Holiday Cards Over the Generations

HolidayCardRedEvery year at Christmas time, I spend a couple days composing a holiday greeting card to send to family and friends – “from our home to yours.” This year was particularly complicated as we transition from snail-mail to email.

When I was a kid growing up in Chicago, “back in the days” when COLOR TV was the latest cool technology, it was expected that family and friends would exchange holiday greeting cards through the mail, typically with personal notes written inside along with Hallmark’s greeting. Christmas holiday parties included time spent passing the cards around and reminiscing. If someone didn’t send a card, it was fuel for endless speculation about what could possibly have gone wrong? Illness? Death? Divorce? Or maybe the letter was lost in the mail?  Were they upset with us? Was there some sort of misunderstanding?

Some years later, holiday newsletters become popular with some. Hand-written letters on special stationary folded and tucked inside the greeting card, with updates on all that happened over the past year. Some recipients loved the newsletters and others found them too narcissistic. As generations aged, the newsletters often included lengthy descriptions of illnesses and death which tended to put a damper on the holiday party. As PC’s and printers became commonplace, people began creating their own card and newsletter designs for a personal touch, and significant savings.

Today there are online services that allow you to upload photos, select a design and sentiment, upload an address book, type your credit card number, and click a button to send dozens or hundreds of personalized cards through the mail. It’s not cheap, but it’s certainly time-saving in an era when time is in short supply. I’ve utilized these services in years when there was simply no time to do anything else.

As a person straddling two generations – the baby boomers and generation x, I feel torn between holiday card philosophies. This year, I sent paper holiday newsletters to those that I know expect them (the WWII generation), pdf’s to those who aren’t card senders (gen X), and both to those that I’m not sure what to do with (baby boomers and straddlers like myself). Ironically my holiday newsletter PDF file was too large to send by email so I posted it online and emailed a link to it. Somehow it seems less meaningful to send a link to a card than to send a the file as an email attachment. That’s just nuts!

I’m not sure what to do with my millennial generation friends who think that the holiday card tradition is unnecessary since we’re all in continuous communication online through social media all the time anyway. Also what up with all the commercialization? Are they the wisest of us all?

Of course there are exceptions in every generation. All generations are online these days, and I do have a younger friend or two who know how to mail a card or letter or are at least familiar with the concept. Maybe card-sending will be resurrected as a new and cool retro trend someday – like Bunco, LPs and peace signs.

So, how did you express your holiday wishes to your friends and family this year? How will you do so next year? Whatever your holiday card philosophy, or if you are in between philosophies as I am, I will take this opportunity to wish you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year! I would post a link to our holiday greeting card here, but it has a lot of personal info that I’m terrified to share publicly where marketers and stalkers can access it. Next year I’ll have to have a 2nd version of our online card that with a privacy filter imposed. Sheesh!


2 Replies to “Holiday Cards Over the Generations”

  1. I actually find holiday cards quaint, and am reviving the tradition. This year was the first I’d ever mailed any out, and found my box flooded with cards in return. Nothing special, no pictures or year long update..all those can be found on FB or g+. Instead I just sent our love in a pretty card to let friends and family know I was thinking of them. Next year I may create my own. With technology and communication in our face every minute, it was a nice break…and a reason to dig up addresses I didn’t have yet.

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