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Greeting Cards: Do We Need Them?


A case against Christmas cards by Ross Chandley.


Dec 22, 2022


Executive Editor at New Thinking


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This time of year should bring, well, Christmas cheer—obviously. 

It’s a time to celebrate, a time to be happy, a time in which you look forward to spending quality time with family and friends, sharing that Christmas spirit, getting some time off work, and in general, it’s a time to relax.

Well, I’m afraid I’m here to piss on that snowman. 

I’m at risk of sounding like—or being—the Grinch, and I can assure you I’m not: I love everything about Christmas, except one thing…. greeting cards.

I’ll admit that there are two sides to this argument, both of which I understand. However, I can’t help but feel Christmas cards and greeting cards, in general, are a big waste of money, time, and resources. Not to mention technology has moved on significantly.

In 2020, the UK spent £1.4 billion on greeting cards. ONE POINT FOUR BILLION. This statistic doesn’t do wonders for my argument, as it clearly shows they are still popular and a pastime that is still thriving. However, you could argue that tradition, marketing, and not wanting to upset someone for the sake of a few pounds have led people to tick a box, pressuring them into purchasing an overpriced card with a shit joke they’ve not even written themselves or a totally soppy message I can assure you most men have read and thought “fuck it, that’ll do.”

Buying a greeting card, particularly at Christmas, is part of a tradition. It’s something you’d learn to do at school, which in truth, was just a big popularity test. I’m sure it was nice at the time, perfectly sweet and innocent. 

As you get older though, is there a need for mass greeting cards? Do you buy everyone you work with a card? Probably not. What about your neighbors? Old friends and work colleagues? I know I usually get about four or five from close neighbors, and while I do appreciate the sentiment, I’d be equally happy if they just told me “Merry Christmas” in passing. They don’t need to waste time, money, and paper on something I’m just going to put in the bin. 

And while I’m at it, it’s not just greeting cards en masse that irks me; it’s cards in general. As a kid, you’d get so excited about Christmas; the Big Man had been, and you couldn’t wait to dig into the sofa full of presents, leaving a trail of destruction and wrapping paper in your path. You line yourself up for the first present….

Parent: “Hang on a minute….who’s it from?”

My seven-year-old inner monologue: “I don’t know, and I don’t care.”

Parent: “Is there a card? Make sure you open the card first!”

My seven-year-old inner monologue: *Sigh*

You know how the rest goes: you pretend to give a shit who it’s from and that you’re actually interested in the card, all the while you’re thinking about the present. Even worse is if you’ve had a camera shoved in your face and you have to make more of an effort to pretend. None of this is critical when you’re a kid—cards aren’t meant for you, and there’s probably a bigger lesson in learning to appreciate things. 

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No one has ever said, “You should have seen his face when he opened that card,” and there’s a reason why. Presents are better when you’re seven. It’s not a great attitude to have, but honestly, you’re a kid. It’s fine. 

Unless that card happens to have money in it, that’s when a card becomes interesting when you’re a kid. That’s what you’re hoping for when you open a card. Let’s not lie about it. 

For balance, I do actually make a conscious effort with my nine-year-old to make sure she picks a present, wraps it, and writes a card for close family members. The lesson of giving cannot be underestimated. And receiving a card from her is one of the best bits of Christmas. 

But ignore that lovely stuff as it doesn’t suit my agenda for this article.

Cards are nice to receive, I’m not debating that. I just don’t think they are such a necessity as society and marketing would make out. Technology has moved on: we can send eCards, converse through social media, or even Whatsapp. Granted, these aren’t the same as receiving a card, but what does it matter? What do you do with a card once you’ve got it? Stick it in your living room for a week? Then what? Do you check it every year? 

I’d honestly be quite content if a friend sent me a Whatsapp to wish me Merry Christmas. But not one of those generic bullshit family-send-to-all “Merry Christmas from the Smiths” WhatsApps. Just an “Alright, mate, hope you and the family have a good Christmas”—that’ll do me. Straight to the point, no messing about, no money spent, and no carbon footprint. 

And if you do keep cards beyond a week, what then? They go in the loft, never to be seen again. And what happens when you die? Someone has to clean that shit up. And guess what? They then go in the bin. 

“What if someone wants to send you money,” I hear you say? “Bank transfer” is my answer. If someone is close enough to me to want to give me money, they have my details. Don’t waste more money on a card I don’t need and that you resent buying. You can also send people digital vouchers for their favorite store or restaurant. Albeit a massive copout, but still a great present and zero carbon footprint

Even the time and effort spent trying to find the right card can be a chore sometimes. Nothing that’s just fart jokes, nothing with underlying hints that dad never does the dishes, nothing too soft (because why would I want to express feelings?), and nothing that I think is really funny that would just offend someone. It’s the message inside that’s important, the bit that is personal, the bit that means something, not the overpriced piece of paper with a design shared by thousands of other households. The bit that counts is something between you and the recipient that doesn’t need to be in a card—you can tell them to their face, a note, a text, or even a video message from a D-list celebrity if you’re feeling flash.

I was ready to abolish all cards entirely when I first wanted to write this article, but there is a caveat to my campaign. A few weeks back, I came home from a work trip tired, I hadn’t had the best day, and all I wanted was to go to bed. I had a stack of posts, some junk mail, some life admin, and then there was one with handwriting I didn’t recognize. It won’t shock you, but no one sends me letters. Anyway, it was a card: a card with a really personal message, one of surprise, one of really nice, genuine heartfelt words that almost reduced me to tears. It made my day, and I really needed to read it. When they’re done right, there’s something personal and genuine about cards; it’s just that ones at Christmas, Birthdays, et cetera can feel so forced and box-ticky. 

Despite my jovial take, there is also a seriousness to all this. Royal Mail delivers around 150 million cards during the pre-Christmas period. It’s estimated that 1 billion Christmas cards could end up in the bin after December 25th.

That right there is my real problem. The time, the money, the carbon footprint, the utter waste. All of which is easily solved. But it won’t be easily solved. It’s far too ingrained in society: businesses have seen something marketable beyond belief, and each year, cards for Christmas, Valentine’s, and other holidays come out earlier. Why? Because they want your fucking money and want you to believe you have to buy one. You don’t.

You’ve seen the adverts for Moonpig and other personalized card companies. Well, Moonpig is worth £1.2 billion. Someone is having a laugh—and a very expensive Christmas—at your expense. They’re just a very expensive joke.Break from the norm, don’t buy overpriced cards, and don’t give into society just because “it’s tradition.” Go green with an e-card, or cut out the card middleman and write an old-fashioned letter, which has all the sentiment and none of the commercialized unoriginality. You’ll be proud to know you led a greener holiday—and you’ll save money. So this Christmas, skip the cards—and keep the change, ya filthy animal.



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