First, a little history. Did you know that Sir Henry Cole was responsible for the first Christmas card in !843? He was in charge of the UK Public Records Office which was the original name of the Post Office and had introduced the penny stamp in 1840. He wanted to promote the sending of mail and John Horsley an artist friend, designed the first card which sold for one shilling. That seems like a lot of money for the time.
Sir Henry did not know how popular Christmas cards would become. My mother belonged to a generation that sent and received cards. At the beginning of December out came her little book with the names and addresses of the card people. She had columns drawn up to indicate which year she had sent a card and whether she had received one in return. As she grew older, she was never him sure if a person had forgotten to send her a card or if he or she had moved or died. If she didn’t send a card the following year, she was pretty certain to get one from the missing person. So that body was reinstated. One of the more unusual recipients was a man from Singapore who had been befriended in New Zealand by her father. When Granddad died, Mum wrote to Singapore to tell him and then he sent Mum a Christmas card. After my mother’s death, I inherited him and we have exchanged cards since 2013.
My mother took several nights to write her cards as each one received a note. When Mum lived in a house, the cards were displayed in her large bookcase. After she moved into a villa in a retirement home, they were hung on pieces of string across the wall. They made a colourful Christmas decoration and the wall looked bare when she took them down. The card cover pictures were not wasted. Mum cut them off and gave them to a charity that reused them.
I used to follow this card ritual and always enclosed a letter which detailed the doings of the family in that year. I remember taking nights to get all the cards written and addressed and then complaining about the escalating cost of stamps between New Zealand and Canada. My cards were often the first to be delivered in each country as I took note of the mailing dates which I am sure were given only to get us posting early.
For the last few years, I have almost given up on actual cards and will write a few which may be hand delivered. I have been sending e Christmas letters instead. All the people I wan to hear from have computers and can send their own messages to me. I like getting these letters about the family and have never understood why they get such a bum rap. I only hear from some of them once a year so a catch up is necessary.
This is a timely post. I haven’t written my 2019 letter yet and December is rapidly approaching. I’d better start thinking about the content of my latest e-missive.