Thursday, 10 November 2011

Christmas Cards

One unexpected difference I've found about life in the UK is the practice of sending Christmas cards.  I may have already mentioned that British people are big on sending cards in general.  The average Brit sends 31 greeting card each year.  That is a LOT compared to most Americans I know!

Americans generally send out an annual Christmas card.  This is one card design that the family chooses and purchases, in large quantity to send to all their friends and family.  They might write a personalized message inside and/or include a letter that tells a bit about what the family has been up to for the past year.  Traditionally, the card would be some nice design, either religious or secular in nature.  In recent years, photo cards and more custom options have come to the forefront.

Our Christmas card from last year, currently hanging out on our kitchen bulletin board

Some families opt for a New Year's card- also known as a "we didn't get it together in time for Christmas" card. I know our family sent these out once in a while :)

In England, however, the practice seems entirely different.  Brits still send or give Christmas cards to loved ones, but they are more personalized.  Instead of selecting a single design and sending it to the entire mailing list, there are specific cards for different people.

One of the things that Ross sells is greeting cards, so when we made a trip to the wholesaler recently I took the opportunity to snap a few pictures (quick and sneaky-like, without getting busted) of a couple of the more interesting cards.  There are standard ones for most relationships around, but they get pretty creative with them too.

For some reason, this card really tickled me.  "For Friends We Don't Forget at Christmas"- because if we did, you wouldn't be getting a card...  This seemed to be a pretty popular title (That's what it's called in the trade... the title is like what the card says on the front like "To My Darling Mum" or "To A Special Brother".)

Apparently a daughter-in-law gets her own special card, separate from her husband.  

There was one other one that I found amusing, but couldn't get a picture of without being spotted.  It was "To Mum and Her Partner".  I guess there's a need to this awkwardly worded title since divorce and having a "partner" (not meaning a same-sex partner, but rather an unmarried yet serious relationship) is so common.

I found this really interesting as a cultural difference.  It's something I'd never thought about as I'd assumed that sending out Christmas cards would be the same in both countries.

Do you send out cards in the US or UK style?


  1. I was totally taken aback by this my first Christmas. Darren DID NOT tell me of this tradition and we spent our first Christmas with his family. So I literally had to run to the store on Christmas Eve to get cards for everyone. I've since had to explain to them how we do things here in the US because you CAN NOT get those kind of cards here to send back to England. Of course, I would probably need some pretty creative titles to send to some of my in-laws!

  2. that's because a daughter in law happens to be a SEPERATE PERSON TO HER HUSBAND

  3. I guess I didn't state clearly enough that the American tradition is that you send one card to an entire family or couple as a unit. That's why it seems funny to an American to send one specifically to a daughter-in-law. In England, it makes sense that if you give a card with a present you would give individualized cards. Americans don't tend to give Christmas cards with presents.

  4. Double titles (son & daughter-in-law, sister & brother-in-law) are sold alongside the single titles (son, son-in-law, etc), the fact that titled cards are specifically made as well as the open titles (ie a simple open "merry Christmas") shows how big the market is.

    As Meg implies the general rule would be that if you were buying a single present for a person you would give them a card, if buying a present for the couple, then a card for the couple would be sent, the fact that a daughter-in-law, son-in-law or whatever is a separate person to their spouse is irrelevant, merely being down to the sender's choice. Obviously if the relevant in-law was widowed or divorced then a single title would be sent.

    In my experience of selling them it would appear that single cards often get sent depending on the closeness of the relationship, whether family or friend.

    Other popular titles worth a mention, "From our house to your house", "To special neighbours", "Across the miles", "Both of You". There has also been an increase in sales of great and great-great grandparents and grandchildren titles.

    BTW "separate" is the most commonly misspelt word in the English language.

  5. I have to smile, Meg, sometimes the comments on your blog are as entertaining as your blog posts :-) hehe

    In South Africa we do it the American way, we don't really send Christmas cards to everyone or any cards much during the year. I had some personalised ones made last year to send to our family back home but don't think I'm going to bother much this year as we didn't even get emails back from most to say that they received it.

    Always interesting for me to see how our South African traditions compare with the American and British. It's kind of a mix of the two and then a little bit of it's own.

  6. I wonder if this Anonymous is the same as always makes the crazy comments. It's clear they don't know you or they'd know they're preaching to the choir. I'd laugh at the day YOU see the woman as just an extension of a man!