By Bob Salvas
While gestures of good will for Christmas and the new year goes back centuries, the commercial sending of Christmas
cards did not occur until 1843 when Sir Henry Cole with the help of his artist friend John Callcott Horsley, printed and
sold 2,050 cards in London. This type of greeting card did not come to the United States until years later in 1874.
The popularity of the Christmas card soared in the US with the outbreak of World War I. There was an increasing
demand for different and more personal cards that people could send to their loved ones fighting the war overseas.
Joyce Hall and her brother Rollie created Hallmark Cards in 1913 and were well-positioned to meet that demand.
Hallmark became and still is one of the largest greeting card companies in the world.
Over the years greeting cards also became popular for everyday events such as birthdays, anniversaries and expressions
of sympathy. Additional cards for a variety of other holidays also emerged including Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day,
Father’s Day and others. But even to this day, the Christmas card remains number one. In fact, about 60% of ALL
holiday greeting cards sent are for the Christmas season. By comparison, the second most popular card-sending holiday
is Valentine’s Day which only accounts for about 25% of the cards sent.
The sending of Christmas cards has, in some ways, become a part of our culture. When someone has a falling out with
another person, we often hear phrases like “He’s not on my Christmas card list this year”.
Even with modern technology changing many of the ways we communicate, there were still about 1.6 BILLION Christmas
cards bought last year! Ecards and social media posts may have slowed the growth of greeting cards, but it does not
appear to be a tradition that is going away anytime soon.
Why is that? While the special joy of the Christmas season may be the main reason, it is also important to note that it
aligns with the symbolic changing of the calendar year. Many of our greetings read “Merry Christmas & Happy New Year”
or the more generic “Season’s Greetings”. Even non-religious countries or people who do not celebrate Christmas here in
the United States, often send out holiday greetings with the emphasis on the New Year. The ending of the current year and
the beginning of a new one reminds us to be thankful for what happened this year and to look forward to what the next year
might bring. This special time, that only occurs once a year, is a time for a special communication. An email or text or
social media post alone often won’t do it. The greeting card stands the test of time as the best way to express our
well-wishes to the people in our world. And the more personal and relevant you can make that card, the better.
What does all this mean for our businesses? It simply means that we should STILL be sending holiday cards at this time
of year! It is more important than ever to keep in touch with our clients and prospects. And there is no such thing as
saying THANK YOU too much. The end of the year is the perfect time to again express gratitude. If you celebrate
Christmas, it is fine to send a traditional Christmas card. If you don’t, or don’t feel that is what your clients want
to hear, you can always send them a different seasonal message. But send that message in a tangible greeting card-it
will be noticed and appreciated.
“I’m not saying that digital communication is bad. I believe it is essential as part of your communication
arsenal. But using a tangible touch with a printed card sent in the mail will separate you from the clutter.
It will show you care.”
An interesting side note: That original Christmas card designed by Horsley in 1843 depicted alcohol on a card celebrating
a religious holiday. The idea was considered somewhat controversial at the time but would be acceptable by most standards
today. Also, that card later became the most expensive Christmas card ever sold when one of those original Christmas cards
was bought at auction in November of 2001, fetching $28,158.00 for a single greeting card. Merry Christmas!