Recent research found that 43% of millennials have never sent a letter, card or parcel in the post. Here Stylist.co.uk’s Digital Features Editor Sarah Biddlecombe explains why the arduous task of writing Christmas cards can be an unexpected joy – and why we should all aim to send at least one this year.
When I was much younger, writing letters and cards was the bane of my life. The excitement of a birthday would always precede the inevitable comedown of being forced to sit at the kitchen table for hours on end, writing long, spelling mistake-filled notes to distant relatives to thank them for sending me a bottle of bubble bath or an obscure gift voucher. December would see my whole family consigned to various parts of the house for extended evenings of scribbling cards, while my heart would sink at the monumental task of writing individual Christmas cards to every person in my school class. It’s no wonder that by the time I’d left university, I’d stopped the mundane task altogether.
However, it seems not all my fellow millennials wrote letters and cards during their childhoods. In fact, a recent poll found a staggering 43% of millennials had never sent a letter, card or parcel to anyone in their lives – at Christmas or any other time of the year. According to the research from delivery company ipostparcels, 40% of millennials believe sending a card takes too much time, while 30% simply can’t be bothered.
It’s not just millennials who have given up on the idea of putting pen to paper in this digital age. Statistics from last year showed the number of Christmas cards we send as a nation has dropped by 10 million, while the money spent on boxed Christmas cards fell from £272 million in 2005 to a (comparably) measly £200 million in 2014.
After all, when you can send a Christmas tree emoji to a whole WhatsApp group in less than a minute, or write a quick comment on someone’s Instagram photo of a home-made Christmas pudding, why bother writing a letter and paying to post it?
There’s no two ways about it: the art of sending Christmas cards and letters is well and truly dying.
But despite this, or perhaps because of it, two Christmases ago I had a sudden urge to revisit my card-writing days, I spent a happy afternoon buying various pieces of glossy cardboard, shiny glitter and tree-adorned wrapping paper, before holing up for an evening of crafting while listening to carols and drinking wine. I bought a fancy gold gel pen to write long, thoughtful messages to close friends and family members. I even printed off a selection of photos and slipped them into the cards before I sent them.
And here’s the thing – everyone loved them. Those wonky, handmade cards got more of a reaction from my friends and family than any of the actual presents I gave them. My best friend cried when she opened hers in the pub, while others rang me for our first proper phone calls in months. In the midst of all the tokenistic festive frivolities, it felt great to be reconnecting with people who had – and still do – mean a lot to me.
After all, in an age where most of our communication takes place on cold, hard phone screens, isn’t there something wonderful about receiving a handwritten note from a person you care about? Wouldn’t you rather rip open the envelope on a physical card to see what someone wants to say to you this Christmas, rather than add another fleeting message to your ongoing text chatter?
There’s a physical permanence to cards that simply can’t be matched by digital messaging, while the act of reading words written in a person’s actual handwriting is more intimate than anything that could be created in an app.
It’s also undeniably thrilling to receive a card or letter that isn’t just another bill or bank statement in the post. The ipostparcels study found that 81% of millennials would be more excited to receive a letter in the post than a text or message on social media. Of the 2,000 millennials surveyed, 75% agreed that sending a physical form of communication helps strengthen relationships, while showing you care more about the person.
And isn’t that what Christmas is supposed to be about – showing those we love how much we care? Writing a card may be time-consuming and a bit more costly, but the value it holds for the recipient is immeasurable.
Images: Annie Spratt / iStock