The Christmas Card

Curses to the person who started it all

December 14, 2021

I have a lot of friends who love, love, love Christmas. The decorations. The lights. Snow. Music. Truly, all of these things are wonderful and there’s a lot to enjoy this time of year.

A Victorian era Christmas card

But as the calendar turns from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas, I am filled with a sense of dread. “But, Barb,” you are no doubt exclaiming, “why?”

The answer is simple: Christmas Cards and presents.

Friends of mine who are not writers or ponderers (is that even a word? If not, it should be!) will never understand the anxiety this time of year brings to those of us who are either or both of these things. I’ve heard comments like “Well, you’re a writer, it’s easy for you to jot a note on a card, right?”

The answer, my friends, is “no, it is not.”

So here I sit on November 21 and I have not purchased a single Christmas card to send but I do still have at least a dozen different blank cards of varying quantities from holiday seasons past. Sometimes I send those out to family along with checks because I have no great ideas for presents.

My ‘collection’ of cards from Christmas past… always ‘some’ sent but never all, leaving a mishmash to choose from each year.

Which got me to wondering, “Who can I blame for the tradition of mailing Christmas cards?”

The Infallible Wikipedia, as always, provides some answers. Historians have discovered a Christmas card sent to James I of England in 1611! It is some 200 years later before the next such missive is noted:

“The next cards were commissioned by Sir Henry Cole and illustrated by John Callcott Horsley in London on 1 May 1843. The central picture showed three generations of a family raising a toast to the card’s recipient: on either side were scenes of charity, with food and clothing being given to the poor. Allegedly the image of the family drinking wine together proved controversial, but the idea was shrewd: Cole had helped introduce the Penny Post three years earlier. Two batches totaling 2,050 cards were printed and sold that year for a shilling each.”

The idea caught on and, by 1873, the phenomenon had become a cultural change in both Great Britain and the United States. In the early part of the 20th century, with the advent of mass produced cards, the sending of holiday greeting exploded. Hallmark – the largest manufacturer – posts that 1.6 BILLION Christmas cards are produced annually. Now that’s big business.

The sending of Christmas cards is also more likely to be from, ahem, older people. Younger folks don’t have a problem with digital greetings and messages, forsaking the now ‘old fashioned’ physical letter mailed through the post office.

The adorable stationary I chose for the 2021 Christmas letter

For me, personally, I prefer the ‘Christmas Letter.’ Why? Because when I have a blank card in front of me I feel guilty if I just sign my name and don’t pen a personal note to the recipient. But with the Christmas letter, I can agonize over each word, looking for just the right combination of humor and humility. And I get to type it on a computer which is much easier for a wordsmith.

For those who get one in the mail AND read my weekly Tuesday Newsday blog, the format of this will look familiar. Why, I asked myself, mess around with what works? And why not, I also conjectured, blend the need for Christmas greetings with my regular column?

Just one of about a dozen pages of Christmas cards in a scrapbook which belonged to my Great Aunt Frances DeVore. These are from 1945.

Voila! It’s the first annual Tuesday Newsday Christmas blog and greeting letter. A tidy way to accomplish it all.

No Christmas letter would be complete without a bit about the family. So here it goes: both kiddos are off doing their own things. The son is living in Mexico having recently purchased a Mexican fixer upper house. His days are filled with work as a Senior Software Engineer (working remotely) or solving a deluge of plumbing issues. The daughter got married at the height of COVID in December 2020. Not even the bride or groom’s parents attended the ceremony… the party was delayed a year to give close friends and family the opportunity to fete the happy couple. Even better is that the pair moved back to the PNW in April 2020 and both work for Amazon. I do my part to help support them. Sometimes so does the hubby. Thank goodness for that Prime membership!

Speaking of the hubby, he became president of our HOA earlier this year and he and I both manage to stay busy via our involvement with Masonic organizations. As I am a state officer for the Order of the Eastern Star this year, most weekends find us at a reception somewhere in Washington and many a weeknight I’m off to visits. What a wonderful experience it has been!

Photo Christmas Card from my Aunt Helen and Uncle Al to our family December 1956. The stockings behind them were handmade by my grandmother.

When not traveling, I stay busy writing my blog (www.barbaradevore.com), crafting my seventh novel, and cleaning house. Just kidding about that last one. My lazy housekeeper does that. For those wondering, my hope is to finally get a novel or four published. Back in 2005-ish I penned a list of things I wanted to accomplish. First on the list was ‘Write/Publish a Novel.’ Turns out the write part is easier than the publish part. Why? Well, in today’s world, one pretty much has to self-publish and self-promote their book(s). And that takes one commodity which I often find in short supply: time. Until I have the time to do it right, publishing will have to wait.

But I am determined that eventually everyone can meet the Paxton family and find out ‘who’ is The Darling of Delta Rho Chi.

Well, I just looked at my word count and see that I’m about a dozen words from the magic thousand… the amount which fits on a two sided piece of cute holiday stationary. I certainly cannot send out plain paper! Despite my protests over the anxiety of Christmas cards, etc., I love, love, love, stationary. Thanks Amazon!

So Merry Christmas to All, and to All a good night! (Final word count: 988)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_card

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