My View: In the age of email, are cards becoming a ghost of Christmas past?

Our first Christmas card fell onto the mat on December 1 and I thought "Here we go, the floodgates are about to open". Then very little happened. When asking around friends and family the same thing; an usual dearth of Christmas cards.

We could think of only two possible reasons – well three if you count the fact that we had suddenly fallen out of favour with the majority of our friends and relatives . Either the terrible weather which blighted the north of England at the beginning of December had slowed down the snail mail even further or people were looking to other forms of festive greeting other than the traditional Christmas card.

A little digging and it seems that we are not alone. Oxfam, one of the very largest charities that sells Christmas cards, said sales were 14 per cent lower than a year ago, while Mintel, the research body suggested fewer and fewer households bother to send cards.

Mintel said that last year less than three-quarters of homes, 73 per cent, sent a card, a substantial fall on the 84 per cent that sent cards just three years ago.

A series of strikes by the Royal Mail, above-inflation increases in stamp prices, concerns about the environment, a desire to save money and the prevalence of email and the ease of making free international telephone calls over the internet meant that there were easier and cheaper ways to keep in touch, the research suggested. Oxfam, based on a YouGov survey, calculates that Britons will send 141 million fewer Christmas cards this year than five years ago. More than a third of people questioned said they had cut their Christmas card list, suggesting 882 million cards will be sent this year compared with 1.02 billion in 2005, the poll for Oxfam found.

Almost one in five people think cards are no longer an important part of Christmas, with 13 per cent of those respondents planning to send online and email greetings instead, the poll found.

While I can see some of the environmental arguments I still like receiving and sending Christmas cards. Not the ones with the round robin photocopied bragging notes inside, but the ones with the personal message which updates you on how friends and their families are doing. My children have inherited my desire to write and receive cards, both fighting each other to get the letter box after the postman has been.

I wonder if they will ever get as excited about rushing to the Inbox on the computer. Maybe they will. As social networking sites and Twitter continue to take over our lives it seems inevitable that the tradition of sending Christmas cards is another custom doomed to be consigned to the waste bin.

In the last week or so, however, my faith has been restored as seeming sack loads of Christmas cards have fallen onto the mat. It must have been the weather after all.