Maybe it’s just me. Maybe my own personal circle of friends is unusual, or maybe they all lost my address, or, dare I even say it, maybe they just don’t like me anymore. I don’t think any of those are true, but who knows? Whatever it is, the number of Christmas cards I’ve received so far this year is zero. Not one single card. It is the 7th of December and the Christmas spirit has yet to enter my mailbox.
Now, before I go too far, I have to come clean and admit that I have likewise sent zero Christmas cards this year. I have good intentions, though. I even saw a box of cards that I really liked with a cool funky retro pine forest on the front and a nice non-offensive greeting in the center. I didn’t buy them, though. A snarky little voice inside my head said, “Why should you send cards out? Remember how many you received last year? It’s hardly worth the trouble.” And I put them down and walked away. I regret doing that. I will go back and get them. Let me tell you why.
First there’s this little saying that I actually happen to believe that goes a little something like this, “it is better to give than to receive.” Ok, sure, if you’re starving it’s better to receive food than to give it away, but I’m hardly starving. My life is full of abundance. I live in comfort surrounded by love. I have rewarding work, I can pay my bills, I feel safe and secure, my loved ones are reasonably happy and healthy, and therefore I have nothing to complain about.
I like being able to give a tiny bit of myself to my friends, even if that tiny bit is just a warm greeting inside a pretty card. I know some people see sending out cards as an unnecessary chore, but I actually like sending Christmas cards. I like writing a short personal note inside each one letting my friends know I’m thinking of them at this time of year. I also like slipping in a school picture of my now gangly, braces wearing teen, as much to embarrass him as anything else. Besides, what else are you supposed to do with all those tiny pictures? His friends don’t want them. They all have phones that take pictures.
Another reason I’m sad about the demise of the Christmas card is that it offered a yearly glimpse into the lives of people with whom I’m friendly but didn’t necessarily see or talk to a lot. It was a yearly check in, sort of like your annual physical. It said, “we’re still connected to one another.” It might prompt a phone call or a get together, or it might just bring a warm feeling, but it didn’t mean a big commitment. Now those people are on your Facebook feed and you hear more about their lives than you ever did, so the check in feels unnecessary. I think that’s one reason the cards are going the way of the dinosaur, at least for my generation.
My mother’s generation is still a generation of Christmas card senders, bless them. She has a lovely annual display of them on her piano, showing smiling grandchildren, fabulous vacation spots, and drawings made by pediatric cancer patients. They feature spiky script, or long newsy letters full of deaths, births, and procedures, and promises to get together when the weather warms up or they get back from Florida. They are cherished by my mother, as I cherish the few I still receive.
Growing up, I lived in a house built in the 1930’s. It had a beautiful fireplace with a grand mantle. Every night in December we would read the day’s Christmas cards at the dinner table, then after dinner add them to the already impressive display on the mantle. There was often some rearranging to be done, taller cards in back, prettiest pictures in front, and so on. In my twenties I lived in apartment with a long extinct fireplace, but it had a pretty mantle, and it always filled with Christmas cards too.
Depending on where I’ve lived I had different methods of display, but I think my favorite was in my last home, which was two stories. We wrapped garland (with white lights) around the bannister, and attached the cards to it with tiny clothes pins. It made such a pretty display. I no longer have stairs, but I do have my grandmother’s antique piano on which to showcase my cards this year. If I get any.
Today I will go back to that store and buy that box of cards. I will write a note inside each one and mail them out. I won’t send out twenty or thirty, like I used to, but I will send some. I hope to receive some in return, but if I don’t I’ll try not to take it personally. Everyone is trying to get by, especially this time of year. Decisions need to be made, time and resources have to be distributed in the most effective way possible. For many people that means putting up a Facebook post with a cute or meaningful graphic on Christmas will take the place of a real card sent through the mail. I understand this, but it makes me a little nostalgic and sad. I hope your mailbox is filled with Christmas cards this year, and for many years to come.
December 7, 2013 at 9:26 am
I loved this post and I agree that Christmas card mailing are declining. But I still do it and will do it for the next 50 years or so. Here’s why: I love sending them and they are a tradition that I love taking part in. I don’t mail them for the purpose of getting any in return. Instead, I send them to send a tiny bit of joy and happiness to people I don’t see often throughout the year. We mailed our Christmas cards on December 2nd and at last count it was 62. 😉 A beautiful tribute to the Christmas card and I hope that you have fun writing them out. 🙂
December 7, 2013 at 9:28 am
Sixty-two! Wow. Yes, I will continue to send them because they are a special and joyful part of the season. Thanks for reaffirming my belief in their importance. 🙂
December 7, 2013 at 9:45 am
I always thought it’s boring to send and to get cards. It’s also not really common here. But this year I’ve sent and got a lot of cards and I admit: I love it!
December 7, 2013 at 9:56 am
Aha! A change of heart. 🙂
December 7, 2013 at 10:01 am
Like the Grinch lol
December 7, 2013 at 10:01 am
December 7, 2013 at 11:51 am
Lot of reminders here about the constantly changing world we live in.
