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Feeling sorrow about the long lost practice of sending and receiving Christmas cards that, no matter what the distance, seemed to bring people closer together.

Feeling the Christmas Card Blues

There was a time I recall not that long ago when Christmas cards were sent through regular mail as a way of connecting with friends and family at the end of the year. Besides the obligatory greetings and closings written respectively above and below the printed text on the cards, they usually contained messages apprising the reader about events and happenings during the year gone by, which seemed especially important coming from people who lived far away.

There were those more verbose card senders who would include a folded piece of paper inside the card with a long message covering the year gone by. I remember Mom waiting for these, especially from some of our more colorful relatives, who would describe their annual “adventures” playing bingo, visits to the doctor, trips to exotic locations, disputes with neighbors, and other matters in great and many times humorous detail.

This was, of course, long ago in a galaxy far away without text messages, email, and Facebook. Now it is almost a given that people stay in touch easily, and tidbits like “Sally had a baby” or “Uncle Ralph retired” would not wait to come in a year-end card but in some electronic form of communication throughout the year.

xmas cardThese days I am still receiving physical cards, some sent from those far and wide, but sadly for the most part they contain just greetings and closings. I wonder about the year the senders have spent, and would like to know more. Unfortunately, these are people I do not encounter online. I have no idea what has happened since they sent a similar card the year before, and that will continue to be the case in the year ahead.

Maybe these people just choose to live their lives day-in-day-out and prefer for people not to know their business. Of course, they have no obligation to inform me of their ups and downs throughout the year, but I wonder why they even bother sending the card in the first place.

My father passed away a few years ago, but he used to shake his head upon receiving these “no message” Christmas cards. I asked him why he thought people did that, and he said, “They’re checking to see if I still have a pulse.” Dad may have been on to something there, since he would never send a card to someone who hadn’t sent him one first (or had sent one the year before).

I still send out cards every year, but since I have children that means I am in the picture card zone. My wife and I debate about the pictures to select – ones that will attempt to convey a year in our children’s lives – and then we choose three shots, make up the cards at a local CVS, and send them off in an envelope with a printed message and nothing else. A couple of years ago I tried writing messages on the back, but that ruined the images on the front of the card, so I suspended that practice. So obviously I am not part of the solution but part of the problem too.

When I think about the cards we used to receive when I was a child, there must have been at least a hundred of them each year. Dad would take some of his old fishing line and tack it across the dining room wall in rows to hang all the cards to make an enormous and unique decoration. I remember happily thinking that we had so many relatives and friends.

Thus far this season I have received about ten cards – a far cry from days gone by. Most of my older relatives have passed away now, and some have moved away and lost touch. After the older generation was gone, their children didn’t keep up the practice. It saddens me to have lost connections with relatives who, even if they lived far away, had remained part of our lives albeit through the written word.

This year I have received numerous Christmas greetings through email and texts, and the usual warm wishes have been posted on Facebook. These forms of conveying greetings and good wishes are fine, and I have grown used to this as the order of things in the world we live in today.

xmas card2Still, as I wrap presents and prepare for gatherings with family this Christmas, I listen to songs on the radio, and invariably old Bing Crosby comes on singing “White Christmas” and is dreaming of one with every Christmas card he writes. It inevitably makes me feel sorrow about the long lost practice that, no matter what the distance, seemed to bring people closer together.

With all the instant gratification and immediacy of the technology we have now, something tangible seems to be missing, something I doubt we will ever get back. I feel sad for my children; I feel sad for us all.

 

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana's stories, articles, and poems have been published in literary magazines and online. His books 'A Death in Prague' (2002), 'Move' (2003), 'The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories' (2005), and 'Like a Passing Shadow' (2009) are available in print, online, and as e-books. His latest books 'Heartbeat and Other Poems,' 'If the Fates Allow: New York Christmas Stories,' 'Garden of Ghosts,' and 'Flashes in the Pan' are available exclusively on Amazon. After winning the National Arts Club Award for Poetry while attending Queens College, he concentrated on writing mostly fiction and non-fiction prose until the recent publication of his new book of poetry, 'Heartbeat and Other Poems' (now available on Amazon). He has worked as a faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with 'Blogcritics Magazine' since July 2005 and has written many articles on a variety of topics; previously co-head sports editor, he now is a Culture and Society and Flash Ficition editor. Having traveled extensively, Victor has visited six continents and intends to get to Antarctica someday where he figures a few ideas for new stories await him.

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4 comments

  1. Still sending about 50 “old school” personal & hand-signed cards per year, especially because I know how much it means to the over-50-not-on-Social media generation. Good news is, when the kids turn 10, you can have them write the addresses 😉

    • Thanks for the idea, Beth. I also have ideas about them shoveling snow when they get older, but that’s another story. Merry Christmas!

  2. Loved this Victor, and just when I have proclaimed to cut down on what I send next year! I traditionally mail out an information-filled, humorous, and self-deprecating look back at our family’s year along with handwritten notes above and below the printed card message each year. I buy traditional cards, I hand address (no mailing labels, except for the return), sign, fold and insert a family photo. I mailed about 65+ this year, down from over 80 when our kids were younger. I received about 30 (yes, I count), with maybe a handful of them having personal notes of any kind, and two letters. I just decided that next year, I was going to eliminate so many names, so many who don’t send cards. My husband and kids look forward to me writing the letter each year. I’ve received 3 phone calls from people who’ve read the letter and a couple of messages. Truth is, I think I send it for myself, to let people know I’m thinking of them. To keep something old alive. I’m sharing your piece and having second thoughts about cutting back. Merry Christmas – if I had your address, I’d send you one!

  3. Thanks, Suzanne. I do get it – when you have kids and extended family at a distance, the idea is to let everyone know how they are growing up. I recall my Mom saving cousins photos every year – some for 20 years if they continued to be spent. Only when she passed away and I went through her things did I realize how many she kept. They meant something to her.

    This year we sent out about 60 cards and got ten or so in return. I will keep doing it because I know for similar reasons you note. Thanks again.