When I was a young girl growing up in Trenton (NJ), sending Christmas cards was a good citizen’s duty. Thanks to an overzealous mayor with good intentions but a serious drinking problem, mailing cards was actually required by law for most of my career as a child (which at least gave the ACLU something to do over the holidays). The tradition was less about Christmas itself and more about community building — reminding friends, family and neighbours that they were in our thoughts during the season of giving.
Sending holiday cards is a rather time consuming act, which explains why it has fallen out of favour these days. We live in a world where the only loved ones we’re willing to invest more than ten minutes at a time in are spouses and young children, and this is usually only done to preemptively build evidence for a subsequent divorce/custody court case. I confess that I myself have not sent cards this year; it’s not because I don’t care, because you know I do (especially about you, yes, you). Unfortunately, my address book includes more than two thousand entries and I’m conflicted about giving that much money to Royal Mail now that it’s been privatised (and last year Christopher sprained his tongue licking envelopes and I will not go through that trauma again).
However, there are still a few hold outs who maintain the tradition, and I say good on you. Nowadays, we have more options about the types of card that can be sent and the one you choose says quite a bit about you. You may think you’ve chosen the prettiest or the cheapest, but you are actually revealing some essential aspects of your self-identity. Let’s have a look.
These say you’re a modern person, you know how the Internet works and you’re not afraid to use it. However, this choice is also quite impersonal because it’s likely you’re copying and pasting the same message into every one you send. While I’m sure the recipients appreciate the thought, it’s bound to sting a little that to you they are clearly just a name on a distribution list. That’s especially hurtful to those out of whose body you came (according to my brother who received a rather spiteful voicemail message from my mother last week).
CARDS PURCHASED FROM CHARITIES
These say that you are a giving, compassionate person who, rather than volunteer your valuable time or make a substantial monetary donation, will only contribute to a charity’s work if you get something in return.
These show that you are serious about the birth of Jesus Christ which implies one of two things: you are a Christian, which is fine, though you should be aware that these cards will probably not be on display on non-Christian fridges. I mean, think about it — would a good Christian like yourself hang up a Ramadan card with Mohammad’s face on it? (This is a trick question, by the way.) The other possibility is that you are a Fox News viewer/Daily Mail reader who is committed to fighting the war on Christmas. If this is the case, well done you. You’re a twat.
These show you don’t want to get all heavy during the holiday season. You hope to keep it light — give people a smile. You just want to share your sense of humour because you are a hilarious person. I mean, you’re really funny. Really. Why you’re still on your own, I don’t doubt you’ll never understand.
Fine, you’ve got artistic talent and the luxury of the funds to purchase supplies and the time to waste gluing crystals onto cardstock. Everyone is very envious of you and your charmed life.
FAMILY PHOTO CARDS
If you’ve had an addition to your family this year (a baby, puppy, housekeeper, etc), it’s entirely appropriate to share a photo, especially with those people who live far away and have yet to meet the new family member. If you’re just showing off your newest plastic surgery results, it is significantly less appropriate.
ROUND ROBIN LETTERS
These, I’m afraid, never make you look good. They are impersonal and no matter how hard you try to make them seem otherwise, they are essentially just a Wikipedia entry for your experience this year. As such, they are likely to be awkwardly worded and full of inaccuracies. They are also usually typed out and no one should be sending typed letters to their loved ones: unless you’re sending a ransom note, you should take the time to hand write things. Cursive writing is preferable.
Of course, I’ve already received examples of all of these this year. I try to see the positives in everything so I focus more on the fact that the senders have remembered me and less on the obvious flaws in their personalities. As the cards are delivered, I’ve hung each one along the windowsills, as my mother used to do. Unlike her, though, I do not plan to rip them all down in a drunken, bitter rage on Christmas Eve and throw them into the fire.