Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Season's greetings? Hmm ...


Am I the only person under 40 who still bothers with Christmas cards? A great deal of time and energy goes into choosing the right one, often starting months in advance. Not only is care and attention paid to the card itself but then I faithfully write a personal message in each one. None of this sign-the-name-shove-it-in-the-envelope business. I’ve decided if you value someone enough to send them a Christmas card then you should at least be bothered to write a personal sentence to them inside it.

I’m definitely in the minority with this philosophy. Without specifically shaming anyone in particular, I’ve even received cards that don’t contain my name at the top, merely on the envelope. Such aloof bits of paper conjure up either a minor celebrity signing away as if it’s the latest kiss-and-tell autobiography or the world’s most stressed woman ploughing through 3,256 cards before knocking out 912 mince pies. Surely no one who sends me a card is that famous, or that harassed?

Totally impersonal cards are like a blank email. Yes, it’s nice to know you dedicated a second and half to thinking of me, but really I’m a little offended you couldn’t spare me the full minute. However, I would take any of these over nothing at all, or worse: Christmas card criticism. The season of joy on earth and good will to all men means I socialise to the point of exhaustion and near nervous collapse. To each occasion I always take cards – for my hosts and for other friends I might see there. Why? Over-zealous card compulsion? Irrational desire to keep writing my own name? No, because it’s polite.

At least I think so. As a child I remember people thanking my mother when she handed these envelopes over, smiling and making appreciative noises. Sadly that’s not my experience. I’m often greeted with a look of definite irritation and statements like “Oh, I’m not doing cards this year”. Suddenly my gesture of good will is four inches square of unwanted paper making all around it distinctly uncomfortable. Longing for the courage gleaned from a third glass of mulled wine, I imagine saying “Well, maybe you should. It is tradition, good manners and stops you feeling so awkward in situations like these.”

Instead I nod and look sympathetic as the excuses start. It’s either “work’s been manic”, or “as we’re away for Christmas we didn’t the see the point” or, increasingly, “it’s not very environmentally friendly”.

With the word ‘RECYCLE’ ready to burst out of my mouth at volume, I find it safer to stick to a non-committal “Mmm” while wondering when the whole world became so lazy that writing out a Christmas card was too much effort.

This maddening trend is symptomatic of society losing sight of the little thoughtful actions which make it a more pleasant place to be. I’m so sick of hearing everyone’s so incredibly busy it’s a miracle they even have time to go to the bathroom. And yet these are often the same people updating their status every five minutes on Facebook announcing what they’re watching on the telly or having for dinner that night.

No one’s suggesting you make the damn thing from scratch in a frenzy of gold pen and glitter – just spend a few minutes, once a year, to remind people why they’re important to you.

However, if that’s still beyond you due to a job as rocket scientist, on-call brain surgeon or self-appointed television critic, then at least have the good grace to thank someone who has taken the time.

At Christmas it’s common to put differences aside, so is it really too much to ask for a little good will towards a well-intentioned friend proffering a few kind words lurking behind a picture of Santa getting stuck down a chimney? Read more by Rosie.

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