Normally right after Thanksgiving the cards come flooding into our home.  Many are pictures of friends and their families, some are e the standard festive card with a small personal message scribbled inside and others are letters that often include scanned photos of friends and family far and wide.

But this year the flood has turned into a trickle.  To date we have received so few cards that my wife is looking for cards from last year to place in front of our relatively small fireplace mantle.

Our experience apparently is not out of the ordinary though.  An article in the Washington Post chronicles others in the D.C. area who are wondering what happened as well.

Is it juts our collective imagination or is this a real phenomenon that signals a new trend?  According to the Post it’s real alright.  Mail volume is down some 10% compared to a year ago and that can be largely attributed to the decline in Christmas cards being mailed.

Now I have to admit that I am as much a culprit as I am a victim if not more so.  To date I have sent zero Christmas cards.  Yep, I’m definitely a  Grinch and a Scrooge this year.  This is down from the 50-60 cards I used to send when I first got married nearly 25 years ago to 25-30 that I recall sending last year.  But I still have time to fix my miserable record and I plan to do so this week.

Yes our lives are busy and social media seems to have consumed many of us to the point that it now is becoming acceptable to send e-cards and use Twitter and Facebook to wish our friends and family a Merry Christmas.  It’s not very personal but it is efficient.  In one fell swoop I can send a Christmas greeting to over 2,400 people and all it would cost me is my time.  It’s very tempting to say the least.

For me I can’t help but feel a little conflicted.  As a child growing up in the ’60’s and ’70’s I watched my father very meticulously send out some 100 plus cards every year to people all over the world.  He had a very thick notebook that contained the name and address of every recipient.  At the bottom of the card he drew a line.  Above the line he wrote the year a card was sent.  Below the line he recorded if a card was received.  If a person didn’t reciprocate with a card he was thus unlikely to receive one the next year.  When you are sending out as many cards as he was the only way to remember to whom he sent and received cards from.

I can still remember logging in the cards received which since the notebook wasn’t completely alphabetized took quite a bit of time and while it may seemed fun while I was a child I certainly don’t miss those days.

But I never thought I’d see the day where Christmas cards would become irrelevant.  As I said earlier our busy lives and the onslaught of social media probably plays a part but I wonder just how much the recession affected the sharp drop in card mailings this year.  After all we still have sky high unemployment, foreclosures continue unabated and the outlook isn’t really that bright in the year ahead so I guess it’s hard to be too cheery.   The other part of this equation is the cost of the cards themselves.  A box of cards fully priced will normally run about $1 or more per card.  Factor in postage and if you are sending out a lot of cards it adds up fast.  Even at the peak of when my father was sending out 100 plus cards a year I bet he didn’t spend more than $100 for cards and postage including the ones he sent overseas.

In any event I hope that this is only a blip on the radar screen.  I know I have been lazier than usual but my close friends can expect a card in the next few days, while my Facebook friends will have to settle for a cheaper electronic greeting.

Whether or not you send a card this year don’t forget to let your friends and family know how grateful you are for them.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!