The Dilemmas Of Christmas Cards

If receiving Christmas cards was a hobby, it would be a hobby I’d embrace and never let go.  

I’ve always preferred receiving Christmas cards to birthday cards. They’ve always been more important to me, but over the years have caused me a few dilemmas. Do you recognise any of these?

How to display Christmas cards

My parents always strung up Christmas cards along the longest wall in our lounge. I’d stand underneath the line and happily count them. And if any of the cards overlapped, I’d make it known so that they could be adjusted. 

I wanted every Christmas card to give the same pleasure to visitors as I got out of them over the festive period.

These days, we display cards on a card rack. The overlapping doesn’t seem to bother me as much as it used to. However, I seem to give priority to those cards I see as more festive.

How do you display Christmas cards?

School Days

During my early schooling years, my class would send Christmas cards to each other. Back then, Christmas cards came in different sizes in one box. The first dilemma was trying to match the correct sized envelope to the right card. 

A box of Christmas cards from the 1970s. Image taken from eBay

Usually, you’d end up with a couple of cards that didn’t fit the envelopes you had left or, on rare occasions, have cards left with no envelopes to put them in. 

These days, Christmas cards seem to come in packs and are all the same size, so the dilemma of matching envelopes with cards has gone. 

In class, we’d make a pillar box out of cardboard, cotton wool, paints and some sticky-back plastic. We were all encouraged to post Christmas cards into the box, and on the last day before the Christmas holidays, our teacher would sort them and distribute them out. 

I’d always be super excited to get a pile of cards with my name proudly written on the front of the envelopes. I’d open them all before rushing home to hang them up with the rest of the cards. 

If there wasn’t enough room on the line, I had to wait patiently for my father to put up another line. Sometimes, this could take days to do, and I’d get very frustrated that my cards were not on display.

And heaven’s forbid if any of the lines of cards came down because of the sheer weight of cards on them. I’d be inconsolable. 

After Christmas, I’d keep the cards I liked the most and make gift tags out of them for the following Christmas.

Did you send Christmas cards to your classmates?

The First Christmas Card

The first Christmas card was sent in 1843. Back then, there were no signs of robins, snow, Christmas stockings or Father Christmas on them. Most cards showed people drinking, eating and being merry.

It wasn’t until the 1870s that Christmas cards began to display some of the festive images we see today.

  

A Victorian Christmas card. Image by DarkmoonArt_de from Pixabay

Back in the 1970s (when I was sending cards to those in my class), there were certain cards I loved. These include the ones I thought were associated with Christmas. Those showing scenes that included Father Christmas, Christmas stockings, robins, snow, and Christmas trees were my favourites. 

And then there were cards I didn’t particularly like because I thought they had nothing to do with Christmas. These included ones with scenes of horse-drawn carriages, fox hunting, St Paul’s Cathedral, or a hand-drawn poinsettia. 

My favourite classmates always got the cards I associated with Christmas. The classmates I didn’t bother with much (or those I didn’t like) got the boring ones. Back then, you could always tell who didn’t like you much from the type of card they sent you (or so I thought, anyway).

Christmas Postcards 

Step back to the early part of the 20th century, and some Christmas cards were like postcards. Many years ago, I picked up some on eBay. This one is my favourite. 

An Old Maid’s Christmas
On the back.

Postmarked Dec 24th 1912, I love the humour on this postcard, although I’m not sure it would go down well these days. What do you think?

I can’t make out the postmark on this postcard, but the stamp on it tells me it’s from the U.S.A. 

Christmas postcard from the early 20th century
Christmas postcard from the early 20th century

And here’s another early one from the U.S.A, postmarked Dec 23rd 1913.

Christmas postcard dated 23rd December 1913
Christmas postcard dated 23rd December 1913

Postal addresses were so short back then.

Fast-track to the 1980s and Christmas cards were very different. Here are a few of my favourites.

Yes, I have a scrapbook that includes some of my favourite Christmas cards.

