By Daniel Hunter

When it comes to receiving or sending a Christmas card, 80 per cent of people prefer to receive a traditional card to any kind of electronic festive wishes or social media messages, new research has revealed. In fact, one in four people describe Christmas well-wishes on social media as feeling ‘a bit empty’ or impersonal.

In 2011, the average person sent 15 Christmas cards, but this year the research found that this will rise to an expected 19 cards per person, a 27 per cent year-on-year increase. This is partly attributed to a fifth of people planning to send more cards this year as they feel bad about forgetting to send a card to someone who was expecting one last year.

A quarter (25 per cent) of those surveyed said they aimed to make more of an effort to send more Christmas cards this year than last, because they feel it is what Christmas is about.

The research went on to reveal that traditional Christmas cards are still cherished, with 85 per cent of people planning to display the cards they receive around their homes. Further to this, the physical Christmas card still has a prominent place in the hearts of British people as 38 per cent of people feel that an e-card is far too impersonal.

Sharon Little, Chief Executive of the Greeting Card Association, said: “This research confirms that cards remain at the centre of all life's special celebrations.

“We all love to be in our homes at Christmas time surrounded by the cards we have received from far and wide. We know that all these people have taken the time to think of us. Christmas is all about caring, sending real cards to friends and family is far more meaningful than any form of electronic communication - you can’t put a Facebook message or an e-card on your mantelpiece.”

The Greeting Card Association Market Report 2012 found that the average price for a single Christmas card is now £1.63, in comparison a pint of lager costs £3.19*, Royal Mail provides one of the highest quality postal services in Europe and UK stamp prices are amongst the best value in the EU; with the 50p price of a Second Class stamp the lowest in Europe.

The tradition of sending Christmas cards was established in 1843 through the introduction of the World’s first commercially produced Christmas cards. The cards were commissioned by Sir Henry Cole who just three years earlier had played a key role in helping introducing Royal Mail’s Penny Post service. Only 1,000 of these cards were printed and sold for a shilling each — this meant that they were a luxury item and were not within the means of the working class.

One of the original 1,000 cards sent is also the most valuable in the world, according to Guinness World Records. The card, which was originally sent by Sir Henry Cole to his grandmother in 1843, was sold at an auction in Devizes, Wiltshire for £20,000 on 24th November 2001.

As with the first cards sent almost 150 years ago which featured some festive family fun, cards showing humorous scenes are the most gratefully received, with a quarter of people (25 per cent) saying this is the type of card they most like to receive through their letter box.

Men in particular like to receive some humour through the post with almost a third (32 per cent) saying this is their preferred Christmas card theme. Snow scenes come a close second in popularity with 24 per cent of people enjoying a wintry image on their cards.

Royal Mail’s postmen and women were also responsible for the ever popular robin gracing the front of cards. During the mid 1800s the postman’s uniform included a bright red waistcoat to match the official red of pillar boxes. The striking uniform resulted in postmen being referred to as ‘robin redbreasts’ and the robin being introduced to Christmas cards as a symbol of the postmen who delivered the cards.

The robin remains a popular theme today with many people, and in particular, as the research found, the over 65s of whom one in ten state that it’s their favourite Christmas card theme.

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