Christmas Cards: Historical Habit or Sentimental Expression

As I walk down the hall, I pass one of my most prized Christmas possessions. It is a Christmas card holder that hung in my grandmother’s home. It is not prized for what it contains. It is prized because it represents traditions, history and sentiment.

I ponder for a moment the reason, the reason the Christmas card is a tradition among so many. Why are they sent? What is the history and the sentiment, if any the card portrays……..

The first Christmas Card was sent in 1942. It was designed my a rich gentleman upon the request of Henry Cole whom is credited with developing the penny post (first postal system). It was a way for John Callcott Horsley to send greets to his friends. It was a way for Henry Cole to make money and thus elevate his status. Two conflicting ideation have continued for centuries

There are those who send Christmas card to friends afar. Those they have not seen in a while. A tradition of remembrance. A tradition of deepening a relationship and recalling memories. Of sending a greeting of friendship and gratitude for all they mean in the sender’s life. They spent time searching for the perfect card and then enclosing a small piece of themselves. A gesture worth respecting

My parents sent a family historical letter. They sent this letter every year for a generation. In some ways, I wish I had copies of those letters as they tell the story of our family. I enjoy such historical letters in family cards as they catch me up on the happenings of those I rarely see. I had in my heart to start such a chain; however the writing of our lives never seemed to be fluid and thus the chain was never started.

My mom also had a box of index cards. On the cards were the addresses of all those destined to get a card. Every year, she sat down and marked in the proper box, sent and received. One check if we sent, one check if the action was reciprocated. After so many years of not receiving; the index card was discarded.  The rational conflicted. We only send to those who care enough to send a similar sentiment. Is not the reason for the season, in our family, deeply rooted in the Christian faith. An ideation of love all, forgive all and care for those less fortunate. Does not that mean-send to all; those who are now broken, now to impoverished or those who no longer reach out to our family.

A few years ago, I purchased the perfect family cards. I do enjoy the shopping aspect as poems give an extra meaning to my life. I love the way the words twist and rhyme to make meanings flow.  Those cards were never sent.  They sat on the top closet shelf for several years.  The sentiment behind the card tradition being pondered.  We did continue to receive, however the numbers dwindled.  It seemed the Christmas value, the meaning and some traditions were steeped in the world’s consumption and self centeredness.

As I pondered this historical tradition, I noted that the cards were open, and counted.  Yes at one point the number appeared to represent the number of friends maintained.  Kind of like the facebook friend list.   No real meaning behind the numbers except to elevate ones status.  No relations, no  expression of the values of life or the deepening of understanding between individuals.  I send to receive and you send to receive.  To be counted like cattle in a stall with the one with largest stall the top rancher for the year.

Originally, I decided to call each person on my old list and relay a greeting.  A gesture to bring back an expression of friendships. A gesture to deepen the bonds between those that have meaning in my life.   I regretfully  admit, four years later, the cards still sit on that closet shelf and the calls have yet to be placed

The next year, I planned to send the cards over the summer.  Mail is so seldom sent, I felt this gesture, with a personal note, would bring a small to the face.  And a feeling of warmth to those who received.  Sadly the cards remained.

Year three, the enclosed box resulted in no more than the cards being shifted out-of-the-way.  A lost tradition. A lost ideation or a new awakening?  An awakening that traditions that carry no true sentiment are shameful examples of lost values.  That those that send without meaning.  Those that just open and store for display.  Those that do not take a moment to lift up the sender, are those just carrying out the ideation of Henry Cole and now those that mass produce the cards.

I lift up those that maintain the tradition of building a genuine relationships. Today so many of our relationships have become a means to achieve something, the purity and innocence is lost. I admire those that are striving to bring value and build upon true and lasting relationships.  Today many  are so busy attempting to elevate our status, that occasionally, we compromise  our ethics. Maintaining values, no matter the situation, is a true expression of Christ’s Christmas message.

Christmas cards in this family were a tradition that had become an habitual habit.  I have to say, I am not sorry the repetitive habit has been extinguished.  I realize families, like people, are all different.  How we acknowledge our sentiment can thus be different.  May this family continue traditions that deepen our understanding of ourselves. That are rooted in purity and innocence. That our Christmas actions portray value and build true and lasting relationships.

Merry Christmas to all and may the next year bring you the essence of Christmas love wherever you go and in whatever you do.


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