The Boyfriend Dilemma

Finally, here’s a Christmas card from 1988 that was sent to me by my then boyfriend.

 

Christmas 1988
Last Christmas I gave you my heart. By New Year’s Day I’d taken it away!

Unfortunately, he went on to break my heart on New Year’s Eve, yet I kept the Christmas card he sent me. I wonder why?

Do you send and enjoy receiving Christmas cards? Have you ever had any dilemmas with them?

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Author: Hugh W. Roberts

My name is Hugh. I live in the city of Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom. My blog covers a wide range of subjects, the most popular of which are my blogging tips posts. If you have any questions about blogging or anything else, please contact me by clicking on the 'Contact Hugh' button on the menu bar. Click on the 'Meet Hugh' button on the menu bar to learn more about me and my blog.

73 thoughts

  1. Hugh, I loved all these cards and the history you provided. Vintage cards are especially interesting. You’re right about the “old maid” card. Really funny and such a hoot that people thought it okay to send those at that time. Merry Christmas!
    Cheryl

    1. I was surprised by the humour of the ‘old maid’ card, Cheryl. I don’t think it would go down very well these days, but I guess that humour changes with the times. We have to keep laughing.
      Merry Christmas 🎄

  2. This warmed my heart Hugh. Evoked a few Christmas memories for me. I particularly like the old fashioned postcards. I too remember giving my non-favourite cards to the non-favourite people in my life – cards that I now adore. Funny how our tastes change over the years. Merry Christmas Hugh!

    1. Yes, our tastes do change as we grow older, don’t they, Gloria? Now every Christmas card I get brings joy to me. It’s wonderful to think that something as simple as a greetings card can bring so much happiness and light, especially during these dark days.

      I’m glad this post evoked a few nice memories for you.

      Merry Christmas 🎄

  3. I have always sent Christmas cards to my Aunties and Uncles overseas because I like to keep in touch. I’m from a very large extended family but many of them have passed away. It’s not quite as nice to receive an email but with the cost of postage It’s not as common to send Christmas cards anymore

    1. I agree that the postage can be expensive, but then I tell myself that’s it’s only once a year. And if a Christmas card brings some joy and happiness, I don’t think about the cost of sending it. I like to spread and share the joy and happiness Christmas cards bring me.

      Thank you for joining the discussion with us.

      Merry Christmas.

  4. I love Christmas cards, Hugh, especially the ones with letters in them. Christmas cards keep me in touch with friends over the years. If it wasn’t for exchanging cards, we’d lose contact. When I was a child we used to string our cards up as you describe. Now I have some ribbons that I hang down and from a decoration (against a wall) and use paper clips to attach the cards. I think I got the idea from a tv show years ago. I like it because the cards are the right way up, not sideways. When I was at school we students didn’t exchange Christmas cards but my daughter did when she was at school. I do remember those packs of cards that never seemed to have enough envelopes or envelopes that didn’t match.
    Happy Christmas. Here’s to a much better 2021.

    1. Thanks for sharing your memories with us, Norah. And I’m glad you remember those boxes of Christmas cards I described in this post. Those vintage Christmas cards have always been my favourite ones. I’m a firm believer in that Christmas cards bring a lot of joy to those who send and receive them.
      Merry Christmas and a joyous New Year to you and your family. 🎄

  5. Interesting post Hugh, I like that you kept the card from someone who broke your heart not long after. Most people would throw them out in rage or spite, I think it says a lot about you and how you are able to look back positively on that person and what he meant to you. I also had my heart broke in Dec ’88, so we are in an unfortunate club! (And it’s also why I can’t stand Mistletoe and Wine, the Xmas No 1 from that year!) Interesting postcards too, I know Ronnie Barker had a big collection of saucy postcards. Thanks for sharing them with us.

    1. Thanks, Paul. I don’t know why I kept that card, but it must have meant something to me. I can remember crying my eyes out at midnight on New Year’s Eve and being comforted by a couple of friends. I’m sorry to hear you were going through the same broken-hearted phase as I was at the end of 1988.

