I first started sending Christmas cards during my university years. To me, not only was it a welcomed break from studying for my December exams, but it was also a way for the borderline extrovert in me to stay in touch with friends and family back in the dark ages before social media was invented.
I viewed the tradition of exchanging Christmas cards as an opportunity to reach out to the extended family and friends I would not have a chance to see over the holidays, to say “I’m thinking about you and I hope that you are doing well!”
I also sent cards to the people and businesses that made my life a little easier throughout the year, who helped me along life’s journey. They were an opportunity to express my gratitude and my professional respect.
Exchanging Christmas cards was also a way to keep up with friends who moved away or who were equally busy with their careers or new families.
I am pleased to say that no matter how busy I got over the years, I maintained the tradition. Taking the time to send a card to acknowledge long standing friendships or to say hello over the miles was something that I held near and dear to my heart.
It never bothered me if a recipient did not reciprocate. I accepted that this was a tradition I enjoyed to herald in the beginning of the holiday season that brought me joy with every Christmas card I wrote. I never wanted anyone to feel obligated or pressured.
To me, it was my own perfect little Norman Rockwell Christmas moment of the year. I would sit down at my writing desk, hot chocolate or egg nog in hand, with the Christmas tunes gently playing in the background. Next to me would be a stack of cards, address labels, postage stamps, my address book and extra pens.
I also kept my kitchen scale nearby to check the weight of the cards just to be sure they didn’t come back due to insufficient postage. Holiday embellishments on cards can sometimes add up quickly and bump a card into the next postage bracket.
Preparing my Christmas cards became a soothing ritual of comfort and joy that I would enjoy when malls were at their busiest (like on Saturday afternoons) to avoid the crowds. Sending Christmas cards was about taking time to be in the moment and to feel gratitude for the wonderful people in my life. You could say that it was part of my holiday self-care routine.
The only downside to a fruitful Christmas card session was the glitter that would transfer to my fingers and clothes, and leave a trail on the banisters, the doorknobs, etc. that would linger on and on. I tend to avoid glittery cards now to save myself the clean up afterward.
During some of my longer Christmas card sessions, I was surprised by the cramping I felt in my hand. I was reminded of how out of shape my hand was for writing in cursive for any length of time longer than a shopping list or a to-do list. Just the same, I persevered. No amount of cramping or arthritis would stop me. Maybe the North Pole should develop an exercise video to train for “Christmas card cursive”.
However, a few years ago, it was becoming apparent that the popularity of Christmas cards was fading. I was finding the selection of boxed Christmas cards (and even card shops) starting to dwindle, making the hunt for the perfect cards increasingly difficult. The number of cards I sent around that time dwindled a bit but I still kept at it.
But then 2020 happened…. Covid-19.
Over the course of the pandemic, many of our holiday traditions were placed on the back burner due to restrictions on gatherings.
To me this was the perfect opportunity to revive my card tradition in earnest with the same mindset as when I originally started: to let the family and friends I could not see over the holidays know that they were in my thoughts.
Fortunately, I still had some cards stashed away from previous years and I found a nearby pharmacy with a stock of cute cards to top up my supply.
To my great delight, many within my circle felt the same impulse as they returned to their card-sending traditions as well.
I realize that we have more sustainable alternatives like phone, text, email and eCards to exchange greetings and good wishes. However, given the degree to which efficiency and sustainability play a role in many of my day-to-day decisions and actions throughout the year, I like to think that my clinging to this festive, once-per-year tradition is somewhat mitigated… at least for now.
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