Friday, December 12, 2008

Where Have All the Christmas Cards Gone?

I remember as a child helping my mom address her Christmas cards each year. I'd ask, "Who's this?" and learn about her friends from when she was a teacher in Wood Lake and Waukegan and San Diego, her college friends and her childhood chum. With a big extended family and far-flung friends, she usually sent more than 100 cards.

Then we'd wait with anticipation for cards to arrive in the mail. Most included handwritten notes or family newsletters, which in the days before computers required a typewriter and purple-ink mimeograph access. We especially loved the ones that included a family photo, and Mom would lovingly tape those to the end of her kitchen cupboard for display until the next year.

I've continued that tradition of sending cards. Now it's my own set of family and friends--girlfriends from grad school in Indiana, my circle of friends from UND (North Dakota, not Notre Dame!), teaching buddies from Iowa, aunts and uncles and cousins who live across the country.

Before kids, I would make homemade cards; after the kids were born I lacked the time for that creativity but suddenly had new people to write about in the family newsletter, and more interesting subjects to include in a picture than just hubby and me.

My list isn't as long as Mom's once was; this year I sent out 75 cards. I've tried to keep them personal; along with the newsletter, which I try very hard to be informational but not braggy, I write a short message or handwritten note on the cards, which I've chosen carefully to convey the message our family wants to send at Christmas. (The ones from Lang are some of my favorites.) I've even reverted from the mail-merged labels and hand-write the envelopes the way I used to for my mom, just because it makes it feel more personal to receive a hand-addressed piece of mail these days.

And, just like when I was a child, I look forward to the trips down the long driveway to the mailbox, even in the snow and cold of winter, to opening the mailbox and finding envelopes from people I haven't heard from in a year, usually 2 or 3 or more a day beginning the first of December.

Except that this year, through December 11, I've received only three cards. Three. One from my mom and dad, who I actually DO hear from more than once a year. One from a friend of my mom's who took me under her wing when I attended grad school in her neck of the woods. And one from an acquaintance who used it to announce his divorce. (And I suppose, if you're technical, we can count the two received from businesses we patronize, bringing the grand total to five.

I'm beginning to wonder if we're going to receive many cards this year. Are they a thing of the past? Is postage too expensive? Do people assume that since we've exchange e-mail addresses and "contact" information that we're actually keeping in contact?

I hope not. Instant communication on the computer has done away with many old ways of doing things, but I hope that the sending and receiving of Christmas cards continues to be a tradition, one that my children will someday carry on with their friends and family.

Merry Christmas to you all!

Do you send Christmas cards? Tell us about your Christmas card traditions, and whether you plan to carry them on in the future.


Hip Mom's Guide said...

Give it a week - I bet people are just running late this year. I love the Christmas card tradition, although I admit to doing photo cards the last few years. I ordered mine in October this year, but they're still sitting here, as blank as could be. But next week, they'll be in the mail, I promise!

angi said...

I just read a post similar to this yesterday - even the number 3 was used :)

But, I confessed to her (and now to you) that mine are at WalMart ready to pick up - let's hope that we're all just running late, because I have the same memories from childhood as you.

And, I still love getting the cards & pictures just as much as I did back then!

minnemom said...

I really hope they're still coming. Maybe I'm more nervous about it this year because we'll be gone from December 20-January 4, so I'd love to receive a bunch before we leave.

Coming home to a boxful of Christmas greetings at the post office would be nice, too, though.

Janet said...

Yep. I send at least 20 every year, along with a personal note and picture of the kids/family. This year's batch is currently sitting on my fireplace mantle waiting for me to buy stamps. Hopefully I will get them in the mail today.

I still get lots of cards in the mail, too. I hope it's a tradition that doesn't die. There is nothing more cheering than going to fetch the mail and finding a sturdy, square-ish envelope among the bills.

Whirlwind said...

I've gotten about 10 - but I normally get many,many more. So many that I usually have a hard time finding a spot for them all!

I sent mine out last week - almost 150!. My daughter was doing the same thing - asking who each one was for. It was very cute. We've also been looking over many from the last few years (mostly the photo cards) and they like seeing their friends and family cards.

Bikini said...

I actually hit 30 this year, which is a record for us to send, but I've only received 4 so far (one from my folks). It does seem like an off year...

Julie Roads said...

I hear ya, loud and clear! I struggle with the environmental issue of all of this...I think we're just sending a picture - I'm not in charge! And this is mostly what we get.

But your story about asking your mom and seeing those long letters is sooooo familiar....thanks for that memory recall!

Heather said...

There are fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year and I think that it's made everyone panic that there is so much to do and not enough time. I sent mine out last week (about 60 this year) and have received about 12 so far.

I'm definitely a card person, hence my etsy shop, but I think there are several people who have given up the art of writing letters and personal cards to people. It's so nice to go to the mailbox and find something personal instead of only bills, it's too bad that more people don't do it.

Jamie said...

I just put my cards in the mail this morning -- a picture card with an informational (and hopefully not braggy) newsletter.

Come to think of it, I've only received about 4 cards myself.

I'm sure the onslaught will hit soon!

Sandra Foyt said...

Every year we send nearly 80 cards, usually handmade, some more creative than others.

This year, we're running kind of late, and I'm debating whether to bother at all. We share our family news online, and our extended family and friends has seen us all year.

It almost seems redundant to send a card.

Also, we've seen the number of card decreasing over the years, but I've also seen more cards arriving to celebrate the New Year or even Valentine's Day.

I guess the point is to connect, whatever way we're able. Cards are always appreciated,but the connection to loved ones is what is truly desired.

Rachel said...

I've received two cards so far. One from my sister, thanking me for buying from her (she works at a department store that believes in customer service). The other from my chiropractor.

I know I'm not sending out cards this year because I suddenly lost my job. But even if I hadn't the busy-ness of life would have meant a last minute scramble to send out a box of cards.

The last few years I have made cards and sent out around 60+.

Janine (@twincident) said...

I'm just the opposite! I've received more cards than i plan to send this year. We'll do ecards for most of our friends and family, and real cards to the older folks. We usually send over 100 and I could use that postage $ for other things this year.