The Christmas card tradition

Source: polyvore.com

Source: polyvore.com

Every year I get more reluctant to write the cards. It’s not a lot of work. The addresses are on labels. It’s a matter of signing and slapping on labels and stamps.

When I was younger I embraced the whole tradition. Cards were carefully selected. Sometimes I would write a Christmas missive. It wasn’t one of those braggy ones — just fun stories or upbeat anecdotes.

Every year a few people drop off the list. A decade ago it didn’t matter. People move on. We’re no longer close. It’s all ok.

Now if I don’t hear back I wonder if something happened to them. A death? Dementia? Nursing home? (I never thought about these things when I was young!)

One year I sent a card to my BFF from high school and never got one back. We had been exchanging cards since high school. She lived in Florida so I saw her once a decade or so. I wasn’t worried. Life gets busy. This was before Facebook, emails and cellphones. (Really that wasn’t all that long ago!)

Her birthday is in March and I thought about giving her a call. The week before her birthday her obituary appeared in our local paper. She had family up here. From reading the on-line condolences I learned that she had been fighting some form of cancer for the last year and it sounded like she had been very ill.

I hope my last card made it to her and made her smile. I wished I had written a note to tell her how important her friendship had been to me.

I have two much older friends, both would be 80 or older. I haven’t received a card from either one in several years. I wonder if something happened. The good news is that a google search did not find an obituary.

A former co-worker from the 1970s didn’t send a card last Christmas but we have mutual friends. I found out that his wife has dementia and he had to move her to a care unit.

Fortunately I have an email address and will continue to send cards and communicate.

A return card isn’t the issue. It’s not knowing what happened to someone who was once a part of my life. The holidays shouldn’t be the time to hear the bad news.

PS: Yes, I know calling them Christmas cards is not politically correct but it is what it is. I try to send my non-Christian friends the snowmen and pastoral versions. This year’s timing of Hanukkah and Christmas meant that my Jewish friends received their “holiday” card after their holiday. It’s the thought folks!

55 thoughts on “The Christmas card tradition

  1. Pingback: Random 5 for December 27 – Comments, Talent, Holidays, Food, Cats | Views and Mews by Coffee Kat

  2. This is the third year I haven’t heard from my uncle on my father’s side. I did a good obit search and came up with nothing. I Facebook friended his grandson. Unfortunately, they have never been close, but he figures his mother would tell him if his grandfather died. I was really shocked my uncle didn’t acknowledge that my brother died. I am wondering if he has lost his eyesight and his horrible wife is keeping my cards from him. Or he gets them but can’t respond and can’t ask the hag to send a note. Who knows. I sent a card again this year.

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  3. This piece made me take pause. I have to say, at my worst moment I’m sending cards…get them from Wildlife or the American Humane Society never thinking not to. I was raised on Christmas cards…a little lady used to come door-to door selling them.
    I too didn’t hear from a few people this year, and with email making it easy, it can be rather worrisome. I don’t like electronic cards, even Jacqui Lawson, the Tiffany of cyber cheer. They are pretty and clever with lots of animal themes, but there’s nothing like finding a card nestled in your mailbox waiting just for you.

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  4. My christmas card list is also dwindling… For me, its isn’t the tradition so much as keeping in touch. I get concerned when I don’t hear from people. Luckily most are on email so a quick note to wish them a New Year works just fine ❤️

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  5. My mom just told me she wrote 3 cards and was exhausted from trying to see, keep a straight line and not shake that she gave up. I told her it was fine and she said: “I don’t want people to think I’m dead.” Alrighty then ….
    Never even entered my mind!!
    Oh and No, she would not let any of us help!

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  6. I don’t send a lot, but I always send a handwritten card to all of my aunties and uncles. They’re the generation who appreciate them anyways. I don’t send cards to people I see regularly – and if I don’t have anything more to write then my name, I just don’t bother.

    Even with that, it was over 25 cards this year and my hand hurt from writing (guess I don’t do that much anymore).

    Like you, I have kept Mom’s Xmas and birthday cards, and some from both Grandmas. Precious.

    MJ

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  7. My list is shrinking too – part of the durned aging process I guess. For years I did a Xmas letter but let that go. Next Christmas I promise to send all hand written personal notes because those are the ones I treasure receiving now. Merry Christmas Kate and bless you for caring so much about unexplained missing holiday connections and lost friends.

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  8. I love sending and receiving Christmas cards. I usually send out about eighty. I use printed labels, but still it always seems like a lot of work. Writing a good Christmas letter isn’t easy, even for a writer. You don’t want to make it too long and bore people, especially those who don’t know one grandchild from the other. You don’t want to brag or whine or leave out important things that are hard to talk about.

    My son-in-law, who is rather quiet, writes an excellent Christmas letter, funny all the way through. Not everyone has his talent, but you can always skim the boring letters. It’s nice to keep in contact. Nice photos (that aren’t too small) are the best.

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    • 80? Holy cow! That’s a lot! I do like photos that aren’t too small. We received one with an extended family on it. Unfortunately it was hard to see any specific face. But it was a nice thought.

