As I was sitting down to write out my Christmas cards this year, it occurred to me that this is a dated and possibly useless endeavor. After all, I could just message these people on Facebook, or send them a quick email or ecard. What is the point of penning a cheery "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" to folks I'm going to see in a few weeks anyway, or even more strangely, to people I am probably never going to see again in this lifetime?
So...I got to thinking about it, and made up a little top 10 list of why Christmas cards are still important even though records show their numbers are down. Christmas is the time of lists, anyway, so what's one more?
Top 10 Reasons for Sending Christmas Cards
1) The physical act of choosing a card, writing an address and a note takes time, during which one is likely to find one's self really thinking about the person to whom you're writing. I can keyboard an email in a few seconds -- but sitting down with a pen is somehow a greater commitment. And, no doubt you paid good money for that card -- you don't want to mess it up with sloppy penmanship or misspellings.
2) Cards are pretty and make excellent decorations. In most cases (but certainly not all) sending out a card raises your chances of getting a card in return. I like to display the cards I receive along a string of holiday lights, or set them out on my piano. Though I'm not big on decorations (here it is a week from Christmas and I don't even have a wreath up), cards are easy and fun. If you're artsy-craftsy, cards also offer a chance to create a personalized work of art (Papyrus or Hallmark are good enough for me).
3) You get to think about people you haven't thought of in a while. Sometimes, when I'm sending out cards from my list, I realize that I haven't really thought about a particular person in a very long time. Christmas cards are a chance to look back on my life and some of the relationships that don't impact me on a daily basis, and yet are still treasured in some way.
4) You get to think about why you are still friends (or still care about) certain individuals and not so much about others. Yes, it's also an opportunity to wonder why you are still sending a card to someone you never especially liked in the first place.
5) You get to communicate with people who aren't on Facebook or the Internet (yes, I know these are rare, but there are still a few old dinosaurs out there who aren't into social networking). Through Christmas cards I struck up a correspondence with my creative writing college professor from way back when, and a few friends from grade school (including a guy I had an immense crush on in fourth grade).
6) It's nice to get a message that doesn't come as a text or email. Somehow, opening an envelope that does not come from the phone or utility company makes one feel "special."
7) Writing out cards gives me a chance to sit with a cup of tea and not get up for a full hour or more. It's lovely to have an excuse to sit at a desk and write.
8) Christmas cards connect us to extended family. With everyone so busy and scattered across the country we don't get together the way we used to in days of yore. The yearly card gives me a chance to say "hey" to my cousins in Florida or Buffalo without starting up an extended Facebook conversation.
9) When your kids see you writing out cards they realize that the art of good penmanship is not yet dead. They learn (perhaps) that there is life -- and communication -- beyond their computer screens.
10) And last, but not least, cards are short, sweet, and to the point. I'm not a fan of those long-winded letters folks send out during the holidays, detailing every cruise they took, concert they attended or visit to the orthopedic surgeon for another knee replacement (how many knees can one cousin have anyway?). A card is an aesthetically appealing (usually), clear-cut, open-and-closed affair.
So, even though I briefly considered sending out a bulk "Merry Christmas" email this year, it looks like I will be traipsing off to the good old-fashioned post office once again to buy a few books of stamps! (Of course, I know I could order my stamps online, but my tedious Christmas trek to the US Post Office is all part of the holiday fun.)