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The Lost Art of Sending Cards: eCards vs. Paper Cards

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40+ years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

These days, many people are skipping paper cards in favor of electronic greetings.

These days, many people are skipping paper cards in favor of electronic greetings.

The Lost Art of Sending Cards

It is times like the holidays when people think of sending cards to family far and near to let them know they are thought of, missed, and remembered. The problem is that preparing and sending cards—especially cards with a personal message—has become a lost art.

Like writing and mailing letters, shopping for cards, buying the perfect card, adding personal notes, and mailing it have become too much trouble. Now we have the option of eCards. They are fast, convenient, and don’t take more than a few minutes to find and send. And most are free. Some even allow for a personal note attached. What could be better?

Every time I paint, I throw myself into the water in order to learn how to swim.

— Edouard Manet

The Way We Used to Do It

As a preteen, I remember sitting around the dining room table with my mother and dozens of new pristine holiday cards ready to be made out and signed by all of us. My mother had an ongoing list she kept every year of all the family and friends she sent cards to and those who sent cards to her. It was a reciprocal thing. If she didn’t get a card back from a distant relative too many years in a row, she stopped sending them a card. Sad. It seemed like demoting the family member somehow.

My Experience

When I started my own family, I tried my mother’s method of record keeping but soon lost momentum. It was too hard to keep track during the busyness of the season to check off who did and didn’t reciprocate a card. Later, finances became tight enough that I had to cut down the number I sent out, whether they sent me a card or not. Now I send cards to close family and close friends, but only handmade cards. Somehow they seem more personal and worth the effort. However, I still love seeing actual mail in my mailbox as opposed to junk mail and circulars. Real cards still give me a thrill, I’m not sure why.

I can always paint very well with my eyes, but with my hands it doesn’t always work out.

— Kathe Kollwitz

eCards vs. Physical Cards

Here's a pros-and-cons list of each type to help you gauge which is best. Do you have points to add to my list? Leave them in the comments below.

To draw, you must close your eyes and sing.

— Pablo Picasso

Advantages and Disadvantages of Physical Cards


Part of our traditional holiday decoration was the posting and enjoying of cards from family and friends throughout the holidays.

They mostly just get thrown out after the holidays, so why bother?

Both store-bought and handmade cards allow for the possibility of recycling and reusing the photos for next year.

Just one more expense at holiday time.

Sometimes the holiday card is the only time the effort is made to connect with distant friends and family.

Snail mail isn’t cheap anymore.

The physical card has a feeling of having taken the time and effort of the sender and therefore means a little more.

Time-consuming, especially if you have a large family to send cards to.

There is something nice about holding a physical card with actual handwriting on it to feel the heart of your family or friend who sent it.

Hard to remember everyone.

You can always add a gift to a physical card, like money or a gift card.

Some people don’t like decorating with cards. They seem like clutter.

Kills trees. What a waste.

So I said to myself—I’ll paint what I see—what the flower is to me but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it—I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers.

— Georgia O’Keeffe

Advantages and Disadvantages of eCards


Fast and efficient. Minimum effort needed.

Often no extra thought is needed to send one.

No cost, usually.

Perfect for people who forgot a birthday or family member at holiday time.

Some even allow for personal messages to be added.

Seems a little cold and impersonal. Probably should be followed up with a personal phone call to touch base.

Some are animated with little cartoons and music as an extra added creative element.

Not everyone on your list has a computer or internet access.

They make you smile.

Perfect for people who forgot a birthday or family member at holiday time.

Saves paper and, therefore, trees.

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Read More From Holidappy

This Year

I received two eCards already this holiday season. One was from a business thanking me for my continued brand loyalty. An eCard from a business seems very logical. It took minimum effort, and I didn’t find it obtrusive or offensive. It is okay to seem a little cold and distant coming from a business than from an individual family member.

The second eCard was from a sister. This one would seem a little cold, except that this sister calls and talks to me every week. We have a very close relationship, and the eCard was simply an extra over-the-top wish for my blessing during the holiday season. There obviously is a time and place when an eCard is appropriate and even welcome.

It's always a joy to see cards hanging during the holidays. What would we do without that?

It's always a joy to see cards hanging during the holidays. What would we do without that?

The Era of Paper Cards Is Waning

Before the season is over, I expect to receive several more eCards and dozens of physical cards. I know in my heart the era of the physical card is waning, and I for one will be sorry to see them go. I have fond memories of getting special cards in the mail with notes for well-wishes from my distant grandparents and extended family living hundreds of miles away. That will be something that our children and grandchildren will miss out on unless we personally take up the mantle and pass on the tradition.

