You've got mail: Holiday cards deliver unique, personalized touch in digital era

Carolyn Bechard writes in a Christmas card as her youngest son Asher, 1, sits with her at their home in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday December 11, 2014. Bechard remembers her mother spending evenings at the kitchen table writing out cards paired with family portraits as a part of their Christmas tradition - one she has also embraced as her own.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

TORONTO - Carolyn Bechard remembers her mother spending evenings at the kitchen table writing out cards paired with family portraits as a part of their Christmas tradition — one she has also embraced as her own.

"I am very much a traditionalist," said Bechard, who is behind the blog Moments in Mommyland. "I have very specific things I remember growing up with, and by doing those, it kind of brings me joy and brings me back to my own childhood. So tradition definitely plays a part in it — but it just makes me happy.

"I understand for some people it doesn't — and that's OK. But for me, it wouldn't feel like the holidays if I wasn't giving out Christmas cards."

The Vancouver-based stay-at-home mom usually sends out about 50 to 60 Christmas cards annually to immediate family and members of her church community. About half of the recipients live close to home, while others are located throughout North America and further afield.

This year, the personalized cards will be accompanied by a photo of Bechard with her husband, Matt, and their sons Noah, 3, and one-year-old Asher, captured in July.

"Christmas is a very big holiday in our family," said Bechard, 28. "I am a Christian, so for me, there is a faith aspect to it. But Christmas is kind of just a time I've chosen to show people that I'm thinking of them or that they're on my heart.

"We don't generally send out cards for birthdays, so Christmas is the time of year that we acknowledge friends and family and loved ones and just say: 'Hey, I'm thinking about you.'"

Yet with the ability to send festive greetings electronically, what is the enduring appeal of putting traditional cards in the post?

"Just about everybody loves to get a greeting card because it says to the receiver: 'You're really important to me. I went to extra effort. I didn't email or phone you. I came in person with my card or I put it in the mail,'" said Joanne McNeish, assistant professor of marketing at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University.

"I think what we forget in the e-world is that e-everything is only our visual sense, our sight, whereas tangible things — books and cards, everything paper — (involves) more senses.

"Senses are actually the way as people we get information, or it's the way we feel or are connected to emotions. Around this time of year, where it's kind of an emotional time anyway, we as humans want to share in that, give that emotion and get that emotion back. And we do that with physical things."

As the daughter of Chinese immigrants who were new to Canada, Lisa Ng was designated to write Christmas cards on behalf of her family.

"I think I just got so used to doing that when I was 12 or 13 that I ended up just continuing the tradition," said Ng, editor-in-chief of This Beautiful Day, a lifestyles blog for women.

Ng and her husband moved to Los Angeles about 1 1/2 years ago, and there has been no interruption in her holiday ritual. She typically orders pop-up cards from New York's Museum of Modern Art store and sends out between 30 to 40 to family, friends and business associates.

"I would say clients are the most important people to send Christmas cards to because I find that an e-card just doesn't cut it," said Ng, 34. "People are really sick of looking at their computer all day and reading email all day. I just feel like an e-card doesn't have the (same) impact as a beautiful, handwritten card.

"I take it upon myself to make the Christmas card a nice way to say: 'Thank you so much, it was great working with you throughout the year, I had so much fun, let's collaborate again in 2015 if there's an opportunity.' I try to send those to as many clients as I've worked with in the past year, and I always try to pick a Christmas card that has a lot of impact."

Ng said part of the reason she opts to mail her cards rather than hand them out in person is concern she may not remember to bring them to their intended recipients.

"I think another part is that it is so nice to get mail these days — nice mail that isn't a bill — and for them to have the opportunity to have the ritual of opening a Christmas card and then having that card to put on display or hang.

"I love going to people's houses and seeing Christmas cards on display. It's just so beautiful to have those cards that I feel that those are just as meaningful to friends and family — which is part of the reason why I send them as well."

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