To Christmas Card or Not To Christmas Card?


I get fierce Christmas amnesia. It’s sort of like 50 First Dates on eggnog and a bottle of Jack. I wake up the day after Thanksgiving and totally forget everything I ever knew the previous 11 months about the misery of Christmas.

So I make my Christmas self write notes to my girl-who-does-all-the-work-of-Christmas self, like:

  • These kids are too old to travel Christmas Day—next year Christmas at home!
  • What is the answer to: “Do you want to exchange brother/sister gifts?” NO!
  • Christmas cards? FORGET THEM. Facebook has done your work.
But last year when I intended to give up Christmas cards forever, I got a bunch of Christmas cards in the mail. I loved them. I loved seeing the kids I used to babysit hire babysitters of their own. I loved pictures of weddings and new babies. I loved pictures of new guys in uniform and old guys suddenly out of uniform with their weird shaggy hair.

I felt like I was missing something.

But what was I missing? Hunting through my Facebook page for pictures of my family that everyone has already seen on Facebook? Hounding my kids into a group photo on Thanksgiving when they all had colds, bed head and looked like the spawn of Keith Richards? Sending Shutterfly $100 so boxes of cards would clutter my kitchen counter unaddressed because I don’t have any more time at Christmas than I do any other time of the year? Giving the postal clerk the evil eye until she has to reconsider the meaning of the word postal?

Put that way, I’m not missing anything by skipping the Christmas card tradition.

Put that way, no one would want a Christmas card from a person as negative as me. Which is certainly one thing.

But then there is the other thing: the effect those cards had on me. Yes, the effort my cousins and aunts and sibs and friends and neighbors from long ago went to in order to send me a picture of themselves on a beach was high. The effect though, was higher.

Because I set the cards on my geographic bachelor husband’s dinner plate when he came home on weekends. Talking about where the Mullis clan now lived, and a proposed visit from my cousin’s kid on a college hunting trip, and all the doesn’t-Kath-look-awesome comments reminded us of our history.

The cards stuck around the hall mirror lured the kids to look and say, “Do I know them?” Or, “Don’t you think we ought to go skydiving too?”

Facebook, while a frequent part of my life, takes no effort from me. Facebook pushes the people I like most to the top of my newsfeed. But I don’t save their posts.  I don't tuck them in a drawer or post them on the fridge. I don’t look at them more than once. I rarely go to check out anyone that I know and just generally like.

Christmas cards are a kind of push marketing that I really need during the holidays.

There is something about the effort involved that reminds me that I am on someone’s list. That they wanted me to know how they are doing and that they knew I would care. That they thought of me at Christmas and counted me as a blessing.

That’s probably why there is a note from my Christmas self taped to the door of the closet where I store ornaments: SEND CHRISTMAS CARDS NOW!  Because I not only want to receive Christmas cards, I want to give them, too -- and be part of the meaning of Christmas cards in a world too rushed, too fleeting, too ephemeral to believe.

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