I stopped sending Christmas cards a few years ago when it was fun to compose an e-card with dancing reindeers and tinny music. Despite the rising cost of paper cards, postage and the effort of having to wait in a Post Office queue to buy the stamps or get oversized envelopes measured, weighed and examined, my public excuse was the effect on deforestation and wastage. I lost count of the number of cards I received from people who wrote To Angela instead of Angelena, (including my Dad, bless him) and clients and suppliers who had clearly gone through their database and got some poor junior to send out a job lot of Snowman prints.
From those who are in favour of ‘real’ Christmas cards, namely members of the Greeting Card Association and retailers, I’m reliably informed that 90% of cards are from sustainably farmed trees and reminded that charities rely heavily on our good will. Well of course, the financial benefit from sales overall is around £50 million.
I came across a couple of bits of interesting history of the Christmas card started in the UK by Sir Henry Cole, a civil servant with the fore- runner to our Post Office and an artist by the name of John Horsley.
What really caught my attention is that in the 1920s, home-made cards became very popular. Made from all different shapes and adorned with ribbons and bits of silver paper or whatever was handy, they depicted a variety of snow scenes, rosy cheeked children holding gift boxes and whatever the secular imagination could conjure up.
Because of their awkward shapes, they would be hand delivered. Imagine what a treat that would be. Someone has taken time to think about the kind of card you would like, spent a Saturday afternoon ‘stickin and lickin’, pondering the message and then putting on their coats and boots to brave the weather to see your beaming smile when they put it in your hand. Now that’s what I call communication, friendship and love. I don’t want a card from a bulk buy of bloated robins which says, Have a good one! Thank you but I’ll pass.
Hardly any of us write letters anymore. Who remembers jumping up and down when the long awaited love letter finally popped through the letter box? Mine used to have SWALK in purple ink around the seal of the envelope and there'd be a flurry of talcum powder when I pulled out declarations of eternal adoring? No? You don’t know what you’ve missed.
This is the one time of the year when you can think about the people you want to say something meaningful to. Craft it in your own hand. I look back over cards I’ve had in the past from my daughters from You are the best Mummy ever and I hope Father Christmas will bring My Little Pony through to the last card I ever had from a very close friend. You’ve been my guiding light throughout this year. He died suddenly on Christmas Eve 2001. I’ve displayed his card every Christmas in a private place.
This year I decided to take inspiration from the 1920s and make some cards for close family and friends. They are a hotpotch of badly painted fir trees, over-sized snowflakes and far away mountain scenes which no self -respecting Arctic country would lay claim to. I am not going to embarass myself with a public display!
My man in the shed surprised me by making me a card. ‘Suitable for an author,’ he said. ‘Put the words in,’ I urged. He’s not a man of touchy-feely words but it was the words I wanted most.
This morning I came down to find a finished product and The Words so I’m sharing them with you in the hope you too will be inspired. Love is about time and thought. It’s not about money. If you know somebody who is lonely or sad this Christmas, make them a card too.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.’
Have a peaceful holiday this year, whatever and however you celebrate.