When I was a little girl I adored Christmas cards. The postman came twice a day back then and on a Sunday when it was Christmas and I remember running to the front door every time I heard the letterbox snap. Cards started to trickle in at the start of December and pretty soon it was a bit like Harry Potter getting letters inviting him to Hogwarts (although with fewer owls!) – we were swamped.
I loved everything about them – the shapes, the handwriting, the interesting stamps and that was all before we’d even opened the envelopes. Then I’d help my mum stick them up around the house where they would flap annoyingly until Twelfth night. The cards were a magical part of my Christmas.
How very different things are these days. Email and Facebook mean that I’m in touch with most of my friends on an almost daily basis. Then there are all the issues thrown up by climate change – producing cards, the miles travelled deliver them not to mention the cost of a stamp. Whether or not to send cards at Christmas seems to have become a bit of an ethical conundrum.
A few years ago I remember it became fashionable to make an announcement to all and sundry that instead of going to the expense of buying the cards, the sender would make an equivalent donation to charity. I know this was very well intentioned but I couldn’t help thinking that it might also be a convenient excuse used by those who just couldn’t be bothered to write them. So I continued writing and sending.
Then one year I decided that enough was enough. What exactly was the point of going to the trouble of choosing the cards, writing little messages inside and queuing in the post office for stamps, I wondered. There was almost no one on my list that didn’t already know all my news and surely in the run up to Christmas I could think of better things to do with my time?
Yet isn’t choosing things especially for people that you’re fond of and putting yourself out a little bit all part of what Christmas is about? And then I thought about what it would be like not to get any cards in return. I just couldn’t imagine it and the thought made me so inexorably sad that I had to have an extra mince pie just to console myself! Yes, it’s an extra, not entirely necessary job that must be done to a deadline, it’s expensive and time-consuming and it’s a bugger getting all those little blu-tac marks off afterwards but Christmas without Christmas cards? I just can’t imagine it.
So I’ve written them again this year. Granted there are fewer to send each time and I get fewer in return but if just one person opens a card from me and smiles to themselves about some memory that we share then that’s reason enough to put pen to paper.
So how about you? Are you still sending cards?