Wednesday 26 October 2016

I mightn't send you a card - just don't take it personally

Published 22/12/2015 | 02:30

'I will try to comfort myself with the fact that, because I haven't sent any Christmas cards, it doesn't make me a bad person'
'I will try to comfort myself with the fact that, because I haven't sent any Christmas cards, it doesn't make me a bad person'

It is three days before Christmas and I'm exhausted after another night of tossing, turning and waking up in hot sweats. Despite the fact I am a woman of a certain age, it is not the start of the menopause. I know - because all the online help blogs say a massive sense of guilt does not accompany the onset of the change of life.

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It is not worry over the visit of Santa, either. I know I have been a good girl this year and I have made my list - and I have even checked it twice. (More than twice, in truth).

My angst is due to another list, one I have been checking over and over in my mind as I lie wide awake. It is a long list of family, friends and colleagues who won't be getting a Christmas card from me this year.

I can't believe that, despite every best intention, I have gotten to this point … again. After last year's disaster I was determined to be organised. The charity Christmas cards were bought at the beginning of November, with several books of stamps from An Post. My Christmas card list, which is stored on a special file on my laptop, was opened up and updated. There was even a sub-list of people who sent me cards last year but who didn't get one from me (I hate that feeling when a card drops in the door and you realise, in horror, you hadn't sent one to them). But despite my very best intentions my Christmas card lapse, which started about three years ago, is now complete. At least in the last few years I did manage to send the really important ones - but this year I am afraid, dear family and friends, you won't be getting one from me.

But don't take it personally.

I've checked around and I am not the only one in this position. After a quick straw poll I am amazed at the extent of Christmas card angst and stress among my friends. Getting the shopping done, Santa organised and the house decorated is no problem. But the Christmas cards ... aaagggh!

The custom of sending Christmas cards is a lovely one. It was started well ahead of our social media and online age in Britain in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole, a civil servant who wondered how the new 'Public Post Office' could be used more by ordinary people. Sir Henry and artist John Horsley designed the world's first card and sold them for 1 shilling each. (About 8 cents in today's money.)

The card had three panels. The outer two panels showed people caring for the poor and in the centre panel was a family having a large Christmas dinner. (Although some people didn't like the card because it showed a child being given a glass of wine!). About 1,000 cards were printed and sold that first year, and some of those rare cards survived through collectors

The custom quickly spread all over Europe and across the Atlantic to America in the late 1840s.

This week, thousands and thousands of Christmas cards will be dropping through letterboxes all over Ireland. There will be religious ones with nativity scenes, funny ones, cards with wistful romantic winter themes and, of course, various Santa Clauses. And there will be cards from various charities.

I know someone who even sends a lovely Christmas card with pictures of his two adored dogs.

Of course, there will be cute cards from the American cousins with the perfect family photo. The Cambridges have gotten in on the act, with the Royals William and Kate sending a card with their two children on it.

And what about the cards our politicians send? I won't say who, but I get two cards from the same high-profile politician every year. He is so diligent I am on his list twice. (Paid for by the taxpayer). We used to wait with great anticipation every year to see what the offering was from master of self-publicity, former Fianna Fáil TD Ivor Callely. Who can forget the year he was pictured with his family in a snow-covered scene?

This year, Independent Tipperary TD Michael Lowry's Christmas card is quite something. Deputy Lowry's name is positioned just below the bright, shining star in a tree, with policy terms dotted among the tinsel and baubles - 'Committed', 'Future', 'Results' and 'Kindness' are all there in gold, while policy issues like 'Education', 'Health', 'Security' and 'Youth' are all coloured in red. And, of course, there's a picture of the man himself on the back.

And President Michael D Higgins has won widespread praise for his official festive greeting featuring the Virgin Mary breastfeeding the infant Jesus. The image of 'Madonna of the Green Cushion' has been sent to hundreds of heads of states and diplomats around the world. Many people have switched Christmas cards for those awful online and impersonal e-cards. Delete, delete, delete. They are nearly as bad as getting the group Happy Christmas text or Facebook message.

With the overseas Christmas post deadline long gone, and just one day to the deadline for posting cards in Ireland, I have to admit defeat. The unwritten Christmas card pile and stamps will be stored away in the hope I will get around to it next year.

I will try to comfort myself with the fact that, because I haven't sent any Christmas cards, it doesn't make me a bad person.

If I have learned anything this year it is to appreciate the love I have all around me every day.

Instead of a card, I look forward to spending time with people who are important to me in my life over the next week - a lot more meaningful than sending a rushed message just because it's expected.

And, for people I won't see, especially those abroad, I promise I will pick up the phone to pass on Christmas greetings directly.

So, as a lapsed Christmas card sender, I plan to sleep peacefully tonight. Happy Christmas all.

Irish Independent

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