The Christmas Card Reciprocity Dilemma

I said I’d write about this, didn’t I?

The title is a misnomer really; it isn’t a dilemma for me. Small children and

friends abroad get cards at Christmas. The children because I need something to put their gift money in and two of my friends abroad because I’m sending a letter anyway.

A dear friend wrote a Facebook post about a week ago saying that writing cards to people they didn’t like was depressing. When we discussed it I found out the reason they wrote cards to people who were not friends was because they felt guilty if they didn’t reciprocate. A relative of said dear friend weighed in with a few ‘for shame’s’ and ‘humbug’s’. I politely pointed out that one doesn’t need to believe the corporate hype to partake of the Christmas Spirit. Apparently that makes me a humbug.

The result was to get me thinking. There is a lot of pressure on people to spend money, at this time of year, on being ‘nice’. I don’t do nice. Why should I send cards to random neighbours when they’ve barely said three sentences to me all year, or to colleagues I’ll see on Christmas Eve, when I can say Merry Christmas when I see them?

Christmas cards developed from the annual Christmas letter, a commercial development designed to make money. We are pressured by card companies to buy their product and by society that says ‘be normal, do what everyone else does, it’s traditional’.

If you’ll excuse the language, bollocks to that. I don’t need a twee card to express my affection; I do that every day. I don’t see why commerce gets to dictate ‘normal’ behaviour or social convention; we do that in how we choose to live our lives.

I have, unusually, bought cards this year, just two, to send to friends abroad with whom I exchange letters and gifts regularly. I wanted something very specific and went to a locally owned and run florists to get them. The kids are getting hand made cards.

It took me five or six years to get to this stage, so I understand where my friend is coming from. There’s the guilt and social pressure and having to explain again and again that ‘thanks for the card but don’t expect one back, it’s nothing personal’ to people who think it’s the only normal thing to do. I pared my list gradually, bought charity cards from the Woodland Trust, made my own cards, anything to cut back on the guilt. It’s hard to go cold turkey if you’ve imbibed the message that the number of cards you give and receive shows your popularity. Even family will bring pressure to bear.

It is your choice. If you want to give cards, give them; if you don’t, for whatever reason, then don’t.

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