What is it about Christmas cards? Is it the tradition? The process involves selecting, buying, addressing, signing with perhaps a note/letter, and mailing. Do we send for the purpose of receiving a reciprocating card? Then there is the de trop Christmas letter. Why do we torture ourselves with this ritual year after year? Is it the desire to connect with others at holiday time? Do we feel a need to keep Hallmark and other card companies in business? Sending cards brings business to the flagging Post Office too. Postage keeps going up, as do the cards themselves, making card-sending a budget crunch. The declining number of cards received indicates people are pooh-poohing the tradition or have crossed me off their friend list!
The tradition! There is something to that. I had enjoyable moments watching my mother painstakingly handwrite the envelope and an individualized note or letter to each person on her long list. And believe me – it was painstaking! She had beautiful penmanship, but to achieve it she wrote verrrrrry slooooowly. We say, they had more time for such things “back in the day.” Really? When it is we who have all the time-saving devices. They did things the hard way. They grew their own food and canned or froze it. Plus they had no microwave to hurry up a meal. Nor did they eat out except at church potluck dinners. Usually, I make printed address labels. And my list is computerized. My mother went through her paper address book page by page to select her lucky recipients.
I appreciated my mother’s hard work, because it was rewarded with piles of fascinating cards in our mailbox every day. It used to be joyful to receive cards. When a household received a plethora of cards, you strung them across your doorways and windows or created a special niche for displaying them. Not so much anymore. And if there is a dreaded two-page, small print letter enclosed, it gets tossed aside. Let’s face it: who really wants to know all the nitty-gritty of your past year? I plead guilty as well. But. . . the exercise of writing is the enjoyable part. Making your writing worth reading is the hard part. If you cannot fit your message into one page with normal size font, you need to correspond with your friends more often than once a year. And if your letter does not include a heart stopping statement such as, “Clover left his excrement steaming in the night air,” you really haven’t accomplished much.
As a working mother with children, I came home and glanced at the mail before preparing dinner. I would only note the sender of the Christmas cards and nothing else. They were placed in a basket until after dinner on Epiphany (January 6). Following a special meal celebrating the Wisemen visiting Baby Jesus and receiving the last gift of Christmas, we read each card and voted on our favorites based upon our established criteria. My daughter, son (when he could be cajoled), and I would create a certificate and handmade ornament as prizes to our first, second, and third place winners. With no children at home, that custom has fallen away, and I may not read your Christmas letter until a year later when I pull out the cards received the previous year in order to prepare my list for sending this year.
Of course, we have the need to connect with others — especially those with whom we have no contact except Christmas cards! Yet, if that is the only contact, why do it? Well, there are reasons. That person is special to you, but you don’t have time or opportunity to interact. Email and Facebook have lessened the need for paper greetings among online friends.
If you looked in my attic, you might find the Christmas card you sent me forty years ago! That’s true! I cannot part with the beautiful, meaningful cards. In fact, back in the day of multi-media shows, I made several shows by choosing a favorite recorded Christmas carol, selecting cards which illustrated each phrase or idea expressed in the song with slides made from Christmas cards. Now this can be done far more easily on Powerpoint. I even have saved one sample card we sent each year of our 42 years of married life. The first card we sent is pictured above. On the inside, it says: “Wishing you a wonderful Christmas,” and we added, “In child-like faith, we believe.” The card is from an original painting by Flavia.
So, you see, I have a fascination with Christmas cards. It is the meaning and art of the card which is important to me. If we are going to spent time and money on Christmas cards, they have to worth the expense and time involved. Cards do not have to be expensive or fancy (but fancy is good too). The significance comes in the greeting or art. This year, I chose two cards — both for art and sentiment. Lynda Calvert Weyant’s gold, textured angel playing the harp (my deceased daughter played the harp and probably still does!) reading, “May God’s peace and joy be at the very heart of your Christmas.” Even though the fifth anniversary of her “Crowning Day,” is a few days away, I am grateful for the peace and joy God has brought to my life in spite of the earthquake upheaval which occurred as a result of losing her. My wish for everyone suffering trials of loss, and devastation is that they find the lasting love and satisfaction which comes only from the Holy Spirit. The other card has a glittery white church looking ever so much like the little white church directly across the street from my childhood home. Those that receive this card should recognize the significance of the design by Debbie Workcuff. The verse reads, “What a wondrous season. . . A time to remember all the ways God has touched our lives and our world. And what a wonderful reason to celebrate and to wish you a blessed and peaceful Christmas.” If we love the Lord and are called according to his purpose, we know that God does touch our world and directs our lives in the ways he wants us to experience, grow, and glorify him. The card wishes this blessing upon the receiver. I must admit I buy another card each year — a “Happy Holidays” card for those friends whom I know are offended by a religious card. Nevertheless, they are unwittingly celebrating Christ’s birth by the very act of buying a gift for another. If they open their eyes and hearts, they will see God’s creation in a sparkling snowflake.
If you don’t receive a card from me within the next week, it is because I don’t know you, no longer have your correct address, or communicate with you by other means.
Why do you send or not send Christmas cards? Do you enjoy receiving them?