(In the spirit of disclosure, I admit that my husband works for a greeting card company.It’s embarrassing, really, with my confession about the last several years.)
I just sent out the very few Christmas cards that I will send this year…I sent out probably just as few last year, and the year before. There were a number of years in there where I sent out none.
This is so far from the days when I was young and every Christian we knew sent and received Christmas cards, and we also heard from friends of other faiths at the same time. Cards came in from relatives close and distant, from neighbors past and present. Many of these people we only heard from in this manner, once a year. They were known as “Christmas-card people” or “Christmas-card friends.”
Cards came in droves from former co-workers and people that one didn’t know but who worked for the same company; the companies would ‘mimeograph’ lists of workers and their addresses just so people could send each other cards. So many cards came from so many people that when I was young, we would have two mail deliveries the last few weeks before Christmas. My mother sent out quite a number of good-quality cards. My father was not a man to spend much money, but he always let my mother buy expensive Christmas trees and Christmas cards.The cards had to have truly beautiful pictures and be made of high-quality paper. And she bought a great number of stamps; it was money that we probably should have put to better use, but it made everyone happy.
When I was very young, there were two classes of mail as it related to letters. First Class were your standard correspondence with the envelopes sealed; they needed a 3–cent stamp. Second Class mail was the same only the back flap was folded-in, not sealed, and you could get away with using a 2-cent stamp. When I was still young, the rates went up to 3 cents for the second class and 5-cents for first, and believe me, back then, it was quite a jump, especially with the vast amount of cards that went out. My mother would spend the extra money to seal most of the cards to show respect, but some she tucked-in, also to show respect. The tucked ones were only sent to the people she knew could not afford much, and she did not want to let her sealed envelopes and her extra cent,(or two), stamps make them feel bad or look as if we were flaunting our money. (Frankly, we had nothing to flaunt. Our cards belied our means.)
It would seem rather strange to send Christmas cards to those whom I see or hear from nearly every day online or to relatives and friend with whom I often speak. Gone are the days when you seldom wrote and never called most absent folk. I recently spoke with a young adult who had no idea that telephone calls, especially long-distance calls, had been so few and far between with most people.
The calls were very expensive and sometimes, one party did not have a phone, so to wait for the person called to be tracked-down and gotten to the phone wasted a great deal of money. Calling ‘person-to-person’ alleviated that, because the caller was not billed until or unless the other party took the call. It was so expensive that often when people traveled, they would call home to a relative or friend and make a person-to-person call to themselves, just to let it be known that they had arrived safely, and yet, not be charged for the call. All that seems like a very long time ago, but it wasn’t.
But the more I think about it, it wouldn’t be so strange. In fact, it would be fun to go back to seeing the different stamps come in with their different holiday address labels on the different cards. Each person has a unique personality and their taste is/was reflected in their cards, be they religious, cute, homey, funny or downright irreverent. It is still fun for me to pick out cards that reflect my taste and the people to whom I would sent each card. Granted, I cannot send cards to every “Friend” and “Friend of Friend” on Facebook, I have just decided that I will make a concerted effort not just to call, email, text and message all of my family and friends next year, but to make a real effort to get a number of Christmas cards into people’s hands….unless the postal rates get me.
What about you? Do you send Christmas cards? What do you remember about Christmas cards when you were young?