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Front Porch: Christmas cards have lost utility

Thu., Jan. 3, 2013

We’ve taken the tree and the decorations down, packed away the holiday movies and CDs, and welcomed the New Year. But I’ve still got some unsettled Christmas business to address.

Stacked in front of me is this year’s collection of Christmas cards. Cheery greetings from people I see every week mingle with photo cards from folks I haven’t seen in years. Some include a brief note, but most are simply signed with the sender’s name.

So here’s my confession: I hate Christmas cards. If you want to stop reading now, I don’t blame you – especially if you took the time and trouble to send me a card.

I just don’t see the point of them.

In the past, cards and letters kept friends and families connected across the miles. Then came email. Suddenly, with the press of a button we could instantly update people about our lives. No more hastily scrawled letters, stamps or mailboxes to worry about.

Yet during the holidays many folks still took the time and trouble to mail cards, and included family photos and updates about their year.

I was one of them. I carefully chose beautiful cards, and while I shunned the formulaic Christmas letter routine, I did painstakingly pen personal notes in each card.

All of that changed with the advent of social media. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter I now not only know the highlights of my friends and family members’ year, I’ve seen the pictures and videos! For example, I know more about my brother-in-law’s kidney stones than I thought possible (no photos though). I know my great-niece got the flu on Christmas Day. I know my uncle had a wonderful trip to Maui, and that my friend’s son had a winning Pee Wee football season.

And my life has become an open Facebook. I’ve posted pictures of what I ate for lunch, my cats sleeping and even the blister on my foot. It’s hard to cram all that fascinating information in a Christmas card.

I decided to forgo cards this year with the exception of Great Aunt June, who expects a card and clippings of my latest column.

The only problem? No one got the memo and lots of lovely folks sent me cards.

Gradually, they accumulated in an accusatory pile. Every time I walked past the ceramic sleigh piled high with season’s greetings, the cards seemed to shout, “Annie cared enough about you to send you this letter. Your sister-in-law shared a special Christmas memory. And look! Your dentist dressed his whole staff like a rock band and mailed you a photo!”

Guilt became my undoing. I dug out the cards I had leftover from last year and signed them “Love, Derek, Cindy and boys” even though Derek and the boys contributed nothing to the effort. Unless you consider my husband nagging, “Have you got the cards done yet?” a contribution.

Grimly I muttered, moaned and mailed off the cards – even to those who only sent a photo card with no personal note at all.

Just when I thought I’d met my holiday obligations, the mailman delivered a slew of cards – on Christmas Eve! Of course, they were from people I’d left off my list. It simply isn’t fair to mail cards the day before Christmas.

Fuming and fussing, I thought about going out to buy more cards, hoping to get them in the mail in time. Obviously, I’d lost my Christmas spirit. All of this Scrooginess just because people were kind enough to remember me during the holidays (if a Snoopy Santa card signed “Love, Bob” counts as being remembered).

Sorting through the cards I thought about the friendships they represented and realized true friends won’t mind if I don’t send out cards. They’ll call me or check in on Facebook. Who knows? Maybe many of them are laboring under a similar holiday guilt burden.

So, next year no Christmas cards from me (except Aunt June, of course). And if some cards happen to come my way, I won’t feel guilty –not a bit!

I’m actually not too worried. In writing this column I’ve just ensured my Christmas card count will be greatly reduced next year.

Contact Cindy Hval at Her previous columns are available online at columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

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