      I can so imagine somebody like Ronnie Barker having a collection of saucy postcards. ‘The Two Ronnies’ Christmas show was always a highlight for me at Christmas, along with ‘The Mike Yarwood’ show and ‘The Generation Game.’ All Christmas night viewing with over 20 million viewers back then. Christmas telly has changed so much since then.

  6. Such wonderful memories you have about all these Christmas cards, especially as a kid, Hugh. And, you sure do have a great memory as well!

    In my family in Belgium, we never really celebrated Christmas. New Years was a bigger event, with special letters written in class to our parents and godparents. No Christmas cards at that age.

    I like your cards that have imprints in them. That’s special! I used to write and send some Christmas cards in the past, “living” in the US, but I stopped that habit a few years ago. Instead, I now send out a group email to my loved ones and friends. Two versions: one in English and one in Dutch. Much easier – and cheaper. 🙂

    1. As a lover of Christmas, my memories of them are at the forefront, Liesbet. I can even picture what decorations we had up and what was on the Christmas tree from when I was a child. I only have to think about those Christmases, and I feel good and start smiling.

      From the comments, I think Christmas cards seems to be a very British thing. I’ve never known a Christmas without having and sending lots of them. What makes them special is that they only come once a year and always spread lots of joy and happiness. I even like the ‘boring’ Christmas cards that I didn’t especially like when I was at school.

      When we were in the U.S.A (one late November/early December), I remember there not being many Christmas cards for sale. I picked up a few which I still have, but the shops in the UK are always full of Christmas cards. They usually start appearing towards the end of August. Famous stores like Harrods and Selfridges usually open their Christmas departments in late July or early August. A friend who works in Selfridges told me that most of the sales in the Christmas department are during the first two months thy open. This year, because of Covid, stocks have been limited. I’ve noticed even online-retailers not having anywhere as near the choice they usually have.

      I also have some tree decorations from Macey’s. When I saw the movie ‘A Miricle on 34th Street’ (1947 version) for the first time, I asked Santa for a tree ornament from Macy’s department store every year. Of course, I never got one, so when I went to the U.S.A for the first time, I picked my first one up. Happy memories.

  7. I myself only do a few cards for those closest to me and I don’t string them up. On the other hand I have lots of birthday collected. I guess Christmas has so much the cards seem like over kill But thats just me

    Spread Holiday Laughter

    1. I feel the same way about Birthday cards. Do I really want to be reminded that I’m another year older? 🤔 And besides, my ‘birthday’ is the day I was born, not the same date that comes around every year. Shouldn’t it be Happy Birth-Anniversary? 🤔 Each to their own, I suppose.

      But we have to keep laughing. Merry Christmas 🎄

  8. Fun post Hugh. I love cards, receiving an giving. The only cards I don’t enjoy giving are the mandatory ones to people I’d rather not, lol, where I fluster for just the right words. 🙂 Happy holiday season my friend. ❤

    1. I let the greeting inside the card do the talking for me when I’m sending a card to somebody who I rather was not on my card list, Debby. It’s why I never buy blank cards.
      Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year to you both. 🎄
      xxxx

      1. Thank you Hugh. And I’m with you my friend. If the card is blank, it is our words that will ring into their ears. If our words aren’t what they expect, there is the uncomfortable situation. So yes, go for the generic written by someone else LOL. Happy holidays to you and yours Hugh ❤

  9. Lots of memories triggered by your post, Hugh, including giving the nicest (in my opinion) cards to best friends and the boring ones to the ‘not-real-friends’. We didn’t have a postbox in our school – just a general madness as every kid tried to hand out their cards. My son never remembered he had card – I used to find them in his schoolbag when it was nearly time to go back to school. And my dad! He would come to visit and open every card on display to see who it was from and critique the card. He did the same at my sister’s house and I often wondered if he did it in friends’ houses 🙂 Thanks for such a lovely post.