Simplicity is not a goal, but one arrives at simplicity in spite of oneself, as one approaches the real meaning of things.

— Constantin Brancusi

eCards vs. Paper Cards: The Jury's Still Out

After adding up my pros and cons, it seems the real cards and eCards got about the same number of pros and cons, which means to me that the jury is still out. I must say I still love getting a real card in the mail, but the convenience of eCards can’t be beat. Before long, eCards will be the norm, and paper cards will be a thing of the past. Somehow I think that will be a real loss.

A primitive artist is an amateur whose work sells.

— Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Moses)


Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 18, 2020:

Diana Carol Abrahamson,

Do you really? The handmade thing is controversial in my family. I realize there is a "cheapness" factor but there is also the point that they took time and effort. My family knows me and know that though I'm creative, I'm also cheap. I think they find me redundant or else they take me for granted. Thanks for commenting.



Diana Carol Abrahamson from Somerset West on April 09, 2020:

Great article. Handmade cards are not easily obtained, these days. I love receiving one!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 18, 2018:

Raymond Hopkins,

That is good news indeed. I'm glad to hear it. I'm definitely going to check out your site. Thanks so much for commenting.



Raymond Hopkins on January 18, 2018:

I hope this finds you well and while yes there are studies showing people are declining in sending cards, what it also shows is that the cards people are sending are more personal and people will tend to send handmade cards vs. commercial.

My wife and I had found people not only loved the card she made but were asking her to make them for her. I also find the younger generation of millennials and Gen X value sending cards, but would rather send a card for occasions and not the bulk holiday cards. They like something that is crafted and the recipient will feel as though the card was sent with them specifically in mind.

I invite you to check out our small company, as we find people love the ideas of handmade original cards to send family friends and business contacts.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 19, 2016:

Dinuka Perera,

It is world-wide then? That is sad news that families and friends are closer through social media and yet farther apart from real letters and notes. I also find that my family would rather text me than pick up the phone and actually TALK to me. We have moved farther apart. Thanks for commenting.



Dinuka Perera on March 19, 2016:


It is Sri Lanka, we had the same tradition of hand made cards or card to send on courrier mail every new years or Christmas or religious ceremony.

it is not there any more.

Happy that the trees are saved.

Sad that I feel like loved ones and friends are moving away from each other.

Hugs to u all.

thanks for the author.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 25, 2015:

I like holding something in my hand too. I think real cards will always be my favorite.

MariaMontgomery from Coastal Alabama, USA on February 20, 2015:

I enjoy the e-cards I receive, but I especially enjoy getting real mail. It's nice to have something to hold in my hand and re-read later. I use e-mail consistently, but I especially love getting letters.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 12, 2015:

Thanks for visiting.

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on February 11, 2015:

Good information. Thanks for sharing!! ;-)

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 30, 2015:

Thank you so much for visiting and liking my idea.

Joanna Chandler from On Planet Earth on January 30, 2015:

Excellent Job of re-making cards from old cards .

Splendid idea :)

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 28, 2015:

Billybuc, apparently you know a lot! :) Lots of people still resist the ecards right now. I think when this generation passes the newer ones will phase out paper altogether; but I'm not sure I'm a fortune teller, I'm just reading the signs.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 28, 2015:

J-R-Fr13m9n, I absolutely agree. I have a hub on recycling cards as well and I love using old cards to give new greetings to people. Why waste them and throw them away, contributing the land fills? Thanks for visiting.

Jane Ramona Rynkiewicz Frieman from Morris County, New Jersey on January 27, 2015:

I am like you when it comes to receiving a card via snail mail. I have friends who give me cards they do not need. These friends of mine had received these cards free from different charitable organizations. These cards can be redecorated to resemble all the different holidays. Saving old cards that were mailed to me has provided me with extra pictures and text. I have not purchased a card in years. Decorating the envelopes is creative activity also. Friends also give me calendars and used magazines. These can be used for their pictures as well as text. Keep in mind recyclable paper items such as magazines and calendars can be useful for us crafters.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 27, 2015:

Honestly, I won't send an ecard....I'm just a bit too old-fashioned to do that, and I think real cards are so much more personal...but what do I know? :)

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 27, 2015:

Ruthi, I so understand. I always thought that too. But I am beginning to embrace ebooks. Oh well, all things seem to be changing.

