Or; my first ‘Bah! Humbug!’ of the season.
Strictly speaking the title is a lie; if you are a friend who doesn’t live nearby I might send a card. But family and close-by friends? Nope, not happening.
I have a few reasons for not sending Christmas cards. Some are personal, some are vaguely ethical in nature.
The first is that I consider it a pointless exercise considering how easy it is to communicate in the twenty-first century.
As I understand it Christmas cards started to replace the Christmas letter in the nineteenth century as a means of sending Christmas and New Year greetings. Personally I prefer the idea of sending a letter, and quite often if I send a card I write a short letter on the inside of the card in addition to the usual greeting. The time is long past when receiving a letter was the only way to get news of loved ones far away. If I want to tell a friend in Europe or America what’s happening then I can message them online. Letters are long, rambling additions that tell more private news or are part of a long-running conversation.
I stopped sending cards to most people in 2010 and have been cutting back since. It was considered a bit odd at work when I announced that no one would be getting a card that year, but the idea was taken up by one or two colleagues. One announced she was donating the money saved to a charity; a more direct approach to charity than ‘charity cards’.
This year I have sent five cards, all hand decorated, and that is all I’m sending. Most people I care about I’ll see at some point in the next three weeks so why do I need to send a card to say Happy New Year? I’ll tell them in person; I prefer to do it that way. Anyone I don’t see will get a phone call, text or a message on Facebook.
Secondly, I have a distaste for the commercial nature of what is supposed to be a religious and cultural festival – even those who are not practising Christians celebrate Christmas because it’s a traditional festival, and an excuse to eat, drink and be merry. A part of that commercialisation is the tedious pressure to spend stupid amounts of money on buying affection from family and friends, and oneupmanship in decorating, including the cards people send.
I dislike the impersonal nature of commercial cards, though I admit Facebook isn’t much better. I struggle to find any cards that express the sentiments I wish to convey, and especially as I haven’t been a Christian (even nominally) for almost fifteen years it seems a bit disingenuous to wish someone a Happy Christmas. I’d rather say Happy New Year. But can I find cards with only that on them? Can I hell. So, when I send presents to far flung friends I put in a hand decorated card and say Happy New Year; as I can’t say it to them in person, a personalised card is the best I can do.
Thirdly, the cards sent are rarely produced ethically or in an environmentally sound fashion, and though several charities and supermarkets encourage recycling, very few cards are recycled. The Woodland Trust had a recycling scheme, but it came to an end in 2011 due to lack of participation. According to Defra, nearly a billion cards a year end up in the rubbish, in the UK alone. Worldwide the total must be many times that.
What a waste!
Forthly, I’m the poor sod sent out in all weathers to deliver the cards, and always have been. Because, you know, I’m only a writer, I don’t have a proper full time job so obviously I spend my time doing bugger all all day and have plenty of time to run around after everyone else. I resent it. And that taints any good feeling I have about the practice, in top of the other objections.
While I rarely send cards I love receiving them. I like the feeling when a card drops through the door for me, knowing that a dear friend remembers I exist.
Still, I make an effort to stick by my principles. If people want to send me cards that’s cool and their own choice – there’s no judgment on my part, we all have to act the way we consider right, but I won’t send one back and I only keep especially cherished cards as mementos in my memory books. I recycle any others, though that’s usually not a huge number because not many people send me cards.
And now I’m going to sleep. There will probably be another bah humbug post at some point, depending on how much the next few weeks irritate me.