Christmas Cards: Do You Send Them? Do You Receive Them? How To Avoid The Dilemmas

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

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?

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Christmas cards. Are they a problem?

How to display Christmas cards

My parents always strung Christmas cards along our lounge’s longest wall. I’d stand underneath the line and count them every day. And if any of the cards overlap, I’d make it known so 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.

I’d tell my school friends how many Christmas cards we had and keep a record of the number every year. The most we ever got was 106. So many that the line they hung on came down. I cried so much that my parents had to console me with chocolate.

Don’t hang too many Christmas cards on one line. If they are overlapping, put up another line.

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 prioritise those cards I see as more festive, so they don’t get pushed to the back of the rack.

How do you display Christmas cards?

Christmas at school

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 matching the correct-sized envelope to the right card. 

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. 

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. But if you don’t have enough envelopes, dig out the spare cards from last Christmas. It’s unlikely people remember what Christmas card you sent them last year.

Christmas cards for school friends

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 with the rest of the cards, careful not to snap the line.

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

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), I loved certain cards. These include the ones I thought were associated with Christmas. Those showing scenes that had 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, but my dilemma was who should get the cards I didn’t like. Easy! The classmates I didn’t bother with much (or those I didn’t particularly 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).

Christmas postcards 

Back in the early 20th century, 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. 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 Dec 23rd 1913
Christmas postcard dated Dec 23rd 1913

Postal addresses were so short back then.

The best era for Christmas cards

In my opinion, the 1980s were the best era for Christmas cards. Here are a few of my favourites.

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

I hope you enjoyed my brief history of the Christmas card.

Do you send and enjoy receiving Christmas cards? Have you ever had any dilemmas with them? Share them in the comments section.

This post was originally published in 2020 and has been updated and republished.

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92 thoughts on “Christmas Cards: Do You Send Them? Do You Receive Them? How To Avoid The Dilemmas

  1. What a fun post Hugh. I’m with you, there was NOTHING like the 80s! Best years of my life until I met my husband. I miss all the days before the world went digital – especially real cards to ecards and phone calls to text. ❤

  2. It’s sad that we’re sending cards less and less now. On the flip side, so much paper and card is used so maybe it’s better for the environment if we send less cards.

    1. But the majority of Christmas cards can be recycled, Wayne. Check with your local authority as they will have recycle bins for paper and cards and will probably pick them up from the curbside. Some shops also have recycling bins for Christmas cards. The only cards that can not be recycled are ones with glitter or any attachments like ribbons. I tend to pull off any attachments so that the rest of the card can be recycled.
      The same goes for most wrapping paper. If it can be scrunched up into a ball without unfolding, then it can be recycled.

  3. Hi Hugh – I came back here today as I wondered if I didn’t finish my comment, but it is still in moderation. I know I went to look for a link to send you which you might enjoy and thought maybe I left the comment open. I’ll send the link separately, but on Facebook is a group site for Vintage Greeting Cards and every year they have lots of vintage Christmas cards. I don’t see you saying you’re on Facebook where you mention your social media site, but maybe you are but as “yourself” not your blog name. I’ll send the link separately and please just delete this message.

    1. Hi Linda, I don’t have any accounts on Facebook anymore. I deleted them many years ago, as I’ve never been a Facebook fan. Plus, there were too many trolls leaving horrible posts and messages on there. My main social media channel is Twitter, and I’m still there after the recent Musk takeover. Many people left Twitter, but I stayed and haven’t seen the hatred many people predicted. I’m keeping a close eye on it, though.