Good observations about school photos and Facebook. 🙂
December 7, 2013 at 12:42 pm
Thanks. I know we have to keep up with the times, but holiday time makes me nostalgic, I guess.
December 7, 2013 at 12:51 pm
I am the captain of the Sentimental Squad.
I totally get it.
But I’m also classic procrastinator, poor stay-in-touch guy.
I have issues.
December 7, 2013 at 1:20 pm
Nice observations on the Christmas Card tradition. Thanks!
December 7, 2013 at 1:21 pm
Thanks for the kind comment.
December 7, 2013 at 6:03 pm
What a nice image you created of past Christmases.
December 7, 2013 at 7:08 pm
Thank you. I’m grateful to have created so many warm memories. I hope someday my son will say the same thing.
December 7, 2013 at 6:14 pm
I can only agree about the sending of cards. I have two so far whereas once I’d have received 10 by now! Love the post.
December 7, 2013 at 7:09 pm
Wouldn’t it be fun if all of us who enjoy the sending of cards had our own little clearinghouse? 🙂
December 8, 2013 at 12:47 pm
I enjoyed your post! I used to be a huge Xmas card sender – the photo ones of my kids. Until last year. My oldest, and biggest supporter of the photo Xmas cards, graduated from college. She no longer wanted to be in the photo and convinced her brother of the same. By the time we got around to buying cards, they did’t get sent; this year either. Miss sending the photo cards, but maybe this year I’ll write a personal note back to those that do send a card!
December 8, 2013 at 6:09 pm
Times change, families change, and traditions change. Sometimes for the better, and sometimes not. The only thing we can do is adapt. If it means store bought cards or no cards at all, so be it, as long as it works for you. Thanks for commenting, Lora. 🙂
December 8, 2013 at 12:51 pm
Hmm, I find them an annoying waste of paper. They clog up all the bookshelves. I’m all for sending them to people who I don’t see very often: old friends, people who live miles away, but I don’t see the point in sending them to my next door neighbour when I can just say “Merry Christmas, neighbour!”
I appreciate hand made cards very much, that shows genuine affection and warmth but mass produced cards are just a big waste of trees to me.
Maybe I’m a sourpuss?
December 8, 2013 at 6:07 pm
Maybe, but having different viewpoints is what makes the world go ’round, right? 🙂 And, really, I don’t think you’re a sourpuss at all, or you wouldn’t take the time to post your opinion.
December 9, 2013 at 1:01 pm
I love sending them! This year we sent 115 compared to 80 last year. We’ve moved in the past year and as a result met more people and thus more cards to send 🙂 The vast majority of people we send to either have never done Christmas cards and won’t or won’t start until they have children. I don’t mind. Tis the season for giving. We cherish the few dozen we do receive and proudly display them.
December 9, 2013 at 2:48 pm
It’s so nice to hear that you’re keeping this tradition alive and well! Your friends are lucky. 🙂
December 9, 2013 at 4:00 pm
I wish that old tradition of sending Christmas cards would come back. I much prefer paper cards than email cards. I don’t get much cards in the mail anymore. I got one card in the mail last week and it was from my postman. And I don’t send many except for family and a few close friends.
December 9, 2013 at 4:48 pm
Well my sweetheart says that you have to send them in order to receive them, so I’ve been writing a few here and there. I still have to mail them, though! I do like to look at them during December, rather than see them in my email. Thanks for the comment. 🙂
December 9, 2013 at 10:33 pm
I still send them and still get a few…but fewer each year. I usually write them on the 10th and mail them on the 11th. I like to know if someone sent me one, it is not from obligation because they got an early one from me.
December 10, 2013 at 5:36 am
I still haven’t sent mine, or received any. 😦
December 11, 2013 at 2:04 am
I wrote mine today 🙂
December 11, 2013 at 5:54 am
I still have some to do, but I think I will mail the ones that are done. 🙂 Good for you, and thanks for the reminder.
December 11, 2013 at 12:51 am
This post made me smile. If you think it sucks for your generation – imagine what it’s like for mine! I’m 20 and most of my friends use Facebook. There’s even a decline of well wishing on Facebook – every year the amount of “happy birthdays” I get actually halves. There has never been an easier way to say it because when you log on it says “it’s Lucy’s birthday today, would you like to wish her a happy birthday?”. That upsets me, because its easier than ever but the line between “a simple gesture” and “why should I bother” is totally blurred. I send out christmas cards regardless because I simply love doing it. I don’t expect a card in return but I can’t help but feel annoyed at the rudeness of people that don’t acknowledge them whatsoever. It takes a second to text a reply and yet some dont!
December 11, 2013 at 5:54 am
You’re right, it’s so simple, yet people don’t take a moment to do it. I think it’s just a matter of thinking that it doesn’t need to be done, or someone else will do it, so why bother? I would send you a real card if I could, and Happy Belated Birthday, Lucy. 🙂
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