Christmas Cards – Are They Still a Thing?
Gary’s December Gems
I love Christmas even more than Halloween. The “BOO! BOO! BOO!” of ghosts becomes the “HO! HO! HO!” of Santa. Our hearts grow three sizes bigger this time of year. As Auntie Mame sings, “We need a little Christmas right this very minute”.
The humbugs can roll their eyes, and the cynics can sneer, but even the Grinch, in the end, gave Christmas a cheer! From the time I send Christmas cards to the time I pack the tree, Christmas is a magical time for me. (See what I did there? I didn’t even mean to write a rhyme. The Christmas Spirit made me do it.)
Sending Christmas cards is at the top of my Christmas traditions list. Yes, Virginia, Christmas cards are real. And sadly, yes, many people have stopped sending them. But I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like getting them.
In last year’s December Gems, ” Reindeer on Rooftops and Turkeys in Kitchens.”, I shared my story about my dual-culture family’s Christmas dinner; Ragoût de pattes & Toutière on the French side and Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding on the English. Christmas cards were part of that tradition; they hung on the doorframes and decorated our tree before trees were highly pruned to be as thick as possible. We would cover the “empty” spots with cards, and I would adjust the lights to make them glow.
We can connect through video chatting, texting, and social media, but these are a facsimile of true physical connections. A hand-written Christmas card is the most personal connection after a handshake.
Queen Victoria sent the first official Christmas card, and Sir Henry Cole, an assistant to Sir Rowland Hill in the introduction of the penny post, commissioned the first commercial Christmas card in 1843. The initial print run was for 1,000 cards. Of course, they were very expensive. Usually, only the upper gentry and merchants could afford them. They would purchase them as a way of staying in touch with friends and family across the Atlantic. Then once they became mass-produced to printing innovations, their use became ubiquitous and international.
I recently read that Millennials are now more interested in sending Christmas cards. When your whole life seems to exist on a digital plane, the thought of someone sending you a hand-written card must be refreshingly different.
My modern period of Christmas card giving began with a serendipitous visit to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) gift shop while in New York one Christmas.
I love museum gift shops. I find them as fascinating as the exhibits themselves. While there, I saw these incredible pop-up Christmas cards, each one an original delight. As a kid, I remember pop-ups very well and enjoyed the surprise of opening them to reveal something magical.
Many years later, they still enthral the friends I send them and myself. MOMA cards are true gifts. Many of these friends tell me they keep them from year to year and set them up each Christmas as part of their holiday decorations.
My Christmas Card Tradition
- I don’t just write your name on a card. It’s a once-a-year tradition; I suggest a few personalized words of greetings and best wishes. Oh, and unless I just discovered them as a new family member on Ancestry.com, I think a journal of everything that has happened in the past year is TMI. Better to invite them to a ZOOM call instead.
- The reason Christmas cards became so popular was it was an easy way to keep in touch with friends and relatives we rarely see years before social media. Since we now have countless ways to keep in touch, I view sending cards as more like sending small gifts of appreciation for being a part of my life. I send them to friends and family regardless of their proximity.
- E-Cards don’t count – except, perhaps, for the very tenuous of acquaintances.
- A comment I often hear is that people don’t send cards anymore they don’t receive any in return. I send Christmas cards for the joy of giving. I don’t expect reciprocity. That’s a transaction, not a gift. I love the whole Christmas Card giving process. And I love the memories each card evokes as I prepare them and walk to the mailbox.
We have many ways to ignite our Christmas spirit. It might be going to a performance of “The Nutcracker” or watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, or bringing up the decorations from the basement locker. Mine is writing cards and licking stamps while listening to Christmas music.
Superstores, radio and TV, seem to do all they can to wring the last drop of holiday profits from us by fabricating Christmas Spirit. I ignore the cacophony and artifice of commercial Christmas and stubbornly keep Christmas in my own way.
My Dear Gem readers.
Beginning in 2023, your monthly gems will go from being delivered monthly to seasonally.
As time progresses, it also seems to shorten.
These Gems are the highlight of my month. However, I have less and less time to create them.
So, beginning in March of next year, I will send you my Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter Gems on Monday, March 20, Wednesday, June 21, Saturday, September 23, and Thursday, December 21.
You know what they say about gems? They’re precious because they’re rare.
And here are some HO! HO! HO! Gems.