Why I still send Christmas cards… and you should too Festive tradition
Despite receiving fewer and fewer each year, Julia llewellyn smith remains devoted to the festive ritual and is determined to keep it alive
For me, it’s the moment I know that Christmas has truly begun: it’s been dark since just after lunch, the heating’s on full blast, I pour a glass of wine – ideally with shakin’ stevens crooning greetings from the stereo – and sit down to write Christmas cards.
to me, cards are as essential a part of the yuletide tradition as the turkey, tree, crackers and the Christmas Eve row with my husband about why on earth he has no present for his mother, deeming it somehow to be my duty.
I love my annual contact with the mixture of people who’ve adorned my life, even if I now rarely see them – school friends I may not see for years at a time but when we catch up, still manage to make me giggle like a 14-year-old; mum friends from playgroup days now so far off, I can no longer recall their children’s names.
I adore pushing the wodge of carefully stamped envelopes into the postbox and decorating my shelves with the festive images I’ve received. and while everyone else mocks them, as a nosy parker, I enjoy nothing more than reading people’s boastful round robins about children who’ve achieved grade-eight level oboe while still managing to find time to build an orphanage and gain 19 GCsEs.
A valuable tradition
Despite a recent Royal Mail survey showing that 80% of people would prefer a physical card over an e-card (yuck!), the number I receive is getting smaller and smaller each year. Instead, if I’m lucky, I might receive a group text full of annoying seasonal emojis. sometimes I persist in sending cards to these bah humbugs, but without reciprocation, the ritual loses much of its joy. so often they’re crossed off my Christmas card list.
Indeed, the festive card seems set to go the way of the dinosaur. the Greeting Card association reports that we send around 100 million fewer cards every year, thanks to soaring postage prices (a first-class stamp now costs 65p) and social media.
I get it – when you’re used to your Whatsapp pinging non-stop, the idea of uncapping a fountain pen seems ludicrously antiquated. but it’s precisely because we have to invest more time, care and money in selecting, writing and delivering cards that makes the ritual so valuable.
Charities benefit too, raising £50m a year from sales. and I know about you smug people who love to post on Facebook that you’re foregoing cards in favour of a donation to a worthy cause, but I always wonder whether it’s just because you can’t be bothered.
What saddens me is that while a lot of people enjoy buzzing social lives online, there are many – the elderly in particular – who aren’t so au fait with online communications and for whom a card is a desperately needed assurance that they haven’t been forgotten. one newly single friend who, having just moved to a different city where he knew no one, ended up decorating his house with cards sent to the previous owners, just to assuage his loneliness.
so this Christmas, let’s put down our phones, dig out those dusty address books and send cards to our cousins, office buddies and neighbours. the delight they’ll feel when one plunks through their letter box instead of the usual pile of bills will more than make it worth the hassle. I promise.