It’s the middle of December, and so far I’ve only received one Christmas card. From my mother. And somehow, I won’t be surprised if it’s the only one I get. The art of Christmas card-giving is dying. And I’m as much to blame for that as anyone.
There was a time that I sent out about 80 cards each year. The list grew longer the more I travelled, and having lived in six countries and eight cities over my adult life, often making friends with other expats, I was sending them off to all corners of the world. I loved the sound of the postman arriving in December, bringing all that news and glad tidings from my friends around the globe.
Then children came into my life and there didn’t seem enough time to write cards. I started taking the short-cuts that were also familiar in the cards that dropped into my letter box: the annual family photograph and photocopied “form letter” updating everyone on our year’s news. Some people hated those letters, deeming them too impersonal, but with kids around and the usual pre-Christmas rush, it was either that or nothing. Some years I bought cards but only sent them out – with a short personal message written inside – to those people who sent them to me.
Eventually, as time went by, some years it became nothing…or the Christmas cards finally made it into the post in January. Then came the internet, and everything seemed easier again. The letter became an email and the photo an attachment – but the message still got through (as long as everyone on my list had an email address), and delivery was instant.
While my annual string of cards is no more, I should say that I have actually received two Christmas cards this year, counting an electronic version sent by friends in Saudi Arabia. And an email apology for the lack of card from a friend who tells me that my relocation during the past year has resulted in my dropping off her mailing list (I’ll count that as her card).
But I love the clever design of many cards, and I have kept many of those I’ve received over the years that have been truly different, very personal or just downright quirky (think Santa driving a Toyota ute with a camel in the back from friends in Saudi). One year, a real estate agent I’d been dealing with sent out wonderful hand-designed cards of Queenslander cottages.
And of course, the best of all, those hand-made cards that came home from kindergarten or primary school, all stuck together with glue, with messages of love from my children. They’re squirreled away in a box, treasured.
I have always tried to choose designs that reflect the country I’m in. Let’s face it, folks, there’s no white Christmas in the southern hemisphere so why do so many people send cards festooned with snow scenes and red-breasted robins? (Sorry, Mum).
Without being corny, there are some clever and fun cards out there reflecting Australian life…and often they benefit local charities, which is even better. And that’s what those on my Christmas card list this year will be getting.
Yes, I’ve decided to revive my list. But I won’t be sending to all and sundry. This year my cards will be sent only to those who’ve played a special part in my life over the past 12 months. This year, I will make time to tell them so. And it won’t bother me one little bit if they don’t send one back to me.