Ihope all your Christmas cards are written and posted. Mine aren’t as I’m all behind as usual, although I have at last got my list down to manageable proportions – mostly family and close friends.
At one time there were 100+ names on the list until, reduced to a frazzle one year, I thought to myself: “This is ridiculous; I never see most of these people and more to the point never particularly want to, so why am I sending them a card?”
Out came my list and my blue pen and in a few minutes the list was halved.
The following year quite of lot of the excised people didn’t send me a card either. Others, no doubt thinking it was some oversight on my or the Post Office’s part, sent off their yearly offering as normal. I felt a bit bad about that but held firm. Soon the cards were no longer flowing between us and I glowed in the satisfaction of knowing that over the coming years I would save a small forest, not to mention a small fortune.
It wasn’t only the cards from passing acquaintances that seemed unnecessary, it was also having to read all those round robins. Why someone I briefly worked with in 1990 thought I would be interested in the comings, goings and doings of all their relatives was beyond me.
Many were on the lines of: “Auntie Gladys has AT LAST had her Hearing tested and is the Proud recipient of Digital Hearing Aids. What a difference that has made for her at the Bingo!!!!”
The surfeit of capital letters and exclamation marks in no way made me any the wiser as to who on earth Auntie Gladys was, although I was happy for her that she could now shout “House!” with impunity.
I’m sorry if I’m coming across as a bit curmudgeonly. One part of me was pleased that these people still remembered me and took the trouble to write a letter and buy a card and stamp to keep me in touch with their lives. But as I get older I realise how short life is and spending hours writing cards to people I no longer know is not a productive way of spending my time.
This year I intend to go even further and, apart from really close family, not send any cards at all. Before you start thinking I have turned into Ebenezer Scrooge, the purpose is not to save money but to channel it into a more useful purpose.
There are several charities from which you can buy gifts for the developing world. I was looking at one site and you can donate a goat to a needy family for only £20, or chickens for £18. The gifts range from mosquito nets, school stationery or seedlings for under a tenner, right up to things like tents, educational courses or a classroom for between £500 and £1,000.
This, to me, seems much closer to the true message of Christmas than splashing out on a glittery picture of a robin which in a couple weeks could well have flown off to the rubbish bin.
Now I’ve got the card situation sorted, next year I’m considering extending the principle to gifts. This would provide the answer to the perennial question, of what to get the man who has everything. Instead of wrapping socks, ties and aftershave in festive paper, I will be getting him a goat, two chickens and a water purifier, with the bonus of not having to wrap them at all.
I often ask the question: “Is there anything in particular you want for Christmas?” Only to get the reply: “I really don’t mind. Surprise me!” I think a girl’s sanitary kit for my unmarried nephew and birthing equipment for my elderly aunt would be surprise enough.
Whatever I eventually decide to do about gifts for family and friends, I will still buy a Christmas present for my cat, wrap it lovingly and hang it from the mantelpiece.
Go ahead, mock me. I don’t care. Oh, and Merry Christmas to you all.