You might have heard of Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count. For 119 years, birders all over North and South America have traveled specific routes between December 14 and January 5 counting every bird they see or hear and reporting their findings.
Well, I’m starting an annual Christmas card count. Birders watch the rise and fall of avian populations, and I’m interested in the demise of paper greetings.
Sending good wishes for Christmas via printed greeting cards has been a tradition since the mid 19th century, if Wikipedia can be believed. I’ve been sending them in some form for most of my adult life; in the past decade, mine have been mini-gifts of good wishes, pictures and stories packaged in beautiful paper, sometimes preprinted envelopes, thoughtfully selected stamps and, if I’m really on top of my game, envelope seals. My Christmas cards are a production, and it’s one Christmas tradition I adore.
Holiday baking? I’m more of a critic than a participant anymore.
Decorating the tree? Meh.
Wrapping gifts? Oh, I wish I had the enthusiasm for Scotch tape that I have for postage stamps.
When it comes to Christmas cards, I enjoy planning them, creating them and sending them, and then I relish in receiving them. I sit down with a cup of coffee and no distractions, reading my pile of cards and letters each day during the season.
But since the advent of Facebook among us Baby Boomers and Generation X, my incoming Christmas cards have noticeably decreased. Few Millennials have ever sent Christmas cards (they don’t even know what a checkbook register is! who has time for mailing paper cards?), but I see Generation Xers now actively abandoning the tradition because they keep in touch through the year with the people they care about via Facebook (and maybe Twitter, Instagram, blogs or some other social media outlet). They don’t need greeting cards and long newsy letters to share the highlights of the year. They already know who had babies, who lost their family pets, who got new jobs and bought new houses and where everyone vacationed.
Even I struggled a bit this year to provide new news. I documented my every move regarding the renovation of my new old house via a blog (and Facebook). What else is there? Well, I found some “news,” but I kept it brief. I think other people who share a lot less information online than I do have found the exercise of Christmas cards to be superfluous (also, probably, expensive and time-consuming, but honestly, I don’t think sending Christmas cards has ever been particularly cheap or easy).
I live in a small town now where the annual community parade this past summer lasted 12 minutes (I timed it). That’s how my incoming Christmas cards are now: Short, sweet and to-the-point. The best cards I received included a personal hand-written note, which I appreciated so much, I know I need to do more of this.
Here’s my count: I sent 65 personal cards this year (plus 50 for my husband’s business). Two of my cards were returned (“address unknown; no such number, no such zone”). And I received 33 cards.
One of my dear friends wrote in her Christmas letter, “I adore the month of December and all the things leading up to the celebration of Christmas–but nothing more than getting cards in the mailbox. First, a huge thank you to everyone who has not given up on this delightful tradition. Christmas cards are the Joy of the season!”
Hear, hear! I couldn’t agree more. If you didn’t send me a Christmas card, that’s OK. I like sending mine to you enough that I don’t require reciprocation. But if you sent me a Christmas card, thank you! I read every one of them, enjoyed hearing from you and I’m still thinking good thoughts about you and your good wishes. Thank you.