Mixed feelings about Christmas cards

They are nice to get, and decorative, but there's the feeling we have to reciprocate

I receive my Christmas cards with mixed feelings each year. I am pleased to see mail other than bills coming through the mail slot. I can usually recognize the handwriting on the envelope so in many cases I know who the card is from before I open it. Just that quick recognition will usually bring a smile and pop out a memory or two and after all, isn’t that the ultimate purpose of sending Christmas cards?

The reason I have mixed feelings is that I seldom ever send out Christmas cards myself. There is really no reason other than procrastination. The days fly by and then I hear the radio or TV announcer reporting that the day for mailing Christmas cards and presents has passed, so I’m off the hook. But deep down I know I have deprived my friends and family the joy that a card from me would bring.

Like the sentiment I received from my big sister last year: “May you be full of joy, full of cheer, full of laughter and hope. No matter what you are full of, have a Merry Christmas!”  You really have to think about a message like that.

There is also a high degree of stress when purchasing Christmas cards. Do you buy individual cards for each person, which can be quite expensive, or do you buy a box of cards and send everyone the same one?

If you buy the box of cards do you buy religious themes, generic scenes or Santa climbing down the church chimney so you don’t offend anyone? My brother bought a box of cards 10 years ago and he must be near the bottom, because I’ve been getting the same one year after year.  The Robert Frost verse inside has lost its charm after a decade.

Is it the right sentiment to send out humorous cards at Christmas? Believe it or not, some of my family and friends don’t think I’m that funny so they might not think a card is as funny as I do. But snowmen cavorting with each other on the lawn can invoke gales of laughter and take your mind off the ever-increasing Visa bills.

More and more Christmas greetings now come via email. Some think that is a bit impersonal but in the interest of the environment, there is nothing left to recycle. The thought is what counts and we can read the message and type a reply, “Same to you,” or some other clever greeting and there is nothing to dispose of. The only down side is that I always cut up last year’s cards and make gift tags for this year’s presents. If the card supply dries up, I will have to actually buy a bag of tags.

But what about losing the decorative component of the Christmas cards? By Christmas Eve, the cards are on the mantle, on the bookshelves or taped up around the doorways. Their multi-coloured designs lend a festive glow to the room. Printing off emails and taping them up on the wall just doesn’t seem to be quite as decorative.

If you don’t send cards, there are some alternatives. The good old phone call is a nice touch at Christmas time and you might get the entire family at once. Or, you could knock on their door; a hug and a handshake is still cheaper than a stamp. At least that’s what McGregor says.