      1. Hugh, I’m not on Facebook for hours and hours a day as some people are. I follow local nature/park sites that are not on Twitter, so I know events going on. The people I connected with on Facebook are those from high school mostly as Facebook’s algorithms matched me with people from Lincoln Park, Michigan and the high school graduation year when I signed up. I have nothing in common with these people now to be honest. I’ve turned off their posts to limit what’s in my feed – it’s more polite than unfriending anyone. I follow the neighborhood crime and info forums where people whine and bash each other which is despicable at times, but I’m only there to glean info about crime and pertinent info about the city. The Twitterverse is interesting – I keep current with trends and news and weather. I would miss it. I signed up at the Mastodon platform in case I went there, but it’s no Twitter. 🙂

  4. This was an interesting post Hugh. I have fallen out of sending Christmas cards since I have had a Jacquie Lawson e-card subscription for years. In fact, for all the holidays, I have been picking a Jacquie Lawson card that is similar to my holiday blog post, sending it to myself, then sharing that e-card link with my followers.

    After my mom passed away, I still sent Easter and Christmas cards to her life-long friends and even tucked a short letter with the card as well, but in the 12 years since my mom has been gone, so also are all her friends. I send maybe three cards. I liked the Christmas postcard about the old maid – do you think people would be offended? I am not and I’m single and never been married, though it probably is not polite (or politically correct) to refer to someone as an old maid these days.

    We had a small family, so our Christmas cards were only displayed on top of a cabinet – pitiful compared to your 106 cards. We did not exchange cards at school with classmates at Christmas, but did do that for Valentine’s Day. My mom saved most of the cards I gave to her through the years – I saved some as well. They are in a gift bag. I used one of the Valentine’s Day cards I gave her (a vintage bear) in one of my Valentine’s Day posts. I mention that as we both collect teddy bears. My mom’s birthday was on Valentine’s Day.

    1. Thank you, Linda.

      The Old Maid Christmas Postcard is over 100 years old. Humour was different back then, as it was 50 years ago, and in today’s world, we have to be careful of what we say in case of offending people. I don’t think anyone getting a Christmas card with ‘old maid’ on it would find it funny these days. However, many of the humorous Christmas cards I’ve seen this year have been rather smutty. I like humour, but when it contains swear words or references to areas of the body that are personal, I don’t find the honour as funny.

      I’ve never sent Easter cards. They go on sale in the UK but are not as popular as Christmas cards. From the other comments on this post, I think Christmas cards are a very British thing. Of all the greetings cards, they have always been my favourite. Whenever the postman delivers Christmas cards to us, it makes my day. I take my time looking at and reading each one.

      I used to send Valentine’s Day cards, but my partner and I no longer send cards to each other. We’ve grown out of it, but I have saved many of the cards he sent me over the years we have been together.

      1. I get very few Christmas cards now Hugh and I wonder if Easter cards were more of a Canadian thing as I’ve not ever received one over here in the States and I’ve lived here 56 years now since moving from Canada at age 10. Perhaps the world should slow down a little more and take the time to pick out and address Christmas cards again. Of the cards I receive, they are family photos reproduced onto postcards and the envelope is a label for an addressee and a label for a return address. Not even signed. Kind of sad.

        Some of the humor for holiday cards leaves me shaking my head too.

  5. Oh, gosh, I remember my mom sending over a hundred Christmas cards yearly. Though I feel it is a lovely tradition, I only hand out (not mail) a few—the ones I receive I proudly display on the mantel. I love your showing the old Christmas cards.

    1. Good to hear that you display the Christmas cards you receive, Eugenia. I thought sending out Christmas cards was a dying tradition, but apparently, sales of Christmas cards go up every year in the UK.

  6. I must own to not sending cards and enjoying receiving them. I am perhaps fortunate that card sending is, alongside ironing and drain cleaning, part of Mrs LPs marital obligations (I’ve correspondence with financial advisrs, changing lightbulbs and packing on my side of the ledger).
    I prefer cheesy humorous cards which are hung on (stapled to) a series of tartan ribbons that swing from the picture rail in the hall to be seen by all visitors.

    1. Good to hear how the Christmas cards are displayed in your house, Geoff. And good to hear how the jobs are delegated. But I disagree and will say that writing Christmas cards beats drain cleaning and ironing any day. However, if writing Christmas cards came hand in hand with those two other jobs, I’d take them.