Ruth Cox on January 26, 2015:

I prefer to send and receive paper cards over ecards. And I love postcards too! And printed books instead of ebooks, ha! I guess I'm old school and always shall be.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 25, 2015:

Thanks for responding, Marsha.

Marsha Cooper on January 25, 2015:

I will always prefer a paper card over an ecard.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 24, 2015:

AliciaC, I agree. When I get a handmade card, I don't discard it like any regular card. I usually use elements from it in my scrapbooks. Not the whole card usually because that would take up too much space. That way the card lives on for a long time.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 23, 2015:

Thanks for an interesting and thought provoking hub. I do send relatives Jacquie Lawson e-cards, and I receive them as well. I love these cards, but I think that handmade cards are even better. E-cards are enjoyable and entertaining, but the thought that someone has put time and effort into creating a special handmade card for me is very touching.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 22, 2015:

Catherine, thanks so much for the info.

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on January 22, 2015:

Any office supply store will have them, like Staples or Home Depot. Look in the aisle where they have paper supplies for computers. It should be near where they sell reams of copy paper.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 22, 2015:

Great information. Thanks. What is the brand name of the blank cards? Do you get them at a paper store?

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on January 22, 2015:

I buy special blank cards with matching envelopes for the cards I make on the computer. The front of the card has the glossy surface for photos and the cards have the fold marks so they will fold perfectly.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 22, 2015:

CatherineGiordano, I forgot to mention the computer cards. I know several people who bought special card-making programs for their computer so they could create their own personal cards with personal messages. Thanks.

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on January 22, 2015:

I do ecards and paper cards. There is a website, jacquielawson, that does wonderful animated cards with music. I subscribe for $12 a year and I can send the perfect card with a personal message whenever I need to. It is a wonderful way to say "get well" or "thank you." Paper cards will just be thrown out. Also paper cards have gotten really expensive. If I want a paper card, I make it on my computer. That makes it very personal.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 21, 2015:

Happy New Year all. I really appreciate all the positive response. This is a subject I am passionate about too. As an artist, I hope paper cards are not on the way out. They are so cool, creative, colorful and personal. I for one, will keep making and sending them till I am on the way out.

Julia Rexford on January 21, 2015:

I always love getting real cards in the mail! I always feel guilty when I throw them away, too, haha. But I still think real cards are totally worth it. It makes people feel special.

Paula from The Midwest, USA on January 21, 2015:

Hi Denise, this is an excellent hub on the idea of sending paper and ecards to people. I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is a topic I am passionate about, for all the reasons you mention. Life gets so busy, we get carried away with all the things we have to do. I do think however, that this is part of what makes sending and receiving a card of any kind, all the more special! The very fact that so little people do it means they really do care.

I support stores like Hallmark cards and love their newer and growing .99 cent line of various cards, as well as card packs. This makes sending cards more affordable again, in my opinion. I also pay the 9.99 a year, to have unlimited ecards I can send through Hallmark cards, but find I actually use that less. I am more old school with the paper cards, as well as making them! I love a handmade card and love the examples you shared, how wonderful! Thanks for sharing. Happy New Year.

Cynthia B Turner from Georgia on January 21, 2015:

This was such fun to read because I love searching for what I consider the right card. The receiver is usually thrilled to get it. I like your suggestions of reusing old cards. I am such a sentimentalist I find it hard to throw cards away. With your suggestion I can find new uses for them. Ecards are nice, but I prefer the paper version. Like you, I hope sending paper cards this will never be lost, just as I hope real books will not be lost.

Thanks for the information. Sharing.

Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on January 21, 2015:

When the Internet was new (back when the earth was cooling) the Christmas season saw an abundance of cyber greetings instead of cards in the mail. It was easy. But Christmas was not the same. Most of my friends and family have reverted back to cards you could display, but they were better than those in the past. These included, first a single picture of the family, and now many pictures representing the activities and additions throughout the year. This advance was due primarily to digital photography and cards ordered through the Internet. So even the "old Fashioned way" has benefited from technology. Sharing.

Barbara Purvis Hunter from Florida on January 20, 2015:


That is a great idea and a good project for children. A personal touch is always appreciated.

I always sent Christmas card until this year I did not have the time due to family sickness. However, I would love to try making mine this coming Christmas, and for birthdays.

You are so talented.

I will share this with Twitter and re-pin on my board.

Bobbi Purvis

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