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.