Why I will keep sending Christmas cards
If I was to ask my friends and ex-colleagues for a quality they value about me it would, I know, be that I am good at keeping in touch. When I visit the area where I lived and worked for nearly thirty years I always take the opportunity to squeeze in meetings where I can, I attend re-unions and pass news via email whenever it is appropriate.
Last year when I was unwell and not in a mood to get wrapping and writing I decided to send cards only to the elderly, those living alone and those in bad health. It felt right at the time. I had pondered the waste of the earth‘s resources and postage costs which many can ill afford. However, through the Christmas period, I received the usual cards and letters written by friends from my previous life lived in other areas and working in different educational establishments and I felt a pang of regret that I had not contributed to others at this happy time of year. I did send email greetings to some but there are many on my address list who do not have an email address or who have not chosen to pass it to me. We have busy lives and can only maintain frequent contact with a few. Christmas is the one time we can touch base with everyone who has been in our lives at some stage.
This year I heard many people say they were ‘not sending cards’ often adding they would give the money to charity but I had long decided to resurrect my Christmas list. I am now so glad that I did this and the reasons will be obvious.
You see, I am not pedantic enough to make note of those who have not sent cards and the years pass so quickly and my low mood last year means that I probably would not have noticed omissions in my 2012 post especially considering I had abandoned Christmas cards for that year.
When writing my cards a thought always passes through my mind that perhaps some of these will land on doormats now owned by others after a move or, worse, a death. I have always trusted that I am still on the lists of those who are on mine. January often brings emails from relatives acknowledging the card on behalf of their elderly family member and saying how much they appreciate this annual contact. Occasionally the letter or email contains news of the person’s demise.
I also defend strongly my continuing tradition of writing a Christmas update on my own and family activities. While many decry the congratulatory letter which falls from Christmas cards, I am one who loves to hear news of happy events, weddings, additions to the family, grandchildren, retirements, new jobs, new hobbies, writing successes. One of these comes from an ex-neighbour whose two little girls used to ask if my dog could ‘come to play’. One now has two school-age children and the second married last year and qualified as a GP. I feel a warm glow knowing I was once part of their little lives and this is one of the reasons I have continued my own Christmas letter for those I do not see during the year. Sometimes the letters I receive contain sad news but at least I am then in a position to send a note of condolence.
A few days ago with 2014 just round the corner, I received a phone call from a stranger informing me that a friend in the teaching profession had died. We used to see each other fairly often until I moved away and she was busy caring for her mother. Our Christmas notes in our cards kept us in touch. The caller informed me that she had actually died in March 2012. My Christmas card omission last year ensured that I only discovered the sad truth when this year’s letter headed up with my address and phone number arrived. Sandra had no brothers or sisters and had not married and had children. She was looking forward to retirement when she was struck down by the inevitable. I was asked a lot of questions and was able to fill in a few gaps for the co-executor on the telephone. I was asked about some names which were not known to me.
This event has set me thinking that far from abandoning the tradition of sending Christmas cards and letters we should actively seek to retain it. Also even if I decide not to include a letter in certain cards, I will at least add my address and phone number. Last year I went through my database and deleted some names. This year several cards which have dropped on my mat lack this finer detail and for some reason I don’t now have the address on my database.
Facebook, email and mobile phones are no replacement for letters and cards. So do think twice before deleting people from your Christmas card list or abandoning this long held tradition.