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When I was little, I remember hearing adults moan about how many people were on their Christmas card list, but I think they were really secretly proud to receive a large number of cards in return. It was definitely the thing to display them all around the living room even if the some of the cards came form people you hadn't seen in 30 years. Perhaps it was the old equivalent of trying to out do everyone with the number of Facebook friends you have. Nowadays we are told sending cards is less popular, and people are more likely to take a strict approach with pruning those long card lists. After paying £6 per 12 second class stamps recently, I really understand that!
I am the youngest child of a large family and we are spread out all over the country and abroad. My mum has 8 brothers and sisters for example, all who are married with children and in some cases grandchildren. Some live here, some have retired to sunny south Europe, another is in Australia. Some I speak to often, but in other cases I intend to make a call to catch up and before I know it months have passed. The people I most miss are not into social networking or on skype either. Sitting down and writing cards makes me take time out to think about them and put into writing all the things I have been meaning to say. I don't write "round robins" though. I wouldn't know where to start and if there is anything very significant happening in our lives I very much hope we would be motivated to make that call or finally organise a visit. I also send cards to former work colleagues because we have remained friends and in some cases they are also now abroad. Some are actually Muslim, but as they have always given me card and it was their idea to do so, I return the favour.
Then there is the cards I send to a few elderly friends who don't have any family left. They seem to especially appreciate knowing someone is thinking of them. I met a dear friend this way - by accidently posting a card through her door meant for a neighbour. An old lady came out of the "wrong house" with my card in her hand and told me I had made a mistake - she knew the card wasn't meant for her because nobody sent her cards anymore. I know for some people this may have been fine but I had a feeling that for this particular lady it wasn't. I got talking to her and to cut along story short, we became friends. When she told me I was the only person she sometimes spoke to all week, I felt very sad but also happy that I made that posting mistake.
I exchange e cards with half of my work colleagues. Not that I ignore the other half, it is just that I have two jobs and in one we still exchange traditional cards. We have a secret santa there, so cards give us the chance to give a personal message. I am lucky to work with people that it is easy to get along with! I had never sent e-cards before I started my current job, but they are a nice thing to find in my work in box each morning. Some people don't feel these are "real cards" but I think it's the thought that counts and they have made my smile when I receive them which has to be the point. They also have the advantage of being usually free with no postage costs.
I am aware that when you buy charity Christmas cards from supermarkets and other shops, the amount given to charity may be only a few pence. Buying direct from the charity is usually safer, but as the charities I especially want to support do not have shops locally, I tend to buy non charity cards in the January sales and make a larger donation to my selected charities instead. With the addition of Gift Aid I hope they get the most of my money that way. I also try and remember to cut the stamps off any envelopes I receive as I know that they are collected by a local charity who can sell them for funds.
To cut costs, I hand deliver cards when I can. I also use second class post because the last posting date is only a couple of days before that of first class anyway. I don't hand make cards although I did when I was a child. My mum still has some of our glue and glitter splattered creations! If you are good with saving bits to recycle into cards you may save money that way if you have time as well.
All in all I like getting cards, and I look forward to getting some thing other than a bill or junk mail through my letter box. I can understand people who decide to give up sending cards, whether it's because they just don't want to, would rather donate to charity instead, or can't afford to, as I would hate to think of something that is supposed to be pleasant becoming a chore or worry for someone. I am still going to send cards myself, and if I get one back, great, if not the point was to wish someone happy Christmas and that's done.
===I know this is a funny time to post about Christmas so it can either be thought of as very late or extememly early!===
HISTORY AND ORIGINS
'The first Christmas card was sent in 1843.
Early English cards rarely showed winter or religious themes, instead favouring flowers, fairies and other fanciful designs that reminded the recipient of the approach of spring. Humorous and sentimental images of children and animals were popular, as were increasingly elaborate shapes, decorations and materials. The advent of the postcard spelled the end for elaborate Victorian-style cards, but by the 1920s cards with envelopes had returned.' (from Wikipedia)
WHERE TO BUY THEM
Today cards can be bought individually, sometimes with relationships highlighted such as 'Wife', 'Son' etc or they can be bought in boxes or packs. Some packs have all the same images or you can buy mixed selection boxes of cards which contain numerous designs.
