Sunday, January 16, 2011

A last thought for the holidays

I’m catching up with personal items today as the rain mists across Cambridgeshire.  The shopping is done, banking is caught up, my offices are tidy.

I’ve started updating the Christmas card list, copying addresses from the cards received into the address books.  And starting to wonder if there is still a point.

Christmas cards were a way to keep in touch with friends from school, from old jobs, from family connections.  Each year, I’d send a greeting to about 50 families with an update on what our family was doing, our new contact information, and warm wishes for the season and the new year.  And most of them would write back, maybe with a picture or a newsletter; we all stayed in touch.

But now there’s Facebook.

Many of the people that I send cards to (and probably about 100 more that I didn’t have time or contact details to write) are now Friends whose status and pictures update periodically.  To varying degrees, I know what they’re doing, how to contact them, and exchange the occasional greeting.

So, are Christmas cards redundant?  I’d give them up reluctantly, but the inflow diminishes each year, down to about 20 now, and my enthusiasm for sending cards wanes as well. I would feel guilty sending e-cards, and still send (Dutch) cards to a dozen close friends and immediate family.  But I can forsee a time, several years away, when the tradition draws to a close.

The US Census Bureau says that 1.9 billion Christmas cards are sent each year (Valentines Day is second, with 192 million).  I prefer the opportunity to be in closer, more casual touch with people who remain important in my life.  But I will miss the color and the surprise of the yearly greeting.

Something lost; something gained. On balance…?  It’s a topic to ponder over tea while watching the rain fall over the gardens.

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