I am intrigued by the act of Christmas card giving.
Every year my colleagues whom I sit next to every day and who tell me every bit of their life story when I see them, decide to write me a Christmas card to wish me a Happy Christmas.
I often wonder why they cannot just tell me to my face.
Why do they need to do this in a card?
Afterall I am seated opposite them.
Christmas card giving first came about in the 1840’ s, and was started by no less than a civil servant called Sir Henry Cole. He had helped to set up the post office as we know it today. Whilst he was working there, he began to wonder how the post office could be used more by ordinary people.
You see, it was very expensive to send post back then. Only the well off could use the post office, (so nothing has changed then, have you seen the price of a first class stamp?)
Out of this, the first Christmas card was born.
Sir Henry and a friend came up with the idea of the Christmas card. Designing and selling the cards and encouraging ordinary people to post them by introducing the ‘Penny Post’ , and half penny post if they were unsealed. ( I always wondered about the unsealed post and why this came about — I wouldn’ t dream of sending anything unsealed today.)
I guess, Sir Henry was an entrepreneur of his time, finding an opportunity that was starting him in the face.
Out of this was born Christmas card posting as we know it today.
Check out this info graphic which goes into how Christmas Cards really came about and changed over the years, if that sort of thing rocks your sleigh.
Over the years, I have sent out less and less Christmas cards. When my children were little, it was a mammoth feat, taking days to get through writing all the Christmas cards.
My children would send a card to every child in their class and they would receive a card back from every child in the class, so our house started off with 30 Christmas cards before the school day was out.
I would repeat the same process with work colleagues.
I would give them a card and they would give me card.
Did anyone ever stop to think how weird this is?
We would send out Christmas cards to family and friends who lived abroad or in other parts of the country.
This was a task in itself, remembering postal deadlines dates and frankly I could have done with the ‘Penny Post’ coming back again because the cost of sending the cards was starting to really add up.
Over the past couple of years, I have reduced the amount of Christmas cards I sent out, sending only to those who I had not seen in the year due to distance.
I would include an update of our year and tell them what our family had been up to. It was a lovely way to feel connected with each other still and to receive their update of their family, we never needed to talk thanks to the post office.
But now that we are in the digital age I have seen a real change in the way we approach Christmas card sending.
With the widespread use of Facebook, Christmas card giving has been replaced by the act of sending messages using social media. It has completely changed the way we share our wishes at special occassion. Take the FB birthday wishes, you even get a reminder now to write on your loved ones FB timeline.
And if that doesn’t convey the full meaning, you can always send them an e-card or an electronic card that is quickly put together on Moonpig.com
With the digital era, people are always looking at new ways to send their Christmas cheer around.
I recall a year when Elf Videos were doing the rounds and were regularly posted onto peoples Facebook timelines.
If you have never seen an elf Christmas video, basically you took a head shot of your family members which were superimposed onto the bodies of elves.
The elves who would go off and do some fun things like careening down a snow slope on a sledge all the time, singing and calling out to you to have a Happy Christmas. Or they would be doing a stupid dance and singing a jingle bell song whilst dressed in an elf costume.
I guess they were funny and they did make you smile and they didn’ t cost a penny.
Today we are constantly in contact with people through Facebook and social media that it makes me wonder what is the purpose of Christmas card giving anymore and how much longer will this tradition keep going?
Does it mean any less to send an electronic greeting that costs nothing but still shares your message and Christmas cheer?
What do you do when it comes to Christmas card sending?
Over the past couple of years, I decided not to send out as many Christmas cards and limited this to just one pack. I would still send to a few people who would not understand this new digital way of sending cards, because they are of a slightly older generation.
I would then spend the money I would have spent on cards and postage on a charity donation usually to Crisis.
With Crisis, for just £22.32 I am able to help one person off the street at this cold time of year. It is not out of any sense of wanting recognition. More because there is not need to spend all this money on a card to say Happy Christmas to someone who I can tell directly to their face. There is no need for a third party to help to do this and means that no paper and trees were involved in the operation.
I have not sent out cards for the past couple of years. I give everyone who gives me a Christmas card, my standard thank you and tell them that I don’ t do Christmas cards anymore. I tell them about Crisis and helping someone off the street and wish them a Happy Christmas with my own words out of my mouth.
The first few times, I have to admit it was rather uncomfortable.
At first, I would be met by a look that clearly said, ‘Well I wish I hadn’ t bothered to give you a card either now , but I’ ve written it so I may as well give it to you, you’ re off my Christmas Card List for next year’ .
True to form, the next year, I received less Christmas cards than the year before and less the year after.
I can only hope that it was because they had decided to give to charity as well, but as I haven’ t heard from them. I cannot be certain that this was the reason I was no longer on their Christmas Card list.
Whether you are a Christmas Card sender or not, it is clear to see that the digital world has changed the way we do simple things like send a card. Do we really need a card to tell someone to have a Happy Christmas and wish them well for the next year?
I no longer feel guilty about not sending out Christmas cards and enjoy the act of giving, knowing that this is more meaningful and worthwhile to someone in need.