Two-thirds of U.S. adults will mail holiday cards this year: Poll

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Digital or mail? Here’s how Americans prefer to send their holiday and Christmas cards

It’s once again time to don your tacky sweater, snap a family photo and break out those correspondence skills: ‘Tis the season for holiday cards.

And there’s a cool back story behind the annual “For the love of … why can’t I get a good picture of all of us?” tradition.

Sending holiday cards emerged in 1843, when Sir Henry Cole, a postal worker, fell behind on his correspondence around the winter holidays (equivalent to not texting back in two minutes today). He asked an artist to design a card reading “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You,” which he sent to 1,000 people, thus allowing him to check “Victorian-era social obligations” off his to-do list.

Today, holiday cards are the bread and butter of the greeting card industry. Of the 6.5 billion greeting cards purchased by Americans each year, roughly a fifth purchased, for instance, are Christmas cards, according to the Greeting Card Association.

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This year, two-thirds of U.S. adults who sent or plan on sending out winter holiday cards from Thanksgiving to New Year’s will keep that going. That figure is on par with last year’s, according to an exclusive Grid/Harris poll.

Sending physical cards remains everyone’s favorite way to connect

Snail mail is still by far the most popular delivery option, used by 7 in 10 of those who are sending out holiday cards, this year. While older generations are more likely to go through the process of stuff, address, send, it’s also becoming more popular among Gen Z. This year, 63 percent of Zoomers who sent a holiday card did so through the mail, compared with 47 percent last year, according to survey data.

What’s the second most popular delivery option, used by nearly a third of card senders? This stat shocked us: It’s going that extra mile to send a physical card through personal delivery, such as in person or by courier.

Virtual cards are less of a thing

A quarter of respondents plan on sending their card this year to someone through email or social media. Millennials are more likely than any other generation to send virtual cards. About 39 percent of millennials sending cards this year — followed by 19 percent of both Gen Z and Gen X — say they’ll send a digital card through email or social media to someone if they haven’t already.

People send physical cards to those they’re closest to

Greeting cards offer friends and family members the chance to reconnect around the holidays. It follows, then, that three-quarters of those sending out physical cards say they’re going to immediate family members, such as a parent or sibling. A similar share say they’re sending physical cards to friends.

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When it comes to digital cards, two-thirds of senders say their cards are going to friends, followed by 62 and 60 percent, respectively, saying these cards are going to extended and immediate family members.

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But there are other reasons to send cards. Receiving a card can even help stave off loneliness, which the Idaho Commission on Aging, for instance, has cited as a reason for launching a recent campaign to encourage people to send cards to residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Others do it in part to support the Postal Service, which dedicates time and energy to preparing for that holiday rush.

Not to mention, holiday cards are sure to bring a spark of joy to someone’s day — who doesn’t love receiving a personalized card in their mailbox or inbox?

Thanks to Lillian Barkley for copy editing this article.

  • Anna Deen
    Anna Deen

    Data Visualization Reporter

    Anna Deen is a data visualization reporter at Grid.

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