It seems that as my hair increasingly takes on the same color of jolly old St. Nick, my number of received Christmas cards recedes. I can only assume the economy is to blame, and surely not my perpetually effervescent persona!
I love the tradition, passed onto me from my parents, and I love keeping it going. But cards cost money, the Postal Service needs to keep raising the cost of stamps to dig itself out of a financial hole that only seems to get deeper, and surrounded by the few dinosaurs such as yours truly, are the techies, who would much rather text, email, IM, or with the aid of the latest trendy electronic widget or gizmo, possibly even telepathically transmit their sentiments of the season.
Yes, some even use the telephone, and it still might even have a wire attached. (Any rotary dials still out there, or am I pushing the envelope too far?) Some friends and acquaintances reply by email (Yes, I actually have that resource!) as well, and that's all OK. I mentioned that in passing to someone recently who retorted, "Do you really expect a reply from a Christmas card?" Sheepishly (Yes, I'm sheepish sometimes, about as often as a lunar or solar eclipse though!), "Yes." Mea culpa if that sounds too demanding and selfish, not that I would take umbrage if someone didn't reply (and some don't), but I think the whole process is fun, and receiving for me is as fun as giving in this tradition ever gradually and sadly falling into obsolescence.
I'm a purist (though far from pure), so none of this politically correct "Happy Holidays," or "Seasons Greetings" nonsense for me in my Christmas cards. It's "Merry Christmas," period, and no, I really don't care what your religious faith or whiz-bang , rocket science theory of atheism is. Take religion out of the argument. Christ was born and walked the earth, and plenty of documentation supports that fact. You may not necessarily accept Him as your Savior, but in this country most of us still do, and that aside, whether He was born on December 25th or not, and yes, I know the exact date is disputed, that is nevertheless the date on which we celebrate His birth. We don't pussyfoot around in calling Washington's birthday, Lincoln's birthday, or Martin Luther King Day what they are, and plenty of factual data supports that those guys all lived and walked the earth as well. It's called Christmas, period. Suck it up. For those of you who are if a different religious faith or heritage, please apprise mein interaction as to what it is and I will gladly and respectfully extend your specific holiday greeting to you accordingly, but "Merry Christmas" refers to celebrating Christ's birthday, which like it or not, really did occur, whenever it occurred. The message of Christmas, despite the venomous spin so often placed on it by secularists, progressives, dissidents and humanists, is inclusive to all, and bereft of any coercion, extends an offer of love, peace and hope for anyone choosing to accept the invitation. And that is why even many non-Christians also celebrate Christmas in an increasingly acidic world in which virtues such as "love," "peace" and "hope" now sound better than ever.
Christmas cards are often an aid I use in my routine sarcasm. For example, if I do something to irritate someone, or if I believe someone does not like me (speaking strictly hypothetically, of course), I might typically say, "Well I guess I won't be getting a Christmas card from him this year."
As a kid, I can recall my mother (our residential Christmas card sender), sending cards to some folks we seldom if ever heard from. I always thought the idea rather silly. Then I grew into adulthood and I now do the same thing. And oddly enough, it's not so silly any more. Adult wisdom trumping childish folly, perhaps?
Every once in a while when the mood so strikes me, I just might write somebody a letter. Chances are, it's someone whose phone number and email address I already have, but that's another dying literary form that I am still desperately trying to keep alive in my little corner of the world. Ditto, I guess, with Christmas cards. Yes, emails and phone calls are nice, but there is just something special about physically receiving a Christmas card (or a letter) in the mail, opening it and anxiously awaiting the message.
Ah yes, the message. They could be short and sweet, or longer and more elaborative. Those are the ones I enjoy most, especially from people whom I have had little or less contact over the years for a variety of reasons. And I occasionally try to reciprocate as well. It's a great way to catch up, especially during a time of year for me, and others as well, that is particularly sentimental. You could say that gesture is hypocritical if we only so "catch up" at Christmas time, or take the view that because of the "reason for the season," as they say, we are so filled with sentiment, dubbed "Christmas spirit," and thus take the time to do that which for whatever reason, we could not or did not do before.
Then there are those who combine the two dying literary forms currently and rudely being squeezed out by modern cyber technology, and annually write and send "Christmas letters," summing all the years big events in the family.
Others go the photographic route, and Christmas cards are based around a photo of the youngins, or maybe for animal lovers, the dogs, cats, birds, fish, reptiles and all other creatures that walk, fly, swim or slither throughout the abode, and sometimes posed in funny situations and donning Santa hats or similar Christmas garb. Successfully getting these little creatures (the animal kind, and the human kind) to remain still long enough to take the photo is nothing short what could be called the "eighth" wonder of the world!
Something about Christmas cards binds us together, often when we are miles apart from each other, particularly for our military families whose loved ones serving our country are separated and far away, and possibly in hostile environments. I am amazed every year at the various cities and even states my cards go out to. Yes, emails and phone calls can help shrink those miles ate well, but there is something about getting that festive looking item in the mail box, from all those miles away and at this very poignant time of year that no form of technology has yet been able to quite duplicate or surpass. Much like paying my bills by mail (yes, I still do, and will continue to do so for as long as I can), there is something simple, yet substantively gratifying about giving and especially receiving Christmas cards by mail. (OK, so maybe less so with bills!) The techies, while saving time, energy, and yes, especially money, an ever shrinking commodity in today's troubled economy, don't fully appreciate what they're missing. Then again, toll calls and computer viruses can cost money, too! Perhaps that is also why this slowly dying, but ever heartwarming tradition should suddenly stop dying and be further embraced and passed down by the coming generations so tragically and increasingly robbed of wholesome and once cherished traditions.
"Christmas weaves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer, and more beautiful." (Norman Vincent Peale)