The Great Christmas Card Dilemma
It’s that time of year again. I’m surrounded by a motley collection of Christmas cards, trying to decide which to send to whom. The whole enterprise seems as fraught with social pitfalls as a Jane Austen tea party. Why don’t you just buy one sort and have done with it? I hear you ask. Or better still, dispense with this old-school, ungreen practice altogether and stick your greetings online. Except that I really, really like getting Christmas cards.
Even before you start to write any, the problem of who to send them to rears its ugly head. Of course, there is the standard list of friends and family you’re in contact with fairly regularly, and it goes without saying that they will get cards. But there are other people with whom the relationship has begun to grow rather tenuous and you end up deciding not to send cards. Unfortunately, you rarely decide this in sync, so you’ll get a card one year but won’t have sent them one, but you won’t get one the next year, when you will have sent them one. And so it goes. Anyway, to the person who sent me a card the size of a postage stamp that arrived on Christmas Eve last year, I get the message and will not be sending you one this year.
Then it’s on to the delicate matching exercise, of card to recipient, where vanity reigns supreme as you try to second-guess which image will convince them of your exquisite taste, or which charity will persuade them of your wise philanthropy – never mind about the heartfelt message of seasonal cordiality the card is meant to convey.
‘Aesthetic’ matching used to be a lot more difficult in my student days, when buying a boxed assortment was the cheapest option, but you could guarantee that half the box was totally naff. The easiest way to get started was to make sure you sent all the religious cards to people who were believers, though this often used up all the best images. One celeb I know of opted right out of such disgraceful self-packaging by sending the most egregious, snow-frosted, dimple-windowed coaching scene he could lay his hands on – and it wasn’t even a charity one.
Size only matters when you will be distributing cards in person to a gathering of people. Even if the smallest card has the best picture, before it’s opened it will have given the recipient the impression that you favour those who are getting bigger cards.
It goes without saying that cards must be charity cards or homemade. Christmas is not a time to be sending anyone anything homemade by me, so charity it is, but which? Here you may have to weigh the proportion of revenue donated to the charity against the worthiness of the cause. And what is a worthy cause? Though museums and galleries sell the most beautiful cards, isn’t it just subsidising the further enlightenment and entertainment of the middle classes to buy them? It would seem the most natural thing to do to buy cards associated with your own health problems, or those of your nearest and dearest, but how festive is it really to be reminding people of your eczema or arthritis? Does this mean that they should all be in aid of Oxfam, Action Aid, etc.? Another reason I have such a varied collection of cards is my penchant for charity shops, some of which are run by rather esoteric outfits. Who are the ten lucky people who will open a card published by the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners’ Royal Benevolent Society?
No wonder I’m mentally drained before I’ve even started to think about presents.