In the hustle and bustle of December's obligations, the task of taking photos, ordering cards, buying stamps, collecting addresses and signing dozens (sometimes hundreds) of cards can seem insurmountable.
Still, in a world where most people receive email by the bucketload, sending a digital greeting — although certainly simpler — doesn't deliver quite the same holiday cheer.
Representatives of some of the Web's top greeting-card sites say a new trend is emerging: cards that skip the traditional holiday greetings and move straight to New Year's. They say these cards add an extra week to the deadline for getting cards in the mail, and they remove some of the awkwardness of finding a greeting that pleases everyone.
"This season, people are celebrating both early with Thanksgiving cards and late with New Year's cards," said Mariam Naficy, chief executive and founder of stationery site Minted.com, which offers more than 100 New Year's designs. "We're seeing lots of growth in both of these categories."
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At another popular card site, Tiny Prints, a similar movement is happening: "From Thanksgiving cards to New Year's cards, we're seeing the holiday season and the variety of card designs growing," says Laura Ching, the site's co-founder. Tiny Prints has more than 160 designs in its New Year's category this year.
"Non-traditional trends are occurring in numerous ways," Ching said.
Naficy, though, said the growth in cards that say "Happy New Year" isn't just about giving yourself a few extra days to stamp and seal.
"People began ordering their New Year's cards in early November, so it's not just a last-minute resort," she said. "People like this greeting because it takes political correctness out of the equation. 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Hanukkah' or 'Happy Holidays' or 'Happy Kwanzaa' can get quite complicated."
Like it or not, everyone is welcoming a new year in January, and for many, that's a cause to celebrate.
"New Year's is a time to start fresh and wish family and friends well," said Meg Bohnert, card stylist for photo card Web site Shutterfly, which offers more than 70 New Year's-appropriate card designs. "It's an optimistic time for many, and they want to express that in their holiday card and greeting."
Ching said New Year's cards are the perfect opportunity to really sum up the year, including those photos of little ones opening their holiday gifts.
"New Year cards no longer mean that someone was late getting out their holiday cards," Ching said. "Sending a New Year card has become a welcome way to allow a family's card to stand out from the pack, recap the year in its entirety and share your New Year's resolutions."
Those are all good reasons to switch to a New Year's card, but let's be honest: For a lot of people, a few extra days to work on the project are just too good to pass up.
"New Year's cards are a great way to relieve a lot of unneeded pressure that so many people feel during this insanely busy time of year," said Minted's Naficy. "Even if you have time to order your cards, you might not have time to address them and add a handwritten note until the day after Christmas, so it's not a bad idea to just plan on writing them then. ... We've seen a lot of people who totally miss the boat and send Valentine's cards."
Naficy said it's best to make your choice look intentional — even if it isn't — by using a "Happy New Year" greeting, and trying a different color palette, such as black, gold and silver.
But no matter when your cards go out, Bohnert said, it's time to give yourself a break: "There is a lot of excitement over the holidays when opening up your mailbox filled with season's greetings, no matter the week."
"It truly is worth taking the time to create cards with feeling to celebrate and appreciate the special people in your life," said Tiny Prints' Ching. "Don't worry about the timing. Trust me, people are focused more on the contents of the card than the date it arrives."