Debates about acceptable holiday greetings occasionally roil American retail stores and cable news shows, but when it comes to cards, most people prefer “Merry Christmas.” According to an industry survey, Americans send about 1.6 billion Christmas cards every year, and 53 percent carry the traditional religious greeting. “Happy Holidays” ranks second in card choice, and the more generic “Season’s Greetings” comes fourth after “other.”
The Christmas card tradition has proved surprisingly durable. It dates back to the Victorian era, when the celebration of Christmas was transformed into a family-centered commercial holiday. Queen Victoria started sending Christmas cards in the 1880s. Calvin Coolidge sent the first one from the White House about 40 years later.
There were always some people who bah-humbugged the tradition. A newspaper columnist in 1897 called Christmas cards “a well-meaning nuisance” that got in the way of businessmen’s more serious correspondence. But most respectable middle- and upper-class households in the English-speaking world sent and received cards.
The tradition sagged a little in the 21st century with the rise of social media—especially Facebook—but then millennials revived the tradition as a way to add a personal connection to holiday celebrations. Card-sending households mail, on average, about 30 cards, and most people prefer pictures of kids and an old-fashioned “Merry Christmas.”
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more
More from this Issue
Read These Next
- TrendingHillsong Says It Is Moving ForwardNew revelations will require increased accountability, but pastor wants to look to the future.
- From the MagazineBhutanese Nepali Refugees Turn Their Trials into Zeal for EvangelismThousands found Jesus while displaced, which prepared them to plant churches and settle in a new land.
- RelatedShould Christians Fast During Ramadan With Muslims?Church leaders and observers weigh in on a current debate.
- Editor's PickGen Z Christians Want Leaders to Keep It RealThat means dropping the façade and admitting their own struggles.