I sent out about 96 Christmas cards this year. I've always done cards, since the mid to late 80s, when I was old enough to start buying my own boxes & stamps. Back in those days, they were mostly sent to family members, many of whom have since passed away. Many friends were added to the list as we moved away for college, marriages, military service or in my case, just to get out of my hometown. Next came my many foreign penpals, and then Deadheads to whom I corresponded to trade tapes during the year. My list grew and grew to an all time high of over 100 by the 1990s.
Back in San Francisco, that was the height of the card sending and receiving. There was one year that I got at least 100 in return to what was sent. Postage was a lot cheaper and that was the only way to keep in touch with people to whom I did not regularly speak or write.
Over time, I cut my list down and also noticed a marked decrease in cards received. But I still did mine religiously, usually in mid-November, so they'd be ready to get in the mail by the Monday after Thanksgiving (cause I am one of 'those people').
A few years ago....well I guess going on 10 years ago now....I started to make a few and send them to my closest friends. People I deemed 'Homemade Cardworthy'. I enjoyed making them and only did about 10-15. Then along comes Facebook. Now, we are in touch with our long lost friends and relatives in real time, every day. I made lots of new friends; people I truly have come to care about and think of as best friends. My list of homemade cardworthy people started to grow. And as those card were received, they were now photographed, posted on Facebook and I was tagged/thanked publicly. This created a bit of a problem as I realized that some of my friends who did not receive a homemade card would be really hurt that they weren't homemade cardworthy. So I started to increase how many cards I made. That would take hours and hours, over the course of 2 weekends. Still, I enjoyed the creative process, so I powered through.
I was lucky enough to have access to a postage meter at work, so it cost me very little out of pocket to mail tons of cards....and the homemade ones were heavier and therefore cost more to mail. Overseas postage started to increase exponentially too, but I still sent them out.
Fast forward to 2014. I have 96 people on my list, 6 or 7 of whom are overseas or in Canada. This means I have to purchase 3-4 boxes of cards from
The Evil Empire Walmart because they were the cheapest, and actually made in the USA. But it still totaled about $12-$15 in boxes. I did a homemade cardworthy list and was horrified to see it topped 50-60 people now. While I am very lucky and blessed to have that many close friends, there's just no way I can make that many cards. Could I make 20 and ask those people not to thank me publicly? No.....too tacky. Do I risk people's feelings being hurt if they see any tags on Facebook? No, I don't want that to happen either. I could almost hear my elementary school teachers saying, 'Did you bring enough for the whole class?' So, no more homemade cards.
Now, there are a few people on my list that I don't expect to receive cards back from. I still send cards to them because they are people to whom I'm very close and I want to do it. But over the years, I noticed a marked drop in cards sent to me, but it was still running fairly close to what I was sending out. I would get about 50-60 for the 70-80 I was sending.
It took me about 3-4 hours of working steadily....signing, addressing and stamping each one. I'd just spent $49 on a roll of 100 stamps, and used them all up on the cards. That meant shelling out another $49 for more stamps so that I can pay my bills and such (a roll usually lasts over 6 months). I had to buy over $7 worth of overseas/Canada stamps too. I also blew through almost 100 of my new return address labels that I'd just received this fall. Still, you know....traditions must be kept up! My cards went out right after Thanksgiving, as usual.
2014, however, was a real bust, card wise. I have a Christmas card book into which I check off 'sent' and 'received'. This time around I sent 96 but received 46. Three of those 46 were from people that I didn't send to, or have time to reciprocate because Christmas came up too fast. That means of 96 sent, there was a return of 43 from that list. That's not so hot.
It's made me really stop and think about what I should do about 2015. On the one hand, I would feel so bad about not sending any out. On the other, it's a huge expense in cards, time, return labels and especially postage, when I can post a holiday themed internet image to my friends' Facebook timelines or send a card/greeting via email for free. And how bad will I feel to get cards, no matter how few, and not reciprocate? I mean of course I'd get them for our parents and the kids, maybe a few super close friends, but the time and expense has made me think twice about sending out mass quantities of cards anymore. I know I have 11 months to think about it but I should probably make a decision and stick to it no matter what. It's clear that sending cards has fallen by the wayside because we talk to our friends & family, no matter how far away, every single day on the internet. I don't even get birthday cards anymore but I got over 180 birthday greetings on Facebook.
Do any of you send cards? Do you get a decent return for what you send? Have you noticed the amount of cards received dropping off by huge numbers? I'd really like to know if this is a tradition that's worth keeping up or dying a rather quick death.