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What is the point of Christmas cards?

December 15, 2010

Cards

Every year I find myself increasingly more resolute about not sending Christmas cards. I used to find sending them a pleasure. Some years I’ve even made my own.

This year however, I began the season looking on the card sending task as a chore. It got me thinking .. What is the point of Christmas cards? We buy them at the beginning of December. They’re binned a month later. A little bit thought about this simple reality turns what was a tradition into a dismal anachronism.

What are we doing exactly? This year I’ve purchased 40 or so cards, hurriedly scribbled personal messages in each and scrabbled around for addresses I last used twelve months ago. I’ve then passed on each card and envelope on to the Significant Other who’s put his scrawl on it, put the card in the envelope and licked down the flap.

The recipients of this two-man production effort will hopefully react with an ‘ahhh, that’s sweet’ when they open the envelope. Or, if they’ve already completed (or totally rejected) the card sending process this year, will say ‘bugger, I’ve got to send one to them now’.

What are we pedalling here? Protestations of seasonal good wishes or thinly veiled demands for attention?

A little from column A. A little from column B.

One recipient on our list makes me stop. She sends us both a card every year. Long before she gets embroiled in the panto season, she gets her act together and sends out her good wishes for the coming year. There’s always a personal note. She writes our names and spells mine correctly too. It’s terribly sweet. It’s terribly reliable. It’s like a window on a bygone age.

Every year we send a card back. It’s not that we feel we have to. Just that we want to. Because to not do so would be like not having a Christmas tree up in the lounge. She is part of Christmas. That’s why we mark Christmas by adhering to the tradition she maintains.

And yet I’ve never met her. Significant Other has worked with her once. Years back. Since then we’ve seen her in sitcoms, regular as Christmas. Always working. Always cycling down a hill. That is our connection to her. And because it’s tenuous it’s all the more special we receive that card every year. It is the smallest of heartfelt gestures which prompts the recipients to pause and reflect.

“It seems like such an odd thing to do,” I say, “stopping to think about something personal to say to someone I’ve never met, but someone I want to see.”

“That’s probably why people send Christmas cards,” says Significant Other.

I think he’s right. Because sometimes when I write cards it’s not a chore at all. Sometimes it’s an opportunity to connect. Even with someone you’ve never met.

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