Every year, for the past 13 years, we’ve received a Christmas card from Eva and John. They update us on how their kids are doing, describe their twice yearly holidays and the various ailments they’ve overcome. It’s very heartwarming and always ends with them wishing the Gilbertson family a happy and healthy new year.
Except we’re not the Gilbertsons.
Before you think I’m rummaging through someone else’s mail, the first year it happened by complete accident when I was opening a pile of Christmas cards when we first moved in. The following year, I wanted to see if there was a return address and then somewhere along the line, we just started to display the cards along with all the others. Now, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a card from Eva and John. But it does make me wonder. How can someone make the effort every year to write to someone they’ve clearly never spoken to for 13 years? Surely they would have at least discovered they had moved house in that timeframe? I guess, like many of us card writers, they just work their way down the annual Christmas card list.
A Christmas custom
According to Why Christmas, the custom of sending Christmas cards was started in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole and artist John Horsley, in an attempt to get more people to use the Public Records Office (aka the Post Office). When I was younger, I used to watch my mother hand write her Christmas cards over a whisky and lemonade (her favourite tipple…yuk, but fair enough!) and I loved opening the post every morning throughout December, trying to guess who the cards were from and saving the stamps for school. So for me, it was normal that I’d take on this tradition myself and I still sit down every year to write about 80 of my own (over a G&T or two).
Over the past few years, however, I’ve noticed that we get fewer and fewer Christmas cards through the door. As of 14th December, we’d only had an abysmal six. SIX! We used to get at least ten times that! Clearly, unless I’ve offended a LOT of people, or everyone’s running late this year, I fear it’s becoming a dying custom.
In one sense, I totally see why no-one sends Christmas cards any more. Not only are we time poor, but it seems the purpose of an annual card has become increasingly redundant with the instant updates we get on social media. One of the main reasons for sending Christmas cards was to check in with people once a year to update everyone on how your kids are doing and to share any family news. The fact that Eva’s card told me her grandson had started school and won a football trophy would be old news as I’d have already seen it on Facebook months ago (if she was on Facebook. But then again, she wouldn’t be my friend as she doesn’t actually know me from Adam, but you get my drift).
Why do I bother?
There’s something personal about sending and receiving Christmas cards that you simply can’t get through Facebook updates or a round robin Whatsapp message. I suppose it’s my way of saying that if you’ve get one of my Christmas cards, you actually do matter to me more than other 100+ ‘friends’ on Facebook I never really contact (NY resolution, time for a Facebook cull?) That said, I do wonder why we spend hours writing them, only for the receiver to see a handwritten message a bit like this:
You see, in my head, I have this vision of me sitting down in a comfy armchair, fire ablaze, while I sit down with a mulled wine to write beautifully handwritten messages. Heck, I’d even have a quill! In reality, however, we don’t have a fire and my handwriting is absolutely appalling. My fingers, once so adept at writing all those essays at uni, are simply no longer used to holding a pen other than to write lists. And it hurts! So I rush through them last minute, hope the postman will understand my writing and the recipient won’t take offence at the graffiti about to bombard their eyes. That’s why I rely on a beautiful card design, to make up for my lack of good penmanship.
What I love about Christmas cards these days, is the fact that those who DO bother to send them seem to go the extra mile, either with handmade ones, personalised ones or just plain beautiful ones. After having a nosy around Instagram, my favourite place for inspiration, I’ve created a Topfivemum list of my top five favourite Christmas cards.
1. Sleek modern calligraphy. If I had beautiful handwriting, I’d like to think it would look something like this creation from Doxology Press.
I also like to personalise a handful of cards for close family and the card below does this within the theme of modern calligraphy, so gets a double thumbs up from me. The Australian brand Pepper & Penny will help you personalise for any occasion, not just Christmas, and they also do a fab range of baby milestone cards.
2. Talented artists. There are so many talented artists and illustrators on Instagram offering amazing designs to choose from at this time of year. What I love most about Instagram is the community spirit amongst likeminded individuals. I came across the beautiful design below when I was browsing a thread hosted by @ThePortfolioProject encouraging artists to tag their festive art projects over 12 days of Christmas. This one caught my attention on the day three prompt of “mittens” as it really sums up how I feel in December. Log fire or not, I just love to cosy up at home with a cuppa.
3. Homemade. Someone who takes the time to sit down and get crafty to make their Christmas cards always wins me over. Check out these two I spotted on Instagram this week.
My first favourite in this category is a beautiful homemade creation from the very creative Kate and her kids at Craftsonsea. Be sure to check out Kate’s instagram page and website for more craft ideas. She’s just been placed 3rd by Vuelio in their top 10 crafts blogs too (well done Kate!)
My second choice is a fun personalised one from mum to daughter Shadene. It just goes to show that you never stop being a mum when it comes to getting crafty and having a bit of fun for your kids, no matter what age they are!
4. Edible. Who could resist a card you can eat? Check out these stunners from Australian brand Makebread. This business brings the ‘magic aroma of freshly baked organic bread into homes, schools and kindergartens’. I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to represent their business than through these beautiful designs.
5. Traditional. Last, but most certainly not least, I love the handmade designs and messages on Gracie’s Instagram feed. With Christmas becoming more and more commercialised, it’s easy to forget what Christmas is all about. Her range of cards are a simple reminder that it’s about celebrating the birth of Baby Jesus and spreading joy and goodwill – in her own words, it is after all “the reason for the season”.
Ok, so I might have cheated every so slightly by including seven instead of five favourites in my list, but hey. It’s Christmas. And if we can’t be generous now, when can we be, eh?
And finally, a card from the PJ family
I’ve love to get crafty and make my own cards myself. But given art isn’t my strong point, we’ve taken to sending photo Christmas cards. My hubby took up photography as a hobby (after I was the one who asked for a DSLR one Christmas and he stole it), and for the last two Christmas’s since the birth of our daughter, we’ve turned our front room into a photo studio. This usually involves my hubby trying to capture the angelic faces of our now two little ones, while I run around as chief snot and drool wiper, trying to get them both to sit still for five minutes. It may not be as creative as the ones I’ve featured in my top five picks above, but it’s our family’s way of wishing you all a very merry Christmas.
Merry Christmas from our family to yours
Did you send Christmas cards this year? Or maybe you prefer to send an e-card or donate to charity instead? I’d love to hear from you below.