    1. Thanks for sharing those lovely memories with us, Mary. I’ll admit that I have done the occasional critique of cards, but usually in a fun way. From all the comments, I think Christmas cards seem to be a very British thing. I wonder if children still send Christmas cards to each other at school? Annabelle mentioned in her comment that schoolchildren these days would use social media to send cards. I guess she could be right.

  10. Being a bit of a Scrooge,, I don’t like buying new Christmas cards when I’ve got a whole load of unused ones left over from last year. The problem I have then is making sure I don’t send anyone the same card as they had last year.
    We did the post box thing in school as well – I think ours was made of cardboard, red crepe paper, cotton wool and glitter.

    1. I don’t think I’d ever remember if anyone sent me a duplicated Christmas card, but that’s me. I think what’s more important is that the Christmas cards you send will bring some joy and happiness, Annabelle. I know I get a lot of happiness from receiving Christmas cards. Much more than I do from getting Birthday cards.

      It seems the making of a post box at school was a popular thing to do. I wonder if they still do it today?

  11. I always fasten Christmas cards to the back of the living room door with cellotape. It is gloss paint so it doesn’t mark and the door looks very plain when I remove them in them in the New Year. When you wrote about school I remembered what we used to do.In January we brought our best cards to school and pasted them onto card with a litlle calender underneath and gave them away as New Year presents.The places that recycle them did not seem to be operating last year so they went in the recycling bin, but without the ones with glitter. Actually I think most people have got the message. We only have one this year.The post is dreadful so hubby has sent some on the computer.I hope everything doesn’t go on line – you can’t decorate the house with virtual cards!

    1. Julie, I hope they never all go online either. I don’t mind eCards, but they don’t have the same fun and excitement as getting a real card does.

      Yes, I hear Royal Mail is having many problems this Christmas getting all cards delivered. Fortunately, I sent mine on 30th November, and some even arrived the day after. My local authority has told us to put cards in with paper and card recycling, but not any that have glitter on them.

      And I remember those little calendars you mentioned, although I tended to make gift tags out of my favourite Christmas cards.

      Thanks so much for sharing your memories with us, Julie.

      Merry Christmas. 🎄

  12. I keep my cards on a bit of string high on the wall which is done for the practicality of keeping out of toddlers hands. I’ll probably get a proper mount to put on the wall when the fascination with grabbing them and throwing around subsides!

    Biggest dilemma is definitely getting cards sent out to everyone in good time – I thought I had it all sorted this year getting them sent out nice and early. Then I got one sent direct from my Niece and Nephew! My brother is split from his wife so I just put there names on his as they’ve never sent me one direct before until this year. So had to rush out to get a 1st class stamp and get it sent off so they got it in time.

    1. I’ve had a few occasions when I’ve had cards sent to me out of the blue from people that were not on my list, James. Fortunately, I keep a couple of first-class stamps in my wallet, so didn’t have to queue at the Post Office. And now it seems you can print postage labels online, so I’ll never have any excuses ever again.

      I think it’s a good idea to keep cards and decorations up high while little ones are about. I gave my Great Niece a Corgi tree decoration this year, which she broke in seconds. I bought her another one, and the same thing happened. Next year, I’ll be buying her some indestructible decorations for the tree.

  13. This post made me laugh Hugh, and brought back memories. I did exactly the same at school. The people I didn’t like much got the boring ones. It used to take ages writing them out. We also strung up cards at home. Over the years the cards have got less and less. We used to cut them up after for gift tags. Great collection of cards you have also.

    1. I’m so pleased it bought back some lovely memories, Alison. I don’t like thinking about the number of cards dwelling over the years. So long as I get and send at least a dozen, I’ll be happy.

  14. When i read the opening i was sure we were in for some child eating holly that grew out of the card but this was really lovely. Me, I find cards a chore in truth. You’d better take me off the list!!