  7. Oh my gosh, you really did save some old goodies there, Hugh! I sent Christmas cards years ago when postage was much cheaper. Then I started a holiday newsletter that went to family and friends far away, quite well received. I enjoyed reading the ones I got, too. Once social media became a thing in 2009 for me, I stopped sending cards, especially to folks I would see in person on Christmas. I still receive some from a few friends and family, and I proudly display them in a wooden card holder.

    When I was a kid, like you, I looked at all the cards my parents would get, but I didn’t go too far in counting them. I could just see you as a lad counting them, LOL!

    My brother and his partner sent the most hilarious card this year. I’ll snap a photo of it and e-mail to you. You’ll appreciate it! Great post, Hugh, I know how much you enjoy the Christmas season!

    1. Good to hear you still get some Christmas cards and display them, Terri. From the other comments, I think Christmas cards are more popular in the UK than in North America. On our last visit to New York one Thanksgiving, I remember thinking about why there was a lack of Christmas cards in shops. There were some, but nowhere near as many as in the UK shops.

      I still count how many Christmas cards we get, although I don’t count them every day like I did when I was a child. We used to get over 100 Christmas cards every Christmas, but it’s now around 70. Like I mentioned before, you know you’re getting older when the number of people on your Christmas card list decreases every year., Sigh!

      Thank you for sending me the picture of the Christmas card from your brother and his partner. Having told me how immaculate they are, I laughed when I saw the chaos. What a fun card.

      1. That is quite the fascinating fact about the UK sending more cards, Hugh. Postage stamps are 47 cents each I think in the US. Not to mention the cost of a nice card. I’m glad some traditions are still alive and well. I can’t believe you get around 70, wow! Talk about being the popular kid!

        I knew you would get a kick out of that chaotic card! Have a great day!

        1. Postage stamps are expensive here in the UK, Terri. They are about three times the cost of a stamp in the USA. I tend to spread the cost of my Christmas stamps by buying them over the year, although I always buy a book of Christmas stamps that comes out every November.

          And I’ve just read that sales of Christmas cards continue to rise in the UK, so it looks like the tradition of sending them will outlast me.

        2. Wow, then what’s my excuse? 😳 I guess I got out of the habit. Now I wonder if the pandemic changed this statistic for other countries. Maybe more people discovered zoom? At least all my decor is up, so that tradition is alive and well, Hugh.

        3. I’m not so sure the pandemic changed it, Terri. I think sending Christmas cards has always been a very British thing. Judging by how many Christmas cards are sold in the UK each year, I’m not surprised.

    1. That tradition is still carried out in the UK, Michelle. I’d do the same but had to give in to my partner, who wanted all the cards displayed on a rack in case the stringed cards damaged the walls. One day, I hope to get my way of showing Christmas cards back by hiding the card rack. When the decorations are put away, I need to remember to hide the card rack in a good place where it’ll never be found.

    1. Thank you. Holly on Christmas cards is also another favourite of mine. I still put sprigs of holly behind picture frames hanging on our walls. It’s a tradition I’ve stuck with that my parents always did at Christmas.

  8. We get fewer and fewer each year. We also send out fewer and fewer. I don’t mind Christmas letters but I really dislike the postcards people send with just pictures of their family printed on one side. Boring, lazy, and a bit narcissistic (IMHO).

    I still have the album my mother created of the cards they sent every year. So many memories. I just can’t talk myself into getting rid of it… I guess whoever cleans out our house when we are gone will have to throw it away 🙂

    1. I’d love to see that album of cards that your mother kept, Janis. I hate the thought of it being thrown away. Those cards will be priceless and have lots of history. If you get the chance, I’d love to see some pictures of them.

