This morning, while checking my email, the strangest thing happened. I got an email from my husband’s cousin’s family out in California. Getting an email from them is not strange – It’s what’s inside that made my mind wiggle.

I opened up the email and, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature Christmas card that read: “Happy New Year!”

This is the email Christmas card I received. The faces have been blurred to protect the identity of my innocent family members who had no idea their e-card would inspire this post.

Yeah, for real! An email Christmas card!

I couldn’t believe it. Is this really a “thing” now? Is it really the norm to send your Christmas cards over email?

My first reaction was “You’ve got to be kidding me. This doesn’t count.”

Yeah. It doesn’t count. For our Christmas card we book the family “portrait session” in October, get the photos taken in early November and then I immediately zip over to VistaPrint to build our own customized Christmas card and get them ordered in time to send out just after Thanksgiving. Then I dedicate a good 3 hours one weekend afternoon to collating our Christmas card recipient list, printing the addresses out on labels, peeling them off and attaching them to envelopes with our custom card inside, and then attach a matching return-address label and fancy (also matching) holiday stamp. Phew! It’s exhausting! But.. it counts!

All of this takes lots of time, planning and money to achieve. The end result is that 100 of our closest family and friends receive this sweet little card in their mailbox each year before Christmas. Somehow it’s like a gift to each of them, to let them know that we’re thinking about them and still care and want to stay connected and share something real and tangible…. in the form of a card, at least.

My Family's "Real" Christmas Card
My Family’s “Real” Christmas Card

And when I receive a “real” Christmas card in the mail, I totally embrace the experience. I appreciate the card, the address label, the stamp, the message, the pictures… everything. I take it and I tape it up alongside the other Christmas cards we’ve received so that the kids can look at them and enjoy them too. It’s our little collection. The kids like to call out the names of the people they recognize and then ask about the ones that they don’t. That part is super special because it connects them to family and friends that we don’t get to see very often. Even though they haven’t seen some of these people in months or maybe years, they see this Christmas card picture and they start to recognize them and “know” them, just a little bit.

I guess that’s why the email Christmas card bums me out. These cousins have kids close in age to ours own. I like putting the picture of them up on the wall alongside the others. I like my kids looking at their kids. I like the connection. I like the tangibility of the actual card. That’s something that’s missing with the email card. How do I connect this to the others?  Am I supposed to print it out and tape it up with the rest? It just doesn’t seem the same.

I don’t know. I don’t get it.

And yet, at the same time, I suppose I should applaud our cousins for being so modern. Their Christmas card probably took a lot less time and money to create. It saved paper and lots of delivery resources in getting to us. It’s got to be better for the environment than a traditional card. It also probably freed them up to spend more time “doing” stuff together. Both parents are doctors and the kids are both in elementary school so they must be crazy busy. Ditching the longstanding holiday card tradition probably gave them more time to enjoy the holidays instead of just preparing for them.

So I guess I’m still on the fence. Is this a “thing” now? And, if so, how can it ever feel the same?

Maybe Paperless Post can add a link in the email that says “Click here to have this card delivered by mail too!” – and then, for those of us who cherish our Christmas card collection, we can still have that connection.




  1. I too love Christmas cards- sending and receiving them. But in the past few years I’ve realized that I would rather spend the money I would usually spend on Christmas cards (prep, pictures, etc.) on my close family members. While I would love for as many people as possible to see what we’ve been up to in the last year, it just isn’t feasible! so yes, while physical cards are always preferred, I definitely see the merit in ecards when it comes to saving time and money during one of the busiest and most expensive times of the year.

  2. Sounds like it would be good for the environment, cost efficient, we can even store them in the cloud and something very 21st century. We will probably be doing this next year.

  3. Yes, it’s wonderful to receive “real” Christmas cards but at the retail rate of about $1.00 per card including postage, it gets way too expensive. I’ve used email cards for birthdays but not for Christmas greetings, yet. But I just might! In addition, to the people that I speak to on FB, I didn’t send a card at all. Why? Because I already converse with them on a frequent basis.


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