Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Decline of Western Card-Sending Civilization

Here's a thought for today (which is rainy and cold here on the coast of Central California, for anyone keeping track).

Big Ag and I sent Christmas cards out for years, always with a family photo enclosed. We stopped sending them several years ago, when we realized the only people sending them to us were people who had received one from us and felt the need to reciprocate.  

We did an experiment the next year where we only sent to those we received from, and once we did that our "received card" count plummeted. Obviously the general interest in sending holiday cards was in deep decline. At one time, back in the day, I used to hang a sheet of wrapping paper on the inside portion of our front door and affix the cards to them, as they were received. The door would be filled with cards by the end of the season. But by the time we received less than 10 cards, I stopped. 

Of course with Facebook and Instagram, it's now possible to keep track of what's going on with the Smiths and Jones families (as well as the Al Habibs, Goldsteins, Valdezs and Hongs), without needing to read their cloying, braggy and artificially flavored sweet newsletter many sent out, or look at the happy family photo. 

That's because, thanks to social media, I've watched the Jones' kid play soccer all year, seen the Al Habib girl graduate from high school, and seen enough shots of the Goldstein kid's bar mitzvah that I felt like I should send a gift.

So now we (pretty much as a nation) no longer do the holiday card thing, and even the way our society shops is changing. No longer are we held hostage to standing in line at the department store, surrounded by other holiday shoppers. Now we buy our gifts while sitting in front of a computer screen, in our jammies, with just a mouse click. Then all we need do is wait for the UPS man to drop them on our porch. 

I thought about this the other day when I had to stand in line at the post office to pick up a package that was too big to fit into our mailbox, and which for some reason wasn't delegated to the UPS or FedEx man to deliver.  For a fleeting moment I thought about how much easier life must be now for the workers in the USPS now that they no longer have to deliver all those Christmas cards. 

That lasted about one second. Then I thought about how much of a Devil's Trade this was, because as the hard working USPS workers' lives were relieved from the drudgery of having to sort endless holiday cards, that was just replaced with the endless drudgery of having to sort holiday packages for home delivery. Big, bulky ones. Not much of a trade-up there.

I also wondered how this affects the carbon footprint of the whole holiday. Is it more efficient to order from one big warehouse, like Amazon, and then have one truck drive around and deliver everything, compared to each individual driving to a store and buying all that stuff themselves...a whole family of people, in separate cars, all shopping for each other? 

Do we now use more paper because of packaging boxes and what not instead of all the paper cards, sent only to be thrown away at the New Year? Or less? Some of those holiday newsletters were at least two pages, after all.

Yes, on cold, rainy days like this, these are the kinds of things I ponder when it's too wet to work the ground and the inside I sit here in my jammies, screen up of course, and finish my last minute gift-shopping.


  1. I am so glad it's rainy there! To buoy my spirits over our stupid non weather, I am continually reminding myself that it's good for the west and it makes me feel better. Whatever works, right?
    I send cards about every ten years if I have a good idea. My last one was in 09 and it was a real housewives theme. I enjoy cards though. Something just more special about a physical greeting.
    Interesting question about shipping and shopping. I tend to be pro-Amazon because I think the career opportunities are wonderful but that's an opinion formed on notion and not research. You might think that with how I like to buy that I would love to shop. But I hate milling around a crowded mall, so I'm right there with you on ordering comfortably from home! Plus I love my FedEx guy. No, not in a porno way as my neighbor teases me.
    I hope your Hanukkah was lovely! Did you make a big dinner on the eighth evening?

    1. We did a big dinner on the first and last nights, which felt right. The other nights I lit the candles and said prayers but the meal was regular. And now on to Christmas! I never thought about sending occasional holiday cards; it certainly takes the pressure off and is probably appreciated by all who get them. And I'm with you on the mall shopping, although we don't have a mall here. But it's rare that I find a really inspired gift from just milling around the stores. Online you can do research and really find gifts that work for the people you're buying for!