Over 1.3 billion Christmas cards are expected to be mailed between Thanksgiving and the end of this year, a drop from 2 billion a few decades ago – but still a significant sum in an ever-expanding era of mass digital communication.
It might surprise you that the tradition of mailing cards at Christmas is traced back to 1843 and a British-born society man, Henry Cole. Overwhelmed by all the Christmas letters he was receiving – a standard practice at the time – he conceived of the creation as a means by which to quickly acknowledge all his holiday mail that was piling up. Then, as now, failing to respond was considered bad manners.
Many of us enjoy sending and receiving Christmas cards, an annual opportunity to share photos, letters and notes you can hold in your hand – and maybe even put on your refrigerator or tack up around a doorway.
Part of the charm of the card is receiving it in your mailbox, which is a welcome departure from the flyers, bills and other non-personal posts that come each day. The card arrives courtesy of the United States Postal Service, which now charges 66 cents (it’s going up to 68 cents in 2024) to mail 1 ounce anywhere in the country.
To add some festivity to the envelope, senders can take advantage of two new “holiday-themed” stamp series being offered this year. “Snow Globes” is the first of the lot and features a snowman, a deer, a Christmas tree, and Santa Claus perched on a chimney. “Winter Woodland Animals” is the second. Those feature a deer, a bunny, an owl, and a fox. It’s not exactly clear what makes them qualify as “holiday” anything beyond snow, holly, and a tree.
Additional “holiday-themed” stamps still available from previous years include “Holiday Elves,” “Snow Beauty,” and the only two “religiously-themed” offerings available – “Virgin and Child” and “Our Lady of Guápulo” – a stamp first issued in 2020. Even older holiday stamps are still available on Amazon – including “Otters in Snow,” “A Visit from St. Nick,” and “Santa/Sparkling Holidays.”
The Post Office has announced they’ll be issuing a new religious stamp in 2024. It’s not clear why they didn’t issue a new one this year, but it could be because they have too many of last year’s “Virgin and Child” still available.
The 2024 offering will be titled “Christmas Madonna and Child” and is a painting from Giovanni Battista Salvi Sassoferrato, a 17th-century Italian artist. The famed work hangs in the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
It’s sadly ironic there are more secular stamps available than Christ-centric ones for a holiday that’s all about celebrating the birth and Incarnation of God’s only son. But that fact does reflect the emerging and tragic trend of our times.
One practical and positive way Christians can attempt to combat and counter the growing secularization of the Christmas celebration when sending their cards is to very deliberately purchase only the religiously themed stamps. If your post office is out of stock, find another one – or go online. Stamps can be purchased from the official USPS site or Amazon.
Flooding mailboxes with artist-inspired images of the baby Jesus and His mother may not change the world to the degree His birth did, but every stamp is something of a quiet but beautiful evangelism tool, even if only to the postal worker processing and delivering it – and the recipient who pulls the card from their mailbox.
Photo credit USPS.