Folding the Christmas Card
I may well be in line for an Advent of awkwardness.
I have decided that I will not send Christmas Cards this year. Almost. I’m sure I’ll send a few, just to balance out the universe when I feel the need. But for now, to salve my conscience, I present my rationale:
It’s a medium and message thing. If you take the message as the medium – a Christmas card is a folded piece of card with a festive pretty picture, a pre-typed greeting and a row of our names on the inside. Sometimes there is a hastily scribbled personal note. This is put into an envelope, stamped and sent. It arrives and is opened, is read and, I suppose, is put up as part of the decoration in another home.
So what is the message of this medium? The picture on the front can be as trivial as a snowman or as profound as ‘Emmanuel: God is with us”. As a decoration, the trivial ones are handier, I’ll give them that: a comedy Santa brightens up a room better than a cityscape of first century Bethlehem.
The pre-printed, generic greeting carries a message of formulaic thoughtlessness. The list of names serve only as a reminder of who we are, and, fingers crossed, a test as to whether I have remembered who my friends all are and what their children’s names are.
The delivery through the post is the personal touch; I physically held the card, wrote on it, stuck on the stamp (thankfully we are spared the thought of my slevers on the back of the stamp these days) and posted it in an appropriately festive pillar-box red pillar-box.
So, as far as the genre goes, there can be some value: an artistic nutshelling of the gospel message, a keeping in touch, a person-to-person individualized connection.
But, is such a medium the best one available for these purposes to be accomplished?
Before the internet, the Christmas Card might have been the only contact one had with an old friend or relative in the course of a year. There was the feeling that if you missed that contact, the relationship might slip off the edge of the cliff and that would be the end of it.
This purpose of the Christmas Card is now entirely redundant. Think of a random person from your past, use a bit of logic, and their online footprint is likely to be enough to help you find them. Losing touch with people is not the permanent abyss it used to be. Facebook will be sure to put two and two together in due course.
If I want an artistic nutshelling of the gospel, I could share a picture on Facebook, I could post a poem here. I could even spend hours on WordPress, thrashing out ‘salvation with fear and trembling’ for all to see.
If I want to keep in touch, I can keep in touch all year through social media. Why wait until December to hear how my friends are? Why not… know what they had for dinner every night; discuss with them what they thought of a TV show we have both just watched; see a picture of their dog out for a walk, their child winning a prize…
With social media, we do risk the loss of the person to person contact – as we post things to everyone in general and not to individuals in their turn – although that would be perfectly possible. Perhaps Christmas is still a time to contact individuals, even if it is through social media, rather than random blanket posting.
Dropping the ritual of the Christmas Card raises another dilemma: what about the money? Many charities find Christmas cards a good way to raise money for their causes. As more people ditch Christmas cards for Facebook as a means of spreading their Christmas cheer, that source of income is lessening. Perhaps those who give up the Christmas card should make a donation to a charity to make up the loss. The other issue is the cost of postage. It is likely that any Christmas Card will cost substantially less than it would cost to post it. Which makes sending them seem financially mental.
As well as considering the medium itself and the point of sending cards, at the heart of the matter are the recipients. I suppose the point is, it is all about people – people and relationships that we value and that we don’t want to lose.
I’d rather have a coffee with someone than send them a card. Life is too busy, it seems, even for that, these days. I’ll take face-to-face over a phone call any day (but you know that…). I’d rather invest in relationships that involve drinks, dinners and conversations, if I had the choice. And where distance prevents that, there are many means more fitting than the Christmas card, thanks to the internet – which bring an immediacy to previously dormant relationships that I could previously never have imagined.
Do you think Christmas cards are on the road to redundancy?