  15. I don’t have any photos to show as an example, but my elementary students took Christmas cards and constructed houses one year. Some hole punching, ribbon, glitter glue, and imagination made it a lot of fun. A bit expensive and messy, but it was fun to try.

  16. I love the idea of displaying the cards on a string (or several strings if necessary). We put them on a board… overlapping is no problem either…haha. I have not sent Christmas cards for 4 years. If you had told me 5 years ago, I would have called you nuts. But time got so rare because of my second job. I still wanted to enjoy the holidays and the pre-Christmas time instead of being even more stressed, thus I had to skip some things. So far, writing Christmas cards was on that list.

    1. I remember my days of stressful Decembers, Erika. However, I can always make time for writing cards, especially because I know the joy receiving one can bring to many people. I’ve even been known to write them during the summer because I tend to buy my cards in the ‘after Christmas’ sales. I’m always one for a bargain, so the fact I know I’ve also saved some money makes writing them even more appealing. I also buy most of my Christmas gifts during the summer sales and wrap them over the coming months. As December is my favourite month, I’ve then got myself plenty of time to enjoy the whole experience. Some call me mad for doing this way, but when they see how relaxed I am in December, they often then see how I do it, makes lots of sense.

      1. Oh, yes, I am the same type of person. By the end of November, I am done with buying presents or at least I know what I want and have it in the blink of an eye. December is a sacred time for me. I want to bake Christmas cookies and sharing them with neighbors and friends, wrapping the gifts, spending time at Christmas markets (not this year though) and simply calming down and thinking of spontaneous things to bring joy to some people. Christmas cards were usually ready to send by the end of November too (since many are going overseas) but I did not only want to squeeze it in just that it is done. I was really exhausted this year after the exam and all my projects which peaked in November. I switched to calling certain people instead this month.
        Haha, I experienced the same, people shaking their heads about my early Christmas schedules but when they are caught in their hectic, I am sitting with a tea and listening to Christmas songs. Who is mad since Christmas is on the same date every year… lol!

        1. Absolutely, Erika. And I like your idea of calling people rather than sending them a card. This year more than ever, I think many would prefer a call. I’ve done both, although the number of cards I’ve sent out does outweigh the number of calls I’ve made.

        2. 77 in total, Erika. A few years ago it would have been well over 100. One of the sad things is that the number decreases for most years. However, as I said in an earlier comment to somebody else, so long as I receive and send at least a dozen Christmas cards, it will mean a Happy Christmas for me. I’ll never tire of receiving or sending Christmas cards. For me, they’re more important than me receiving cards on my birthday.

        3. Wow! You obviously love writing out cards. This is wonderful and I can tell that after discussing this with you, I want to make it an effort to do it again next year. It fills me more with joy again than with thinking of an obligation to fulfill. Thanks a lot, Hugh!!

        4. Yes, I will!! This year was very stressful and took me to the verge of burn-out but it also made me appreciate the wonderful peeps around even more than I already did. So, thank you again, Hugh!

  17. Such a joy to read, Hugh! Sending Christmas cards is one of my favourite things about Christmas. These little gestures of love and well wishes connect us across the miles. A tangible offering of hope and joy.
    Last year, I decided to create and send our Christmas greetings via email to connect with more family and friends. The tradition continues. This year I added a little piano melody I wrote. It’s a wonderful opportunity to share festive love and joy. I still send out a few tangible cards. I don’t think that tradition will ever change.
    Warmest Christmas blessings to you and yours! 🙂

    1. I agree with what you say about Christmas cards offering some hope and joy during these strange times, Natalie. However, I think they do the same thing regardless of what is going on in the world. Ever since I can remember, receiving Christmas cards has always bought me a lot of joy and happiness.
      And I think the homemade cards bring the most joy of all. Adding a little piano melody is a lovely idea. Who wouldn’t like that?

