Mangaluru: On 10 December I mailed 18 Christmas cards to my relatives and friends living abroad, and on 20 December I mailed 26 Christmas cards to my relative and friends living in India and locally- and guess what, in reply as of today, 28 December 2015, I received just one Christmas card-and that too from my friend, Kathy Pickera and family living in Florida, USA. Even though the tradition of sending christmas card is fading away these days, but I still continue to follow the decades old tradition by sending cards to my dearest relatives and close friends.
I remember decades back during this time of the year you would see post offices windows crowded with customers trying to buy stamps to mail their Christmas cards. But not anymore-post offices are deserted these days during holiday season. The traditional way of sending holiday greetings is not extinct, but those who still send cards by mail are fewer and fewer. With each passing Christmas season, I look forward for christmas cards in the mailbox less than I used to. It is not true that “nobody sends Christmas cards anymore,” as non-senders announce with an air of self-evident finality. But, certainly, fewer do. I know this from firsthand experience. I receive less than half the number of Christmas cards, it did five-ten years ago. But I still send cards. I recognize this is increasingly a minority position. But in return I get Christmas wished either by email or a few dozen of SMSs on my mobile phone. Last year I mailed about 30-40 Christmas cards, and believe it or not- in reciprocate I received only four Christmas cards.
There are many things to celebrate about the rise of social media, and many to regret. Among the most regrettable is that the Internet has rapidly eroded one of the season’s most charming traditions. There’s no real pattern. Some business firms to please and retain their clients still send cards, timelessly accompanied by tiny calendars. On the other hand, a surprising number of close friends, even immediate family members, blast out a few words on Twitter or Facebook and consider the job done. That’s ridiculous ! Holy Lord- Even priests and nuns who used to send me Christmas cards, have switched to emails or SMSs.
Every year around the Christmas season, countless people sit down at their dining room tables or in the living room table thoughtfully scribble pen-and-paper updates about how they are and what they’ve been doing with their lives to a select number of friends. These messages are usually written on the back of a recent family photograph (sometimes with Santa hats), before they’re sealed, stamped, and mailed around the country or abroad, where they’re displayed like a trophy over someone else’s showcase.
This year, especially, there seems to be a dearth of dead-tree holiday cheer filling up mailboxes across the country. Even the postman doesn’t show up with bunch of Christmas cards like he used to do years back. The spirit once distilled inside the Christmas card is dying, and a familiar, if fairly obvious perpetrator killed it- The Internet. There’s little point to writing a Christmas update now, with boasts about grades and athletic prowess, hospitalizations and holidays, family additions or achievements, and the pets mishaps, when we have already posted these events and so much more of our minutiae all year long. The urge to share has already been well sated.
[Now] we already have real-time windows into the lives of people thousands of miles away. We already know exactly how they’ve fared in the past year, much more than could possibly be conveyed by any single Christmas card. If a child or grandchild has been born to a former colleague or high school or college chum living across the continent, not only did I see it within hours on Whatsappor Facebook, I might have seen him or her take his or her first steps on YouTube. If a job was gotten or lost, a marriage made or ended, we have already witnessed the woe and joy of it on Facebook, email and Twitter.
You know who you are, and you can save the excuses. I’ve heard them. Cards are expensive. Signing and addressing them are time-consuming. Besides, you’re busy. With a few strokes at the computer keyboard, you can spread more cheer among more people than snail mail ever could. To which I say: Stop kidding yourself. Electronic communication is efficient, convenient and cheap. It is not charming. It is not thoughtful. It tells friends and loved ones that sending them a Christmas card takes up time you could spend more productively.
When you’re sending mass greetings by social media, your primary thought, let’s be honest here, is of your own convenience. It treats the expression of personal affection as one more obligation to be crossed off the seasonal list. By contrast, the minute or so it takes to sign and address a card is time spent thinking of someone else. You drive a few extra blocks on your way to work and mail it. A few days later, someone opens up an envelope and reads your signature or better yet, a short note. It says that friendship or kinship means something, that it’s worth the effort.
A card is best when it comes from people in other cities, annually renewing past friendships divided by time and geography. The card says that the ties haven’t been broken, that even if you haven’t seen someone in two decades, that person is still in your thoughts and part of your life. An electronic greeting sort of means that. It might equally mean that you haven’t updated your address list in ages. Sending an electronic greeting is a breeze, but receiving one is only marginally more heartwarming than opening spam. The fact that the practice has spread so wide and so quickly without protest is a tribute to the fact that a large number of the recipients are doing the same thing. Electronic mass greetings are not going away. I write this essay knowing full well that the world spins only forward. In the long history of Christmas, charm has collided with personal preference many times, and there is no record that charm has ever won.
The demise of the Christmas card is deeply saddening. It signals the day is near when writing on paper is non-existent. It’s true, my Christmas tree has one Christmas card on it this year. In fact I haven’t received any Christmas card after the first one I received this year. No matter what time of the year, people now write contemplative letters with weird formatting to an ill-defined audience of “friends”; these are Christmas letters, whether Santa is coming to your house with gifts. or other news. For good or for ill, perhaps we’re seeing not the death of the holiday card and letter, but its rebirth as a rhetorical mode. Confessional, self-promotional, hokey, charming, earnest, technically honest, introspective: Oh, Christmas Card, you have gone open-source and conquered us all.
The spirit of the Christmas card is indeed alive and well. It’s just not necessarily in a Christmas card. So let us face the future and hope for the best. Some people, undoubtedly, will save electronic Christmas posts in their archives. They will tear up at the memory of bygone days and good friends, and they will recall that poignant moment when they clicked “Like.”
In conclusion, all I have to say is that seeing family pictures online isn’t the same as receiving one in the mail that you can put in a frame on your desk. Getting something in the mail that doesn’t require payment, isn’t trying to sell something, and that brings news from loved ones is such a joy! I love both sending and receiving letters in the mail. I still keep sending Christmas cards, so why not you-let’s keep the centuries old tradition alive ! Next year make it a point to send Christmas cards, instead of Christmas greeting through emails or SMSs.
Author : Alfie D’Souza-Team Mangalorean
Belated Christmas wishes to all the ardent readers of my articles/reports- sincere wishes of joy for you and your family-the hope of Christmas with New Year’s inspirations for a fantastic New Year-2016.
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