Enjoying greeting card season

Dec. 21, 2009

by Ivan Raconteur

One of the bright spots of the Christmas season is finding something other than bills, junk mail, and phone books in the mailbox.

Christmas cards may not be as popular in the digital age as they once were, but they are still an important part of the season.

There is a pleasant satisfaction in knowing that someone took time out of a busy day to send a personal greeting.

I always enjoy seeing the cards that people choose. Some designs are more generic, while others clearly reflect the personality of the sender, and show that some significant time and thought was invested in the choosing.

The photo greeting cards that have become popular in recent years frighten me. I can never understand how those kids in the photos keep getting older, while I haven’t aged a bit.

The messages contained in holiday greeting cards may be simple, but they help us to stay in touch. They remind us that old friends are still out there, even if we don’t see them as often as we would like.

I would not be surprised if the 80-20 rule applies to greeting cards. That is to say that 80 percent of the cards are sent by 20 percent of the people.

Some people seem to be naturally good at not only remembering to send a card, but actually getting around to mailing it.

This applies not just to Christmas cards, but to cards for all occasions.

Some people seem always to be on top of every situation, and promptly send cards for a variety of situations.

I wondered briefly, if this was a generational thing, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

At first, I considered the possibility that it was a carryover from the days when all of our personal correspondence was in the form of cards and letters. I realized, however, that among those from whom I regularly receive greeting cards, there are just as many young people as there are older people.

Some people really have a knack, if knack is the word I am looking for, of finding just the right card. They obviously spend time tracking down the perfect card, and I find myself laughing out loud every time I open an envelope from them.

Some people never seem to forget a birthday or other special occasion.

My ex-mother-in-law is one of those. It has been several years since her daughter and I parted company, but I can still count on a card from her being the first I receive every birthday and Christmas, not to mention other less traditional card-sending holidays.

I am fortunate to know other special people who have this ability to never forget an important date (in sharp contrast to those who can barely remember their own birthday, much less anyone else’s).

In the old days, we had to rely on a calendar or our assistant to keep track of things like this.

Today, there are people who still can’t remember dates, even though there is absolutely no excuse for not remembering.

We have electronic calendars and planners to remind us of important dates. We can even set alarms to remind us a specified number of days or hours in advance to give us time to buy a card or gift.

Many of us can even program this information into our mobile phones, so there is no possible excuse for forgetting a date.

And yet, some of us still do.

I don’t mind the fact that many people have abandoned traditional greeting cards in favor of electronic ones. It doesn’t bother me that in lieu of a card, many people send an e-mail message or post a note on one’s wall on Facebook.

It is, as they say, the thought that is important, not the method by which it is delivered. If someone chooses to pass along good wishes, I am not going to complain about how they choose to deliver them.

I mention this because there are (or at least there were) people who are snobs about this sort of thing.

As recently as my halcyon college days, I had a friend give me the business because I sent her a letter that was typed, rather than hand-written.

She seemed quite offended, and suggested that sending a typed letter was impersonal, if not rude.

She has since overcome this prejudice, and today is as dependent on technology as the rest of us.

Sadly, one has to face the fact that with some people, typed correspondence is preferable, since their writing is practically illegible (if it is possible to be partially illegible. That might be like saying “a little bit pregnant”).

At any rate, some writing is extremely difficult to decipher, and I can think of a few people from whom I would definitely prefer to receive typed, rather than hand-written correspondence because it is easier on my brain and my eyesight. I enjoy a challenge as much as the next guy, but I’m no cryptographer.

I admire and appreciate the people who take the time and trouble to send greeting cards, and I will continue to enjoy the Christmas card season (and my trips to the post office) while it lasts.

It won’t be long before we are back to a steady diet of bills and junk mail, and that is a bore no matter how one looks at it.