When boomers were growing up in the 50s and 60s, Christmas cards were a big deal. It was not uncommon for our mothers to send and receive more than a hundred cards with scenes of sparkly Christmas villages, sparkly stockings hung by the chimney with care, sparkly lampposts festooned with holly and poinsettias, and back in the pre-political correctness days, lots of Santa Clauses distributing gifts in his sleigh. In those days, we sent to everyone we knew.
Our living room and dining room ceilings were crisscrossed with rows of cards suspended on string or framing doorways to celebrate the season. After Christmas, my brother and I would cut the prettiest cards up to make gift tags for the next Christmas. Stamps were only two cents per card but even that would have been a relatively costly outlay back then.
As I sit down in 2022 with my Christmas card list in front of me, I see that it has shrunk to less than a dozen people. Every year it has been getting shorter and shorter. Many people decided years ago to simply stop sending cards for a variety of reasons and have chosen other ways of communicating goodwill. With everyone’s busy schedules and the over-commercialization of Christmas, it’s understandable that fewer people are up for sending cards.
Retail stores rarely stock that many boxes of cards anymore so finding that special design that reflects your vision of Christmas is becoming nearly impossible. Many years ago when I owned Maltese dogs, I found cards with a glowing picture of an angelic little Maltese in the manger where baby Jesus should be. I know. It’s tacky, but I loved it.
I still love getting snail mail. The kind that is not a bill, a request for a donation to some worthy cause, or a warning to get my furnace checked before the carbon monoxide asphyxiates me. Birthday cards and Christmas cards are practically the only opportunities to send or receive properly fun and personal mail anymore. However, with most people opting out of sending cards the old-fashioned way these days, I’m left with a dilemma about whether to send cards and to whom. Who really cares?
My Christmas card list gradually whittled itself down over the years by eliminating people who chose not to send me a card. That may be a bitchy response but I get the message. Some friends have passed out of our lives or sadly, even passed on. For friends and family that I cannot see personally over the holidays, a card is always de rigueur. Surely, I thought, they appreciate my carefully chosen card and the personal handwritten note inside.
2021 was a watershed year. After nearly two years of COVID isolation and lack of personal contact, I figured my mailbox would be overflowing with seasonal good wishes on festive cards depicting old-fashioned Christmases like those we enjoyed as kids. Sadly, it was not.
Christmas cards help us capture some of that old magic. Some people have substituted e-cards for the original paper kind. Instead of a pretty card depicting an old-fashioned Christmas, many post politically correct messages of season’s greetings on Facebook or Instagram. One card serves all. Others send lovely emails to a blind-copied list of recipients. A modern approach to the old Christmas newsletter. Ahh! Time marches on and I have to accept that just as I’m reluctant to let a cell phone take a prominent role in my life, I’m just as reluctant to get all warm and fuzzy about electronic seasonal wishes. That’s just me and I realize I’m in the minority.
So, when you get your messy, sparkly Christmas card from us this year that deposits sparkle dust all over your floor, you can be sure you are important to us. I took the trouble to go to the store to buy the cards, to line up at the post office for the special stamps. Then, I sit down and handwrite a little message in my increasingly shaky cursive handwriting with my special Energel pen that emits liquid blue ink like a fountain pen. Whew!
My cards may have a politically incorrect Santa Claus on them or a tasteless dog-in-the-manager scene, but they make me smile and fill me with Christmas spirit. I have taken the trouble to walk them to the mailbox because you matter to me, and I thought you would appreciate some personal, sentimental snail mail that is not a bill or a guilt-laden plea for a donation. I hope my card warms your heart. In fact, I plan to add some more people back onto my list this year because I care. ‘Tis the season. Just call me old-fashioned. How do you handle the Christmas card dilemma?