      Seasons greetings and a joyous New Year to you and your family, Natalie. 🎄

  18. Lovely post, Hugh and I love the old Christmas postcards. What a shame they don’t do them anymore. I usually hang our cards on tinsel or coloured ribbon with those little pegs, down the hall side of the staircase.

    1. I’ve never thought about hanging them on tinsel, Cathy. We now have a card rack that holds up to 80 cards. It hangs on the living room door and keeps the cards neat and tidy.

      I like the thought of Christmas postcards too. Hopefully, one day, they’ll become popular again.

  19. Loved this post. Your memories of giving and receiving Christmas cards in school, took me straight back to my second grade classroom! I also liked the history, and the pictures of old cards, post cards and your special card from 1988.I have often struggled with how to display Christmas cards. We had shelf space in our previous home so I propped cards up there, but no such place in our retirement home. I bought a pretty basket with a red plain liner that O [it cards in this year, but as I do not send many cards, we don’t get many. A few friends tried mounting a “let’s get back to sending cards” campaign, but with postage at .55 each it’s a hard sell. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas, Michele

    1. I’m so pleased this post took you back to your second-grade classroom, Michele. While I was writing it, it bought back many happy memories for me.

      Displaying Christmas cards can be a problem if you’ve no space to show them off. It’s one of the reasons I invested in a card rack which hangs over the top of a door. It displays up to 80 cards, so does a great job. Postage can be expensive, so I tend to buy postage stamps before they go up in price, or buy a few books of them whenever I visit the post office. Other than birthday cards, I don’t buy them for anything else because much can be sent via email these days.

      Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you. 🎄

    1. That’s good to hear. This post stirred up many happy memories for me.

      For some reason, your comment went straight into my WordPress spam folder. Good job I check that folder often.

  20. What a lovely post, Hugh. My mother used to put up a line for us to hang our cards on when I was a girl. I don’t do it now as we only receive about 3 real cards. All the rest are virtual. That Christmas card about the old maid’s dream is funny. It would be very un-PC these days, wouldn’t it?

    1. It would, Robbie. I was quite surprised that that kind of humour was around in 1912. It reminded me a little of the ‘saucy’ postcards often seen at the seaside during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. I wonder how Miss M Hannah felt about getting a Christmas card like that?

      Of course, all the Christmas cards I don’t keep are sent off to be recycled after Christmas, so I don’t feel bad about them being seen as un-environmental friendly. And here in the UK (this year), some shops and online retailers stopped selling cards and wrapping paper that has glitter on them (because they can not be recycled). I hope the trend continues next Christmas.

        1. Certainly here in the UK, many recycling centres and local authorities will no longer take anything that has glitter on it, Robbie. It now has to go into binbags for landfill. It reminds of a cousin who sometimes would fill the inside of Christmas cards with glitter. It would end up all over me and the floor and was something I could not get rid of for weeks. I’m happy it’s slowly being banned in the UK.

          Yes, I love the ‘Carry On’ films. Such a shame about the recent death of Barbara Windsor.

  21. These last few years it’s been more difficult, but we always try to get a picture of us with both sons so I can create a photo Christmas card. I love sending it out every year. We never sent Christmas cards in school – only Valentine’s cards.

    1. I only ever got one Valentine’s card when at school, Teri. I knew who it was off, but she was barking up the wrong tree (so to speak).

      For the last nine years, we always do a Christmas card with Toby (our dog) on the front. Austin joined him in 2017, so he features now.

  22. I too love sending and receiving Christmas cards. We don´t get as many these days but they help to decorate the house. I even get out special ones from years before, especially the ones made for us, and set them around as part of the decorations. I love the old ones you featured. Have a very Happy Christmas. xo

    1. That’s lovely that you have kept and bring out some of the Christmas cards you’ve received in the past, Darlene. The homemade ones should have pride of place. I’m looking forward to my Great Niece making me some homemade decorations for the tree next year. We used to make them at school, so I hope they still do the same these days.
      Merry Christmas. 🎄

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