6 billion are Christmas cards. Millennials lead the way in buying and sending holiday cards, as many of them marry and start families.

Some would argue that Christmas cards are not cheap and they’re time consuming. “Just connect with people on social media. Or send an email, text message or a greeting from an online service like Blue Mountain or Jacquie Lawson? They’re cheaper and more convenient than snail mail,” others would say.  

One Millennial, in fact, explains why she stopped sending Christmas cards and suggests we should all do the same. She argues that greeting cards are mass produced as boxed sets, so they lack personalization.

Those are all valid points. But I argue that not everyone has email or owns a computer, including members of my own family. Sending email greetings feels too impersonal, and I fear my message might not be viewed as heartfelt arriving via computer.

Further, it’s important to me to reach out to people I don’t see or talk to often to let them know that I am thinking of them. That’s especially true for relatives who aren’t on social media or own a computer. (Not everyone does, you know.) I don’t have email addresses for everyone I know, but I do have a physical address.  

While it might be time-consuming to handwrite notes and put addresses on envelopes, it doesn’t take nearly as long as you think. My 25 cards takes about three hours, the length of a football game, including a personal message. It might take you less time than that. Look at it this way: if you can make time to put up holiday decorations and bake cookies, you can make time to write out Christmas cards.

Handwritten greeting cards have other advantages:

1. Greeting cards can be personalized. I can add personal notes, mention an experience that I shared with the recipient or express optimism about a forthcoming event. With each card I write, I feel a connection to the person I’m sending the card to. To make it truly personal, skip the pre-printed cards and use a blank notecard instead. Write your own message inside. For ideas on what to write, check out these suggestions from Hallmark and Good Housekeeping.

2. Greeting cards provide space for inserts. They allow me to include additional materials, such as photos, an invitation, tickets to an event or gift cards. True, there are ways to include these items to an email, but as I mentioned, some people may not have access to email or a computer to receive them.

3. Greeting cards slows down the pace of life. Writing out greeting cards is not a fast process. It forces me to slow down the pace of my life to think about what I’m writing and to whom. For a few hours in a day, I become wholly present in the moment to prepare personal sentimental messages.

4. Greeting cards are tactile. I like shopping for greeting cards, and feeling them in my hands. They simply feel more real to me than an online version. It’s much like the feeling I get when I hold a book in my hand rather than read it on a computer screen.  When I shop for cards right after Christmas, I can buy them at a steep discount and keep them on hand for the following season.

5. Greeting cards are more memorable. Most people I know display their Christmas cards so they can see them throughout the holiday season. You can’t do that with online greeting cards or email messages, which are transient in nature. I like to display cards around my fireplace so I can see them every day. When I see cards that loved ones have sent me, I get a warm feeling inside knowing that other people are thinking of me.  

In this time of COVID-19 when most of us are socially isolated from our loved ones, Zoom calls and video chats may not be enough to convey holiday cheer. Further, this pandemic has made many of us seek new, meaningful ways of connecting. Sending greeting cards, as old-fashioned as it seems, can cut through the electronic clutter. Sure, there are the costs involved, like the cards themselves, postage and the time spent writing messages, sealing them and stamping them.

It might be easier, cheaper and faster to send online greeting cards, but the online versions lack an emotional connection. Isn’t that emotional connection what we want with our loved ones, especially at Christmas?

So if meaningful connection with loved ones is important to you this Christmas, don’t overlook holiday greeting cards. They just might be worth the extra effort to let someone know you are thinking of them.

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