  9. Hi Hugh. Yes I do send Christmas cards and I think they are so much better than e-cards. Like you I thought I’d send ours early but when I got to the local post office, the post boxes /sacks were overflowing (presumably due to the strikes) so I had to post them in our nearest post box. You’ve got some great Christmas card images there and I agree the 80’s ones are more fun and colourful than the ones currently being sold. I do feel strongly about the need to maintain the Christmas card tradition and this is the subject of a post I did back last December titled, ‘Christmas cards are coming, and why a goat is not just for Christmas’. (see link https://thebloggler81901823.wordpress.com/2021/12/18/christmas-cards-are-coming-and-why-a-goat-is-not-just-for-christmas/ ). It didn’t get a big response but Mike whose hosts the blog ‘A bit about Britain’ commented and gave ma a link to his fascinating post about the history of Christmas cards in Britain (see link https://bitaboutbritain.com/a-bit-about-christmas-cards/ ). Anyway, you have a Merry Christmas !

    1. Hi Paul,

      Good to hear you still send Christmas cards.

      Same here; I sent ours early because of the postal strikes. However, I was surprised that many of the cards I sent last Friday by 2nd class post arrived the following morning. I wasn’t expecting that, so it was an added bonus. I feel more at ease knowing they’ve arrived, especially with more strike dates coming up.

      Thank you for the links to your post and the post by Mike. I’ll certainly have a read of them.

      Merry Christmas to you.

      And keep up that tradition of sending Christmas cards. We need to ensure that eCards don’t become the norm at Christmas.

  10. What a wonderful post, Hugh. I seem to get less bothered with Christmas cards as I get older, but your words and pictures have rekindled some fond memories. I still have the habit of counting Christmas cards, whenever I see them displayed, and wondered if this was something passed down by older generations. More people seem to send cards via email these days.

    1. Thank you, Davy; glad you enjoyed reading it.

      It’s good to hear reading this post rekindled some fond memories of Christmas cards. I still count how many we get every year. As I got older, that number decreased, but I hope to reverse that situation.

      eCards have certainly taken off, but like reading a book you can actually hold in your hands, there’s nothing quite like receiving a Christmas card in the post. They beat eCards every time.

        1. Christmas is very much about spending time with family and loved ones, Judith. And given how the last two Christmases were affected by Covid, I’m sure many people will love seeing family and friends again this Christmas.

  11. I’m planning to write my cards over the next couple of days, so a little behind you. I also love writing letters – but don’t send circulars – so I can end up with writer’s cramp … maybe I should write my message in a blog post and just put my blog address in the cards 🤣

    I love receiving cards and ‘properly letters and notes in the cards

    1. The current Royal Mail strikes mean I sent my Christmas cards earlier than usual this year, Brenda. I posted them using 2nd class stamps last Friday and was amazed that some arrived the next day! But I don’t think I’d have been happy leaving them later because of all the strikes. I’m also going to give a Christmas tip to Carl, our postman, this year, as he’s done a great job this year.

      1. I know what you mean. Denis, our postie has said the delivery office is overflowing with parcels due to backlogs. I agree its going to get worse. I’ve had to replan some classes for next week with the rail strikes.

  12. Thank you for the story of Christmas cards. I love them. I make my own based on my own photography work. The list of folks I send them to, however, is shrinking. Many have died. Some friends from the las have moved and left no trace.

    1. Thank you.

      I mentioned in a previuos comment that somebody said to me, ‘You know when you’re getting older, by the fewer people there are on your Christmas card list.’ It’s a sad fact, so I’m always happy when I add new people to my Christmas card list.

      And it’s good to hear that you still make Christmas cards. I’m sure they bring lots of happiness to those that receive them.

  13. Oooh, I love Christmas cards – and post cards – but sadly, fewer people send them these days. I always think it’s nice to receive something other than a bill through the post!
    I went through a period of making my own greetings cards – it was one way to channel my creativity. Now, I write! 🙂
    The pictures of the old ones are so wonderful. They are so evocative, like old photos, and they make you wonder about the story behind the people who sent them.
    Christmas cards and the images on them always made me feel Christmassy. Like you, I am a fan of robins!

    1. Since the introduction of eCards, the number of Christmas cards has decreased. I’m not a lover of eCards, as it’s not something you can hang up through the festive season. But I guess they are more environmentally friendly? However, I do recycle all of my Christmas cards (unless they have items on them that are not recyclable).

