I think there is nothing nicer than to receive a card in the mail, the good old-fashioned way. Many people display their cards on a table or mantel; the ones with photographs often get saved or made into ornaments. Someone asked if people would print out a card if it was sent electronically. Who knows? I guess it would depend on the nature of the friendship and card.
The question of Christmas sentiments versus Holiday greetings is personal. This holiday is Christmas, they are Christmas cards, and Christmas gifts and Christmas decorations. If we take the Christmas out of Christmas, what will we have left? If you celebrate Hanukkah, then send Hanukkah cards. If you think someone will be offended by a Christmas card, then don’t send one. I have yet to hear that people don’t appreciate receiving a card, even if Christmas isn’t their holiday, but I’m sure those people are out there. It seems that there is always a Scrooge or Grinch lurking in the holly somewhere.
When should they be mailed? The answer to that is simple – in time for someone to get one back to you if they weren’t expecting to receive one from you; anytime after the first of December is fine. And what about the questions of inserted long letters, pre-printed address labels, and pre-printed signatures on the cards? How the card gets to you is not the issue; if the address is on a printed label, does it really matter that it wasn’t hand addressed? Perhaps the sender has carpel tunnel syndrome, or bad handwriting, or so many friends and not enough time. If, however, the address is pre-printed and the signature is printed, there should be a personal note somewhere – even if it is just writing the recipients name in the card, or a brief note such as: “Merry Christmas!”
I have my own opinion about the long chatty letters often included in cards, but I like what was written in the UK’s Telegraph: “Most unappealing are email Christmas cards, but even they pale into acceptability compared with the dreaded family circulars. These represent the peak of 21st-century bourgeois narcissism. “Tristram got 37 straight A’s … Richard is so pleased with his new Porsche … Sophie is doing a project with her class; so far she has cut her carbon footprint by 63 per cent … ” Has it never struck these crass practitioners of one-upsmanship that if they really want to arrest the attention of recipients before this piece of junk mail is consigned to the fire, they should try telling the unvarnished truth for a change? “Aunt Molly is doing really well at the drying-out clinic – hasn’t sighted a pink Alsatian for three weeks … Uncle Fred’s trial comes on in February; if he turns Queen’s evidence on the bent accountants he could get off with three years … Of course, it’s not what we had hoped for Fiona but, after all, it is the oldest profession…”
In the spirit of going green, and carbon footprints, there are programs to recycle cards. One is St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, where the children help make new cards out of the old ones (http://www.stjudesranch.org/shop/recycled-card-program/). Some of our mothers used to tear the front off of last year’s cards using them to make gift tags for this year’s packages, which is a practice I like because I always forget to buy gift tags.
So I say “YES!” to Christmas cards, sent in the mail, with photos or letters, or not. Each one represents thoughtfulness on the part of a friend, and is like a small gift.