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  9. I used to write a fun letter to include in our holiday cards, but I stopped so after my first marriage. And regularly writing a blog kind of takes the wind out of my sails to find the energy do that again, but I really think next year I’d like to try. If it has the right humor — enough to make the younger nieces and nephews laugh, but not offend the older siblings and aging aunts/uncles– than I think it’s worth doing. One former co-worker and an old h.s friend recently sent me a card and wrote LONG messages inside. I feel guilty now because I haven’t responded to them yet. I pray there’s a grace period for responding. Sometime in mid-January perhaps???

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    • One year we received a Christmas card in March. There was a really nice note in it. There had been a lot of “stuff” going on in the family and I give them credit for sending cards out even it was a little late. And yes, writing a blog does that the wind out of the sails!

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  10. I love cards. But like you, I worry about what I’ll learn. I usually get around to them the week after Christmas. This year I may send valentines. Because our tree is still not up …

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  11. Not hearing back is worrisome. Really agree with your last paragraph about the returned cards. The ability to email very old relative in assisted living was so wonderful – they would print out the “cards” and tape it to the walls. One ancient aunt could never remember who sent it – or how it got there, but the messages always made her smile according to her husband. Not a wonderful card in the mail maybe, but really frequently messages meant a lot more than one card. You just don’t want them to feel forgotten – we’ll all be there someday.
    Spread the cheer. Merry on. Enjoy all the joys! Merry Christmas!

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    • Absolutely. We saw a picture of a relative, now in a dementia facility and we were stunned by the aging. Then we realized that this person was smiling and having a great time. Maybe he doesn’t know where he is or who he is all the time but if he’s having a great time, that’s all that counts.

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  12. The December after my mother died (in August, 2000), I took it upon myself to respond to all the Christmas cards my parents received with a note about her death and my father’s worsening dementia. My intention was not to write a sad letter (they both lived long, happy lives) but to let their friends know the situation. I think I must have hit the right tone because I received some wonderful notes back, many with fond memories of good times spent with my parents.

    My Christmas/holiday card list is getting rather small too, as are the number of cards I receive in return. I think Facebook has made us feel that we keep in touch throughout the year so why bother? I do like getting the newsy holiday letters, though. I have a friend who is especially good at writing them, newsy, but very funny.

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    • That was a wonderful thing to do. It gives the ending to the story. When my mother died I responded to all the gifts, cards and well wishes we received and some out of town relatives. I even sent personal notes to her doctors who took such good care and her dentist. She wore dentures. Every couple of months she would complain about them. I would take her in . He would fiddle with them and send her home. She always thought they felt better. On one of the trips he told me that I can bring her in anytime but he isn’t doing anything because the alignment is right. Dentures (at least at that time) were annoying and if she would feel better for a month or two, he didn’t mind. No charge either.

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  13. It’s okay to call them Christmas card by me, Kate. 🙂 I love to send Christmas cards. As long as I’m still of sound mind and able to write, I’ll continue. Personally, a “Merry Christmas” email just doesn’t have the same meaning as a handwritten card. I treasure the last Christmas card sent to me by my grandmother almost thirty years ago. It’s a gift I keep tucked away in my keepsake box.

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  14. I love sending Christmas cards. It is a tradition that is important to me. I make my own using a painting done in the previous few months. I don’t have a lot to give but it warms my heart to let friends and family know that I am thinking of them. Merry Christmas!

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  15. Every Christmas I wonder whether I should send cards but keeping the tradition always wins out. My list is down to about a dozen people I seldom see any more. I’m not a fan of the photo cards that have no personal greeting or note. For me, the most welcome envelopes contain a beautiful card with a photo and a newsy (not braggy) note. Maybe that’s asking for too much.

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    • Especially for friends I don’t see I enjoy the newsy note and catch-up on the kids. I don’t need a blow by blow description of what you did each month. Those notes seem to be dying. These days I rarely get more than a signature. Of course, I haven’t been all that good about notes either.

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  16. I have the same concerns, and only learned of a friend’s death because her card was returned by a solicitor. So far, there are only three addressees that I have not heard from this year, but we still have two postal deliveries to go. Even if we don’t hear from them, I hope they are OK.

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    • Returned cards are another sad way to learn of someone’s death. Sometimes the cards go to the family and with all that’s going on, no one calls. I wished my friend’s son had sent me a note explaining how ill she was. Today it would happen through email.

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  17. Each year I get a photo greeting card from a cousin that I had my first conversation with at my mother’s funeral. There’s a lovely photo of a growing family and I have no clue who they are and they, of course, don’t know me. When I send a return card I always sign our last name because I’m sure my cousin and his wife don’t know my surname. Two boxes of 16 cards each will last me more than two years!

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  18. I used to send cards every year. Then I stopped sending any for a few years. Now, I send a few out to friends who have moved away and who I don’t see very much. Since the list is much shorter I can write a personal note in each one. Even though I wasn’t planning on sending the ex a card you know what happened when I googled him.

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    • I googled my friends too. However, they don’t have an internet presence but I didn’t find an obit. One friend was from Latvia. Her daughter had moved back there so I’m hoping that she moved back too. That’s the best alternative.

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  19. Every year, I debate the Christmas cards — do I kill the trees or use that as an excuse not to send cards? I have over 125 to send (because, of course, they only come in units of 25), thanks to my ridiculously reproductive parental units.

    And in the end, I always send them, because I am so far away from everyone. Also because my mother’s southern etiquette lessons were ingrained early.

    But I do the photo cards, as I need to show off our growing pack. 🙂

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