Growing up, I marveled at the themed Christmas cards my father created in our basement darkroom each holiday season. A hobby photographer who taught each of his four children how to develop film, dad’s magical ability to transform our entire family into dancing elves or spirited snow people was a wonder to my young eyes and a smash hit with relatives and neighbors alike.
Back then, mailboxes brimmed chock-full of colorful Christmas cards, but these days our options for conveying holiday wishes are vast and varied. While it is true that some people have ditched the hassle and expense of sending out physical cards for the simplicity of one-size-fits-all Facebook posts or quick text messages with Santa emojis, for others this time-honored tradition remains essential.
In 2020, the Greeting Card Association reported 75% of consumers who send holiday cards say they do so because they know how good it feels when they receive a holiday greeting. Indeed, the very act of selecting, addressing and sending out a Christmas card shows a clear investment of time and interest in the life of that special person who discovers it in their mailbox. The addition of a short, handwritten note is an extra bonus to be cherished.
“It’s a piece of love during the holiday season that you are thought of and reminded that you matter. It marks time. It kind of makes us pause and say, ‘Where are we at in this world? What’s going on?’ ” said Heidi Miller, who along with husband Ryan, owns Mango Ink, a creative design studio in the Garland district. “When you mail a card to someone, it’s a message you are sending and they put it somewhere to be seen. You can see it with your eyes and you can think about that family and love that family. It’s a tangible reminder of a connection that you have and it can last longer than that quick text you received that gets buried,” said Miller, who has seen a steady increase in demand for locally produced Christmas cards.
“We’ve grown every year. Our holiday cards just get bigger and bigger,” Miller said.
This is a trend she partly attributes to a world that has become interlinked through social media.
“We meet people in different ways now. Our lists are growing longer. People are feeling that it matters more to connect with each other,” Miller said.
That arrival of a Christmas card in the mailbox is often a welcome spark of joy to an elderly shut-in or family member who is unable to access holiday messages on the internet.
While photo cards remain seasonal favorites, Miller said simple designs with festive pops of color and authentic, personal messages have also moved to the greeting card forefront.
“It’s not just like a click, one-and-done thing. They are giving it thought and they are making it perfect. Writing notes and putting little newsletters on the back of the cards is also very popular,” said Miller, who partners with local photographer KC England to offer clients a seamless design experience.
A Spokane mother of three who has created her own holiday cards for 25 years, England fondly recalled the days when she enlisted the help of her young children to stuff, seal and stamp Christmas card envelopes in assembly line fashion. An immersive experience which allowed them to feel valued and critical to the production process.
“They always enjoyed putting them together for me. It’s definitely weaved into the fabric of our family traditions for the holidays. I can’t imagine not sending one out,” said England, who crafted a scrapbook which chronicles each of her Christmas cards and letters to preserve that nostalgic family history for her children.
Miller feels it is this permanent aspect of mailed greeting cards which gives them their greatest value.
“In our society, we are very much getting away from anything that we touch and feel. We are so busy and fast-paced that to make it onto somebody’s holiday card list, I think is an honor and privilege,” Miller said.