The Holiday Cards are starting to come in... and it got me thinking about the tradition of sending Holiday Cards.
First, of course, it got me wondering whether we have any cards in "back-stock" and how many I'll need to buy, and how many I'll be sending .... but as I stood in line at the post office to buy stamps today, I began musing...
To whom does one send these cards? and why?
When I first got married, I found that my husband had an interesting dichotomous view of cards. On the one hand, he didn't see any reason to add notes to cards, and didn't really want to be involved in their sending at all, but when I asked him to tell me who he wanted to send cards to -- he gave me a list of about a hundred people.... without thinking about it very hard. (Lots of them were business acquaintences).
I send holiday cards to all of the family members that I so rarely get to see (and, as I do with some of the friends who receive cards, I typically enclose an Annual Letter that sort of summarizes the past year so that folks we don't see enough can keep up with our shenanigans). I also send them to the friends I'd claim as family if I could. Those are easy. But there are also those whom I've not seen in ten years or more -- and some whom I've never met but who were Golf Pro's friends back before I met him. There are some people about whom I wonder -- our only contact seems to be this annual exchange of holiday cards.
There was a point when it seemed like we were sending a hundred to a hundred fifty cards out, and not getting so many in return... and I got all anal and weird and set up a spread sheet to keep track of who we send cards to, and who we receive cards from. (It also helped me keep track of how many cards to get, and whether I'd actually send one to each person THIS year). After awhile, I started weeding the list -- folks to whom we'd sent cards for a certain number of years without receiving a card (or other contact) began to fall off the list. And of course, when cards came back becasue the people had moved, I either removed the person from the next year's list, or began a diligent search for the lost friend.
This year, we're a bit cash strapped. This year, I wondered whether I ought to forgo this ritual. After all, between the cards themselves, and the newsletters, and the labels (my hands can't write that many addresses by hand), and the stamps, it gets pretty expensive to send out Holiday Cards. We send out twenty to our "closest" family alone.
For so many of these people, I have e-mail addresses -- why don't I just e-mail the Annual Letter along with some warm Holiday Greetings? Or send e-cards? Mostly because there is something special... different... more meaningful about a tangible card. It's an object I can hold in my hand; it's a paper upon which a real person has written words just for me (even if it's just a signature). It's a contact that the electronic media just doens't quite match. And... it makes my mantle piece look festive ... and as the number of cards exceeds that which the mantles can hold, reminds me - visibly - for the rest of the season that there are a bunch of folks out there who care enough to send a card.
And so... because I want to keep that human connection going, I succumb to the material craze of the Holidays, and buy cards (well, okay I usually buy them in July at this amazing discount store in Maine), and buy stamps, and print, and write... and send those personal notes to my friends and family along the way.
Luckily, this year, the back-stock seems pretty full.