Cards can be purchased from many places and websites including:
* Card shops
* Department stores
Buy your cards in the sales after Christmas when they can often have 75% or more off their price.
WHO TO SEND THEM TO
I send cards to family, friends and neighbours.
Some people only send to those who they do not see over Christmas as they think it stupid to send a card to someone you speak to every day.
Personally we have always sent cards to members of the household so I have continued to do this.
However everyone has their own way of doing things and many do not bother sending any cards at all - such as one of my sons.
DIFFERENT STYLES OF CARDS
* Dickensian - these are with people in Victorian or Edwardian dress - often shopping, singing carols or in church.
* Religious - these comes in many forms but can be Angels, Nativity Scenes, Three Wise Men, Baby Jesus, Madonna and Child etc.
* Christmas Themes - these could be candles, Christmas trees, baubles, food, open fires - the list is almost endless..
* Robins and Postboxes - these two often go together with a snowy scene. The early postmen wore red and were called 'Robins' so it is natural they go together - and we associate post and cards with Christmas anyway.
* Snow Scenes - these come in many forms - some specifically Christmas but others can be copies of old paintings where you have sheep in snowy fields or farm workers walking down a snowy lane. I suppose here we should include Snowmen though they will also fit into the 'cute' category.
* Father Christmas - he can be traditional or cute.
* Cute - this covers lots of different little animals and also snowmen and reindeers such as Rudolph.
* Funny - you can buy quite jokey cards but they are not for me I'm afraid.
* Modern - these often tend to by in lilacs and often have no image relating to Christmas at all - unless perhaps a snowflake shape.
My late father always liked the quality cards that had two leaves of paper inside which contained the verse.
Never try and impress someone with a very large and expensive card - especially your boss!
Large cards are ok for family but you do not want to go over the top when buying for others.
Also a small good quality card is better than a cheap large one.
These days you can get loads of free e-cards from various websites or pay to have extra special ones.
These cards do have their place, being free and environmentally friendly, but although I have done some for Christmas 2012 I have still sent many more actual cards.
THE CHRISTMAS 'ROUND ROBIN' LETTER
I believe these originated in the USA but now are appearing here in the UK as well. I have only ever received one or two - for which I am grateful.
Personally I do not think these copied letters are very good manners and I do not want to hear about acquaintances' children who I have never met. I much prefer to have a letter directed to me personally or even a few scrawled lines in the card - at least it is then just for me and not just a coped list of other families' achievements.
I like the more traditional sort of cards such as robins and letterboxes and snow scenes.
Over the years I would often do 100 cards but I try and hand deliver as many as possible.
This past year, because of increased postage costs, I did do a few e-cards but only for businesses I deal with or very distant friends.
I always buy special cards for immediate family and try and get the right sort of verses as well.
I like good quality boxes of cards for other relatives and close friends and then an ordinary box for other friends and neighbours.
With postage costs rising I am sure people are being more thoughtful about how many cards they post.
However it would be a shame if this 19th century custom were to cease. E-cards are all very well but they cannot replay long lines of colourful cards decorating your living room.
After having many 'lines' of cards falling down all the time I have a good system for displaying my cards that actually works:
I have numerous long lengths of colourful ribbon about 6 foot each - I have dark green at present. I then staple cards to these lengths of ribbon and then drawing-pin them to the ceiling where it meets the walls. I then have long colourful displays that will stay in place.
I never seen to have any luck with bought card holders.
After Christmas the cards can be left in recycling boxes in large stores such as Boots.
Personally I cut up the nicest ones to make gift tags for the following year.
When the boys were young we had great fun cutting out all the shapes and then making them into collages and covering with glitter - a great way to use them all up and pass a happy afternoon.