15 December 2011

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

It occurred to me tonight as I wrote Christmas cards to my brother and one of my sisters that the Christmas card has become obsolete. No wonder the Postal Service is bankrupt.

Cards came pouring in every holiday season when I was a child. Many of them were from friends of my parents or more distant relatives, people they only heard from once or twice a year. Phone calls were expensive then and letters, time-consuming. So people saved up their family news for Christmas and birthday cards.

For us, some of these people were mysterious, and their cards prompted stories of high school days or adventures in the Congo. Large or small, filled with photos of other people's children, full of news or just signed with a name, the cards were always interesting.

I sent Christmas cards religiously though they weren't necessarily religious, even in the years that pregnancy crippled my hands. Finally, though, when the children were young and I was over-committed in every direction, I gave up the practice because something had to go, and I didn't want to give up baking and I couldn't give up the room-mother job.

Friends bore with us, though, and I'd dash off a quick note when I could. I always promised myself that I'd send everyone Valentine's cards or St. Patrick's cards to make up for the holiday deficit, but of course, that never happened.

(And I have to admit I abominate the holiday letter, though I do enjoy getting them from close friends. One set of friends in particular writes a pretty hilarious one. But then there is the relative--the spouse's, by marriage--who produced a five-page tome that dissected and discussed at length the many ailments and deficiencies of that family's friends and relations. It became so ghastly that it demanded a dramatic recitation every year. For better or worse, many of the ailing have since passed on, and the letter is down to two pages because the younger generations are still reasonably healthy.)

In any event, the majority of the cards we are receiving his year are from businesses. Our insurance agent has checked in, as has one of our financial people, and the electrician. A few family members have sent cards as well, mostly those we do not see frequently.

With the advent of social media, of course, everyone is now in everyone else's face all the time, so there is no need to catch up during the holidays to relate the news. Everyone knows what you had for lunch and where and probably, with whom. A few days ago, a friend texted me from a restaurant on the East Coast where we'd had lunch as kids. I was amused--and somewhat flummoxed.

For those of us who eschew Facebook (me!), there is still email, texting and yes, the now-inexpensive phone call. I keep up with most of my friends electronically, even if it isn't Twitter or Facebook (and for the record, those of you who read this? No, I don't expect a Christmas card, except maybe you with the stuff on the cats. I have posole for you, BTW.)

See what I mean?

Go listen to some music: "The Christmas Song" written by Mel Torme and Bob Wells, and sung by just about everyone.

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