The official tradition of sending Christmas Cards was initiated by Queen Victory in the 1840’s and it’s estimated that 1.5 billion cards will be sent this holiday season in the US alone. In fact, a recent survey reported that 73% of households send a holiday greeting of some sort. So it is a long standing tradition that the majority of people observe, except the Sheehan household this year. Come to think of it, we didn’t do it the past couple of years either.
There really wasn’t any reason we stopped doing so, it just happened. I think the first domino was my daughter moving out. That made it harder for us to get everyone together for a picture and we all know a well staged family picture is the anchor of any holiday card offering. Then you need a humorous letter that gives the highlights of the year, while omitting the low ones. To tell you the truth our lives are pretty boring, it’s not easy for me to just sit down and write about nothing….
We’re all friends here so I have to be honest with you, those are just excuses. I take the pictures. I write the letter. I just decided to stop, the blame rest on my shoulders. It’s not that I wasn’t asked to do it, I just put it off long enough that the opportunity passed just as the buzz of the holidays provided a much needed distraction. Friends and family can keep up with us on Facebook and the kids are way past their cute phase so I didn’t really see the harm in discontinuing the tradition. Then I came to the realization that not sending cards is pretty much the equivalent of committing card getting suicide. If you have been a part of this yearly exchange you know that there’s a reciprocation multiplier to the number of cards you receive, put simply, the more you give the more you get. Stop sending them one year and you might see a 10-20% reduction in card receipts the next but after the second cardless year your intake will be cut in half or worse.
Maybe I just got cocky. A few years ago our card intake was at an all-time high. We proudly displayed them around the frame of our kitchen door so each time we entered we were reminded of just how liked we are. I would even wager that we were gaining on my mom. She is the best example of a consistent card sender I can think of. Growing up I can remember her tolling until the wee hours signing, addressing, stamping and stuffing stacks of Christmas cards. She never misses a year and it shows. Even back then her card bounty had slowly grown to blanket an entire door. Now it is to the point that she can’t even display them all but when your card game is that strong you don’t need to brag about it.
This year we’ll be lucky to cover a cabinet door. Only the selfless senders, like my mother, remain. They do it for the sake of spreading good will, not for reciprocation. Everyone else has abandoned us and I don’t blame them, I knew the rules of the game. What I didn’t realize is that a large part of my yearly socializing comes from these seasonal offerings. My cousin up north always sent pictures of her kids in the card, now I probably wouldn’t recognize them if they passed me on the street. For 2 years I haven’t gotten a chance to read the letter from Stephanie’s uncle detailing his job changes and incredible family vacations. Or what about my friend from college that always dressed their family up in matching “ugly” holiday sweaters? We are missing so much.
This realization felt like a Christmas Carol moment. The absence of cards made it apparent that I wasn’t simply omitting a holiday card, I was severing my contact with distant family and friends. The spirit of the season began to swell within me. I wanted to embrace my postal carrier and shout, “I will start anew. Many cards will I send. I will make quite certain that the correspondence never ends. You can trust that our friendships I will mend. I’ll thank the world and look forward to when I will be able to begin displaying holiday cards again!” Now we’ll just have to see if the drive is still strong come October 2017.