It’s Christmas card time! I’ve sent them continuously for some 30 years and never tire of the tradition. I always include a letter because we have far-flung loved ones and I hate to think of all the wonderful people we’d have lost touch with if not for holiday greetings.
I used to write the letter for the entire family but for the past several years I’ve outsourced the individual sections to their subjects. Husband and children know the drill – paragraphs are due by Thanksgiving and mom has complete editorial control.
Believe it or not, there was a time when holiday-themed paper was nowhere to be found. Our old Christmas missives were type-written on white paper. Sadly, I don’t have most of those. I was a writer many decades before I became an archivist.
Each letter ends with a quote. Each year I read A Christmas Carol so, as you might imagine, Jacob Marley and Tiny Tim have had their say. I’ve used song lyrics, poems, movie lines and bits of wonderful stories like this Laura Ingalls Wilder description of a Christmas morning in the little prairie house: “ Then they put their arms down inside them, to make sure. And in the very toe of each stocking was a shining bright new penny! They had never even thought of such a thing as having a penny. Think of having a whole penny for your very own. Think of having a cup and a cake and a stick of candy and a penny. There never had been such a Christmas.”
For years I wrote the addresses by hand, in red or green ink, and enjoyed the ritual. I’d make an event of it, sitting by the fire with a glass of mulled wine, in holiday socks. I’ll admit though, last year I gave into technology and now use printed labels. Turns out holiday writer’s cramp is just as uncomfortable as the regular kind.
When we were 20, we lived one summer in a place with a shared kitchen and bathroom. Our “housemate” was an elderly woman (probably my current age – ha ha) who left notes like this: “Please remove hair from drain!” then later added, in a different color pen: “THIS MEANS YOU!” Anyway, hubby got through his co-op job and we forgot all about Barbara Dorr…until Christmas card time rolled around.
We had an extra card and decided it might be funny to send it to that cranky old lady. Turned out old Barbara enjoyed writing letters as much as I do and we were penpals for many years, with me telling about our lives and her sharing whatever she could from her little corner of the world (I got lots of weather reports.) Her sister wrote me when Barbara passed, to say how much our correspondence had meant to her. All because of a simple Christmas card.
I used to measure success by how many cards we received but now realize that I enjoy writing and sending them enough that I’d do it even if I received none in return. Still, it was a little sad several years ago when I sent out 60 cards and found fewer than half that number of colored envelopes in my mailbox.
But then something interesting happened. I sent a couple of cards to special friends of our children and they were completely charmed by this antique practice.
The following year I sent a couple more Boomer-to-Millennial holiday postal greetings and, time after time, we’d get delighted texts thanking us for remembering them. Sometimes we even get a card back, no small honor from a youngster who doesn’t generally hand-write addresses or purchase postage stamps!
So the list, which was stable for so many years, then dwindled through the early 2000s, is now on the rise and I couldn’t be happier. We’ve had our young friends tell us what a joy it is, to go to the apartment mailbox and find something other than a bill or an advertisement.
Little do they know, the pleasure is at least half mine. : )