As a kid, I often raced down our rocky driveway to check the mailbox. I had pen pals from around the world who traded snail mail with me and I always got a thrill when there was a letter addressed to me, in the box.
Years later, I found myself in a strange country surrounded by people I didn’t always understand, even though they spoke English. I would return home from work, hoping to find mail from a college friend or my mom. The letters would be sprawled on the floor, having silently slipped in through the old-fashioned slot in the door. I pored over those cards and letters and in return wrote the highs and lows of British life to my friends and family on the other side of the world.
And then I waited weeks for a reply.
It seems quite archaic in today’s fast-paced world, so maybe I’m a little old-fashioned. You see, I love snail mail. Stamps, envelopes, cards — they’ve always made me a little giddy. I used to spend hours in quirky shops, browsing the card and stationary aisles, collecting postcards and paper products to ship off to friends far away. In the days before the Internet made it so easy to share every thought and photo, sending and receiving letters was how we actually shared our lives with one another.
I didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas (that dear reader, is a lengthy story for another time…) but I did grow up writing to a lot of people throughout the entire year.
Although I celebrate Christmas now, I’m pretty minimal about it (some years I only put up a star and a string of white Christmas lights), but one thing I have always done without fail is mail holiday cards. Even when I worked onboard a hospital ship off the coast of Africa, I still somehow sent cards.
Sadly, real season’s greetings are a dying tradition. I can count on one hand the number I’ve received this year. And I get it. I really do. Life happens, babies are born, budgets get cut. It’s so easy nowadays to simply post a Christmas photo on Facebook to 550 of your closest friends.
However, allow me to sing the praises of snail mail season’s greetings, for just a moment.
I don’t buy Christmas presents for every single person I know. I don’t even send cards to everyone (that’s where Facebook greetings have their place!). But I do send out cards to a number of close friends — especially ones I haven’t seen recently, or ones who don’t live nearby. I even have friends who aren’t (*gasp*) actually on Facebook. I think of those holiday cards and photos as my little gift to those recipients.
Now, I get that it’s expensive. An email greeting or even a telephone call is cheaper. But an actual card is also a way to show your friends and family far away that you’re present, even if you’re not physically near. Chances are, you would get together with these same people and go out for coffee or drinks if you lived closer. Think of the card as buying your friend a beverage. When you look at it that way, mailing a card will seem much cheaper.
I also get that it’s time-consuming. However, writing out Christmas cards can be a way to show people that you’ve actually made time for them in this busy season, especially if you won’t get to see the person.
As I wrote out my cards this year, it occurred to me how many of my friends have lost loved ones over time, including this year. Someone who is celebrating their first (or any!) Christmas without their husband or a child may need to know they’re not forgotten, particularly during the holidays. If they can tack that reminder onto their fridge door to see daily — even better.
Over the years, I’ve watched Christmas become more and more commercially-oriented and way more BUSY. One of the moms groups I’m part of recently asked what was on everyone’s bucket list for Christmas. As I read the lengthy lists from each person, I literally got dizzy. I don’t know how these families fit it all in.
It’s no wonder people don’t have time, energy or even the desire to write cards.
Christmas is fast approaching, and I certainly don’t want to add anything to your already busy to do list.
Instead, I’ll offer you this simple challenge for next year. Buy a stash of cards when they go on sale after Christmas. Buy forever stamps in January, before the price goes up. And then when Thanksgiving rolls around next year, before you start making your own Christmas bucket list and checking it twice, think about a few people in your life you haven’t seen in a while and commit to sending them a real card. It doesn’t have to be a huge list of folks. Start off small.
If necessary, take one thing off of your list — let the gingerbread house go by the wayside, or buy a pre-made Advent calendar instead of going all Pinterest crazy and making your own. Get your kids involved (they can scribble on the backside of the card and provide ‘artwork’). Buy one less gift or even one less cup of coffee, and send someone a greeting card instead.