From Snail Mail To Social Media: The History Of Holiday Cards

Download Audio

Holiday cards were the first social media. We'll look at the rich history and hot trends for sharing "Seasons Greetings."

Holiday cards were the first social media. (Matt DeTurck/Flickr)
Holiday cards were the first social media. (Matt DeTurck/Flickr)

Despite Facebook and Snapchat and Instagram and Twitter, Americans still fill mailboxes with holiday greeting cards. The Christmas card. The Hanukkah catch-up. Trees and angels, holly and lights. Family pictures on the beach. Everybody in funny sweaters by the fire. By the 1880s, Americans were already sending millions a year. Christmas cards were huge. Why are they still, when digital updates swirl like snowflakes all year round? This hour On Point: the first modern social media – holiday cards. — Tom Ashbrook


Daniel Gifford, term assistant professor of American popular and visual culture at George Mason University. Author of "American Holiday Postcards 1905-1915: Imagery and Context." Former public historian and museum professional for the Smithsonian Institution.

Chris Wu, CEO and co-founder of Paper Culture, an online holiday card and stationery company. (@christopher_wu)

Mariam Naficy, founder and CEO of Minted, a design marketplace of crowdsourced stationery, art and home décor from independent designers around the world. (@mnaficy)

From Tom's Reading List

The Wall Street Journal: The Most Popular Holiday Cards — "This year’s holiday cards carry more tidings of peace and hope and less cheer. That’s what holiday-card company Minted is noticing among its customers’ orders."

Chicago Tribune: Petrak: Social media now encroaches on Christmas card tradition. — "I really do hope Christmas cards don't go the way of other forms of written correspondence, like personal letters or even newsletters from schools. There's something about seeing the familiar handwriting, along with the faces and smiles, of people from all parts of your life show up in a holiday card. Like many people, I hang up our cards for much of December and into early January, and even save some cards from close friends and family to store in a big bin."

The Washington Post: Holiday cards for people you hate, courtesy of Harry Reid — "As retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) says his goodbyes to Congress this week, he will leave behind three-and-a-half decades of unapologetic insults, sardonic judgments and sometimes just-plain-weird tangents."

This program aired on December 13, 2016.


More from On Point

Listen Live