The art of sending out holiday cards may be in danger of extinction. More and more people each year opt to send out digital greetings. Digital greetings certainly send the cheer- there’s no denying it, but these e-tidings lack the intimacy of traditional cards. The digital sender, after all, is able to reach hundreds of people in the time it takes to press a couple of buttons. There is very little effort put into the process, which is certainly a huge selling point for the busy families of the modern world. I do not want the tradition of sending cards to meet the same fate as the lucky rabbit’s foot of my childhood.
I sent out some photo cards this year, but definitely not as many as I have in years past- mainly because of a lack of time. Although I addressed, stamped, and sealed these greetings, I still had a pang of self-imposed guilt because I no longer write a personal note in any of the cards. My tidings are falling into the de-personalization pit.
I see Christmas cards as one of the last hold outs of old-school Christmas traditions. After all, who sends cards anymore? According to my teenagers, email is totally antiquated- it wouldn’t be anywhere in their wheelhouses to send out hand written letters. Receiving letters in the mail is something that I will forever relish, and the process involved with sending cards is one that truly feels like a part of the holiday custom.
In order to understand my passion for letter writing, I need to go back to my early days. Getting mail has always been something special to me. Growing up on a small island in Maine, we had a tiny little post office- really only big enough for a couple people to enter at once. I used to look forward to going to get the mail every day- in fact, I had a special little mail bag just for collecting mail (see photo o. I would walk up the path and sit on the steps of the post office awaiting the arrival of the mail lady: Judy when I was little, then Ann when I got a little older.
Many summer days I walked back down the road with an empty mailbag. My aunt Nancy, however, had numerous people who corresponded with her in the summer, so many days I could deliver letters to her. I loved days when a letter or two filled my mailbag.
As I got older, I sent away for pen pals from the BIG BLUE MARBLE show that I watched on Saturday mornings. I had a pen pal named Jenny Jacobs from Wisconsin, another named Mimi Bedigee from Missouri, and Gianni Rondinelli from Italy. I would write long letters to these friends, and get so excited when I would receive letters back! The anticipation of receiving mail was a constant in my world. In the winter, when the cottage was closed up tight, I would write letters to my island friends- from North Carolina, Texas, and Massachusetts. My mailbox helped me connect with people, and brought me such delight- one which can’t be replicated by the efficiency of social media.
As an adult, I still look forward to receiving letters in the mail. At Christmas time, the excitement seems to reach its peak, as people sit down and reach out to their friends and family in the old fashioned, time honored tradition of Christmas cards. Nothing beats the feeling of holding an envelope in your hand, looking at the handwriting, noticing the sender’s name, and the excitement that comes with opening it up- not quite knowing what is packed inside.
One day, when I have more time, I’d actually like to go back to handwritten messages in cards- those are my favorite. The ones where I actually see the sender’s handwriting and think about them sitting down, taking the time to write the words in ink- creating a permanent keepsake to cherish for years to come.
In our busy lives it is so tempting to opt out of the hassle of the cards, but I can’t. I cannot bring myself to watch this tradition end. I think about my grandparents and great grandparents receiving cards and news of far away friends- it was their sole mode of communication aside from the corded telephone.
I cherish the cards that I receive in the mail. I hang them all on my door and stop to appreciate them each time I walk past. I then put all the photos in a scrapbook each year- and enjoy the progression of our friends and families as they have grown up through the years.
Your card is not lost on me. As Dylan Thomas once suggested, I will “Rage! Rage! Against the dying of the light!”
Happy New Year!