Are Christmas Cards A Dying Art?

We sure hope not.

Natasha Lawler Butlers Pantry Christmas Garland
Photo: Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

Baking cookies for Santa, watching Christmas movies, and decorating the tree are all well-loved holiday traditions. But there's one annual treat that many think is disappearing with each passing winter: the sending and receiving of Christmas cards.

Who doesn't love to flip through a stack of cards to see how much those neighborhood kids have grown? Plus, there are plenty of creative and beautiful ways to display them for holiday guests to enjoy.

Iris Thorpe Christmas Card Display Garland
Laurey W. Glenn

Apparently though, like ironing, people think we might be witnessing the death of Christmas cards. To gauge how our readers feel about the issue, we put out an Instagram poll asking, "Do you think Christmas cards are a dying art?" A whopping 63% said, "sadly, yes they are," with only 37% answering, "no, they're better than ever!"

Despite what the Instagram audience says, the Southern Living editors are staunchly team Christmas cards.

"I feel like they are coming back with a cheerful vengeance!" says Associate Editor Kaitlyn Yarborough. "I've been obsessed with Atlanta-based Dear Elouise's really unique new designs and colors. They make you want to grab your address book."

"Some people may have given up the tradition, but the crowd who is committed to Christmas cards is fiercely committed!" says Homes and Features Editor Betsy Cribb. For this season, she has her eye on Kamu, a new brand out of Savannah, Georgia.

Sure, we know Instagram is an instantaneous (and of course, free) way to share a family photo to friends far and wide. And that's great. But to be frank, most followers will scroll past your cherished memory and matching outfits without a blip of recognition. And if they do pay you the good fortune of a double-tap, that photo has left their consciousness as quick as their kid can yell, "Mom!" in the near background.

The experience of receiving personal mail in itself is always exciting. Sitting in a moment of quiet to open the envelope, admire the Christmas card, and then thoughtfully collect it with the others for yourself and guests to revisit later is so personal and meaningful. You won't remember seeing yet another Instagram post on a tiny screen in the hazy moments before falling asleep, but you will look through your stack of Christmas cards multiple times over the weeks they're on display in your home.

Brent Ellis, the owner of Dear Elouise, agrees. "I actually think social media makes sending and receiving physical holiday cards all the more special," she says. "Because it's so easy to share every detail of life via technology, I find it really touching to know that someone thought of my family and went to the effort of sending us their card."

Of course, if you pressed your accountant on the issue, he or she would say that Christmas cards are a superfluous purchase that can be nixed from the annual budget. And they might not be wrong. But there's something to be said for putting an investment into keeping relationships with friends and family. Social media can sometimes make it feel like we live next door to those states away, but occasional likes and well-wishing comments just aren't enough to hold those bonds taut. Knowing that you took the time, care, and yes, money, to send them a piece of mail that only a certain number of folks received in the first place is pretty darn special.

"For me, Christmas cards are all about connection," says Leah Hughes, the owner of Kamu. "In our post-pandemic, Zoom-filled world, I think we are all still striving for ways to feel connected to others. The act of holding the physical card that you know someone took the time to pick out, address, stamp, and send to you can almost bring that warm-chested, nostalgia feeling—I can't think of a better way to show love than that."

Christmas cards are also a fun, timeless way to share your personal style and family members' personalities, both in the photo and the card choice.

"I love seeing how people choose to sum up the year in one photograph!" Ellis says. "It's special to see how kids have grown or what special memories they choose to share. Our whole lives wrapped up into a little card at the end of each year. Joyful!"

And have you ever visited someone's home during the holidays and not perused their collection of Christmas cards?

"I also believe the beauty in the tradition goes beyond the act of sending the card," says Hughes. "I've always been someone who has enjoyed looking at others' Christmas cards on display in their homes. It's as if their whole community is on display in the most joyful and loving way. So I say Christmas cards are here to stay!"

As one of our writers recently noted, kids today and in the future might never know the smell of an old book (you just closed your eyes and knew exactly the scent, right?). Are we going to erase the joy of seeing families grow via a thoughtful card just once a year? We at Southern Living sure hope not.

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