I regret to report that 2013 will be remembered as the year the Christmas card tradition died.
Based on anecdotal evidence, 2013 is the end of an era. People I know report neither sending nor receiving more than a card or two this year. I wouldn’t mind being wrong about this, but . . .
Once upon a time, exchanging Christmas cards was all but mandatory. Companies published directories in late November listing every employee’s name and address. That practice continued through the 1960s and into the ’70s. These days, younger generations scarcely give a second thought about posting intimate photos online, yet publishing an employee address would be considered a criminal breach of privacy. How do social mores mutate like that in less than a lifetime?
Sorry, I digress. Not everyone was thrilled about Christmas cards. For many it was just one more chore. (You know, “chore” . . . like milking the cow or chopping wood?) It took a lot of time, not to mention effort and stamps. Stamps weren’t the main sticking point — when I was a child, you could send a Christmas card with a three-cent stamp.
No, it was the burden of social responsibility. That and writer’s cramp. Failing to send a Christmas card to a friend, business associate, acquaintance or former classmate was a faux pas. It made no difference if you saw them every day, or not in 30 years. No difference if they lived across town or across the continent. People routinely received cards from folks they could hardly remember or identify. The only response was to copy the return address onto an envelope and send the stranger a card at once. By airmail, if necessary.
Writer’s cramp was a problem long before carpal tunnel syndrome. In many cases, a card was not enough. A handwritten personal note was required. Some families sent literally hundreds of Christmas cards. The task invariably fell to the wife.
Sometimes a family picture was enclosed. That was before the advent of form Christmas letters and copying machines. Who would send a mimeographed Christmas letter?
The photocopied Christmas letter may have been the beginning of the end for Christmas cards. Who could keep up with the Joneses, and their extraordinary children? The Christmas card tradition has been in decline for years. Facebook and Twitter were the final straws. We’ll miss Christmas cards, someday.
A Merry Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year.
— John Hayden
- VA hospital refuses to accept ‘Merry Christmas’ cards (conservativeread.com)
- Grinches at VA Hospital Refuse Christmas Cards (misguidedchildren.com)