Ah, the holiday season is here. Unlike last year, this year I feel like I’ve been on top of things. My Christmas shopping is more than half done without the need of any marathon sessions at the malls (and I’m still within my budget!). A day before Thanksgiving, I was tuning my radio to Christmas music. Two days earlier, I had picked up a box of Christmas cards.
“You still do that?” my sister exclaimed when I pulled out the cards from my shopping bag.
“You still get those?” my brother asked when he saw my little display of cards last year.
I’d like to say that there was a time not too long ago when exchanging Christmas cards via snail mail did not result in such demonstrations of surprise. But maybe it’s been long ago. It’s been almost 25 years since electronic greeting cards made their first appearance. And nobody can deny that e-cards save money, can be sent to one person or to a hundred people with the press of a button, are entertaining thanks to special effects and music, and save trees.
Call me old fashioned, but for about the same number of years e-cards have been in existence, I’ve been keeping up with the tradition of sending Christmas cards, the kind that comes in a box, to my high school friends. I confess I considered changing to e-cards and I did send them one year. The result: about 90% went unclaimed and sending a mass-mailing card didn’t feel as intimate and personal as writing on each card with my pen.
I get excited when a Christmas card appears in my mailbox outside my door. Even before I open it, a friend is already greeting me as my name is spelled out in his or her handwriting on the envelope. If I’m lucky, that handwriting will be accompanied by colorful stamps honoring the occasion, instead of just a label bearing the postmark date and the cost of postage. I want to think that my friends feel the same when my cards arrive at their homes.
Theirs make me feel special and remembered which I hope are the feelings evoked in them too when they hold my cards in their hands. Some of us have been in touch via email or social media thorough the year, so the Christmas card is a natural continuation of our conversation. For others, it is only during the holiday season that we exchange hellos, printed or otherwise.
When I’m scribbling my sentiments on the cards, I see them once again as the teenagers we were all back in school. And even though I’m not sure how much they have changed or who they are as adults, our past and our school still bind us together, making us reach for each other in the form of happy wishes for this special season. We won’t write again until next Christmas, and people may think that these holiday-only brief exchanges are not as sincere as the ones for the friends I “see” during the year. But I don’t think it’s true. I cherish everybody’s cards. Perhaps, the ones coming from the sporadic friends give me an additional tiny jolt of surprise. I’m glad to know that I’m still present in their minds even if it doesn’t look like that during the rest of the year. I’ve been a casual friend too. I admit it. Whether we’ve talked a week ago or remained silent for 11 months, when we sit down to write and send a Christmas card, we’re saying, “In spite of everything, I’ve not forgotten you.”