      It’s good to hear how creative you are. I used to make my own Christmas cards, but that was long ago.

      The old Christmas cards certainly have their appeal, don’t they? And I’d love to know more about the people behind the ones I have and who sent them. I wonder if Miss Hannah ever married after receiving that Christmas postcard?

      1. I hope Miss Hannah had a very happy life!
        We don’t get Christmas cards, being permanent nomads and of no fixed abode, but I do love them. I like the IDEA of the no-waste e cards, but it’s not the same… Like I’ve accepted Kindle, but it’s not quite the smell and feel of a real book…!

        1. I agree about Kindle Vs an actual book. And it’s the same for me with Christmas cards. It’s not the same getting an eCard instead of an actual Christmas card. I want to put every card on display during the festive season.

  14. Wow, some of those cards are real treasures. It is true there were eras when Christmas cards were artworks. Thanks to your inspiration two years ago, I started sending Christmas cards again 😊

    1. How wonderful that the inspiration from this post got you to start sending Christmas cards again, Erika. And you’re right about the artwork on Christmas cards from times gone by. Back then, everything will have had to have been hand-drawn. It must have kept some people in jobs all year long.

  15. We still get some cards. We stopped sending them when our daughter was in college and we were watching spending closely. We also get a few of the dreaded Christmas Letters. Some are welcome, some are like a summary of someone’s Facebook feed on steroids.

    1. Oh, Dan! Those dreaded Christmas circulars (as I call them) found inside Christmas cards that have a full year’s update, much of which I probably already know, anyway. However, I rather get one of them than a pile of glitter falling from inside a card to the floor. No matter how hard I try, I can never get rid of all the glitter until the following Christmas.

        1. I still have several rolls of wrapping paper with glitter that my partner bought many years ago. I was going to give them to the charity shop but thought better of it.

  16. Christmas was never a big thing in my Belgian family. New Year’s Day was the big event, a day on which we visited all our family members over two or three stops. That’s also when school letters for the New Year were read by the children and gifts exchanged.

    I used to collect and save all the cards I ever received, but when my parents sold my childhood home a few years ago, most went into the recycling bin.

    No dilemma’s here. I don’t have a postal address, so that’s the best excuse to not send or receive Christmas cards. 🙂

    1. You’ve got the best excuse of all, Liesbet. But what a shame all those childhood memories were recycled.

      I always thought Christmas Eve was the big day in mainland Europe, whereas it’s always been Christmas Day in the UK. So to hear that New Year’s Day is the big day in Belgium came as a bit of a surprise.

      1. That might have been typical just in my family. Although the New Years’ letters, written in rhyme at school, making promises for the new year, is definitely nationwide. Maybe some families celebrated both events…

  17. One year I made cards for our families. I thought of making a business selling online. Not one of the 12 commented on my effort. That dashed my business plan. Now I don’t send cards.

        1. Yes, postage stamps have increased a lot in price. I tend to buy my Christmas stamps throughout the year to spread the cost. It doesn’t seem to cost as much doing it that way, but I know it’ll all add up to the same.

  18. I make them and I send them! I receive them, though not as many as in years past. I believe that this year I have sent 100+ to family and friends all over the world. Some friends date back 50 years. What fun I am having!!

    1. I love that you make your own Christmas cards, Annette. I remember making my own Christmas cards, but it was many, many years ago. We’ve sent out just over 70 cards this year. Somebody told me, “You know you’re getting older when your Christmas card list gets shorter.’ that’s true, considering we used to send out over 100.

      I want to increase my Christmas card list, so let’s exchange cards next Christmas. Yes?

        1. I see you have an email address on your blog. I can email you my details if that email is still correct? Otherwise, you can contact me personally via the ‘Contact Hugh’ button on the menubar of my blog.

        2. No worries. I’ve got the message. And as I was on my way to the Post Office for the final time before Christmas, there is a Christmas card on its way to you. I hope it reaches you by the 25th.

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