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Nothing is more important to Baby Boomers than family and friends, and spending time with them. Here's a resource for everyone you care about: children, parents, grandchildren, friends and other interesting people.

Are Christmas, Holiday Cards Obsolete?

When my Dad came back from the war, he and his friends kept in touch through Christmas cards. In those days, people didn’t pick up a phone just to chat with an old friend to keep in touch. The telephone was for much more serious concerns. The annual cards were their only form of communication. Here’s where they learned about their friends’ lives as they moved forward to marriage, children, careers, grandchildren, illness and loss.


My mother would sit down and hand-address over 200 cards each holiday, a project that my brother and sister and I tried to avoid. After writing personal notes to just about everyone on that long list, she would pass them to us to add the stamp and the return address.


Today, people send fewer cards every year and have instead adopted some the new ways we stay in touch in this 21st century: email, Facebook, printed letters, newsletters and Flickr, which have replaced those personal stories of family life my mother would write with care.


Even though there are fewer of them every year, I still look forward most to the cards we receive that have a note written by hand, and to the ones that include pictures of children and families.


Catching up hasn’t changed much, but the way we do it has. As I looked over some boxes of cards the other day to buy for this year’s mailing, I wondered if these beautiful cards, things you can hold in your hand, are becoming as obsolete as some of the other things we have discussed here, like address books and stationary.


(Editor's Note: Here are some comments I received in answer to this column).


Norma writes:


I, too, remember my mom writing out Christmas cards and of course, everyone had to have a handwritten note!  And it was SOOO great receiving the cards with notes! We all just seemed to use this time of year to catch up with everyone. Now Facebook,etc. keeps us all in touch more often and I do love that, but when my mom passed away, she saved so many letters, cards, etc. and it was so great reading through them all and "getting to know" how people felt about her (us), the love they included in the notes, and just having them years later to look at and cherish.  I suppose there is good and bad to both ways . . .as in life.


Debbie writes:


On the subject of cards, call me "old-fashioned". I still use the good old US Mail. To receive a card in the mailbox around the holidays is such a different feeling than an email. Plus some of the pictures printed on them are beautiful. I have even framed them and put them on display during the holiday season. I hand write a family update note in the card and always encourage a reply from the recipient so that I may know what they are up to. I love keeping in touch with everyone and when they send me a photo it's even better. Sure it is time, consuming, but even at the busiest times of my life I still managed to keep the tradition up. You just have to start a little bit earlier in writing them out. My hope is to let my friends and family feel they are important in my life with the personal touch of a hand-written note.


Susan writes:


I share your feeling about the passing of regular letters received through the postal service.  I grew up watching my mother write blue letters on tissue paper "par avion" letters to England.  I love letters and I love beautiful cards and stationery.  I think the computer is now the telephone and our letters are obsolete.  I just donated my electric typewriter, on which I wrote my senior thesis in college, to the church bazaar. At the time, it was a prized possession.


Gloria writes:


I am one of the last of my generation it seems to send out “real cards”. I send birthday, anniversary, wedding and graduation cards, etc., but Christmas is my favorite time to write and stay in touch with people. I am very fussy regarding my choice of cards.  I like to support charities like UNICEF.   I like the feel of a card “emotionally”. This year several of my friends have moved. Many are “empty nesters”. I sent out a general e-mail a month ago requesting updates to addresses.  My subject header was 'Xmas mail list'. One person wrote back to me:


Hi Gloria,

I prefer to just get an e-card which will be better for the environment.


At first I was offended. I responded with the following:


Good point. I understand. Christmas traditionally is the only time of the
year that a lot of people do take the time to write a letter to their friends and send it in a Christmas card. I guess it is old-fashioned, but I  love to get Xmas cards and display them. It is different for me to know that someone took the time to write a note and be thoughtful with their words. It is very personal and more meaningful. I like e-cards but for me, with my memory problems, paper still works best. Plus seeing the
cards is also much better for me. You delete an e-card and that is it.  


Having worked as an Archivist for 15 years, I see things differently than most people. The value of the written word on hard copy paper is not replaceable. Cards of any sort reflect our time and place in “our” history.  Like recipes and cookbooks, they tell a story. I am very grateful to everyone who sends me a Christmas card and as I am getting older, I look forward to those cards and the more personal info that they reveal.  Some of my friends have passed away this year. I am hanging  onto the cards they sent me last  year. What a wonderful “gift” from them and a permanent memory of our friendship.  

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