December 26, 2016
These last week weeks, I would discover large stacks of cards at individual mailboxes, waiting for me to pick up for mailing. I love to see folks still sending cards by mail. The fact that people are still communicating on paper is key. A personalized card is a keepsake.
So why do people still indulge in the time consuming task of sending out seasonal cards? E-mails are quick and require no postage. Tom Ashbrook, from NPR’s “On Point” program covered this exact question just 2 weeks back. It’s a fascinating 45 minute listen (see link below)
Tom’s guest was Professor Daniel Gifford from George Mason University who wrote a book called American Holiday Postcards. He explains that “the first form of social media” was established by sending Christmas cards. Gifford goes on, “it’s all about making connections…making a network of community and kinship.”
The first American holiday card was designed by Louis Prang, a Polish immigrant living in Boston. Then came the postcard which quickly became a big hit about the turn of the century.
Gifford continues, “The central function of the holiday card is maintaining community. Friends and family update their network on news, present an image of ourselves to the public, saying what you want to be seen.”
With multiple callers on the program, the answers resound to “Why are paper cards still around?” One woman stated, “…something about the tactile…multiple hands involved to bring it to you. It’s special.” Another voice echoed the first, ” A physical card came from the heart. Someone took time, bought postage. It’s more personal.” A millennial caller said of his generation that “Human one-on-one contact is missing.” So a physical card helps bridge that void. Many of the younger folks who grew up with camera phones, love sending photo holiday greetings.
In many cases, that single card may be the only contact people make with each other all year long. That’s an important connection.
After listening to the entire podcast, I’d say that physical holiday greetings are here to stay. People enjoy them, keep them, tape them on the door just “like grandma did.”
Chris Wu from PaperCulture.com summarizes, “The more popular digital becomes, the more unique that physical card is.”
search…From Snail Mail To Social Media: The History Of Holiday Cards