So today I have a Christmas card dilemma.

Last year, we decided to send ‘real’ cards only to friends and relations who are averse to modern technology. Everyone else got a cheery email and a pdf of our annual Christmas letter. We saved a lot of money on cards and stamps and used most of it to twin our toilet. Toilet Twinning is a most excellent charity that is tackling the shocking fact that forty per cent of people in the world do not have access to a safe, clean and hygienic place to go to the loo. (Just think about that. I have been at home, at university and at work today and have used at least five different loos, all of which were regularly cleaned and came with handbasins as standard.)

In deciding to make electronic contact at Christmas, we also felt we were making a very small contribution to cutting back on the amount of paper and card that is consumed at this time of year.

The problem was that the majority of people we contacted this way did not respond. It was as if our failure to send a card meant that we were deleted from their Christmas lists. Like a lot of people who are past the first flush (whoops, no pun intended) of youth, we do have quite a few friendships which rely on Christmas cards to keep them alive. I know that might sound as if they are not important, but actually they represent relationships that we don’t want to abandon. They were born out of significant shared experiences and while they may have abated since we had our children or moved ‘up north’, they could easily revert to being more active as circumstances change.

So yesterday I went out and bought several boxes of cards from the local Oxfam shop and tomorrow I will go and spend a fair bit on stamps at the Post Office and we will probably stay up far too late writing these cards in order to catch the last date for second class post on Saturday.

It is so difficult to cut back on consumption at this time of year and not appear Scrooge-like. I would be interested to hear what other people do. Were we being mean when we sent the emails and pdfs? Is the consumption of paper offset by the benefits of using charity cards? Are Christmas cards in fact a dying tradition? If you regularly communicate with distant friends via Facebook or Skype, etc,  is there even any point in them any more?

5 thoughts on “thirteen

  1. I have been having exactly the same thoughts today and it is a comfort to know that I am not the only one so to do. I think it is perfectly acceptable to make contact with distant friends electronically over Christmas, especially if those messages are personal to the individuals, or equally to decide that people might prefer a paper card – I’m mostly thinking non-IT savvy aunties here. As for tradition, didn’t the Christmas card only come about because the availability of mail services enabled people to send correspondence easily – and the entrepreneurs then stepped in with manufactured cards? Surely using electronic mail is just a progression of that, and one that is in the hands of the individual.

    I didn’t send many cards last year and I won’t send many this year either. And I could not give a toss if people think I am being a Scrooge – how I choose to spend my money and time, whether on cards or charity, is for me to live with.

  2. It is difficult to cut back. I have to say I do the Christmas card thing reluctantly although there have been a few years when I’ve just not managed to get it done and I was surprised that some people felt left out. I made sure I pointed out that I left everybody out. I wish I was brave enough just not to do it and just give people a ring or write a wee letter instead. I hate the way Christmas cards have become quite impersonal. I know I would be happier with a short note or a phone call.

  3. Hi Jo, this is Louise Thomas (ex HSJ) – have enjoyed your blog in the past and am thrilled to find this one as I am currently the press officer for Toilet Twinning. Thank you for twinning and for spreading the word about it too. For the record, I tend to send cards only to people I won’t get the opportunity to wish a Happy Christmas to in person. Keep up the lovely blog, Louise

    • Fantastic! So glad to hear you are doing this job. It must be really interesting. I’m trying to blog about once a week now but sometimes I just don’t get the time.

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