During the holidays I started to think seriously for the first time about how much Christmas has changed over the years. Until this year I kind of absent-mindedly assumed it is because I am a big boy now and as everyone says, Christmas is very much for kids; a time of wonder, excitement and innocence.
It would imply that we didn’t like them or care about them. Christmas cards were like Valentine’s cards without th That is true of course and I do have fond memories of sleepless Christmas Eves staring at the clock and excited Christmas mornings bursting into my parents’ room at 6 AM with my brother and sister to ask if we could open our presents. I also remember my own kids doing the same thing when they were young and the pleasure that it gave me.
If I had to sum up what I think has changed for the worse about Christmas in one word, that word would be “thoughtfulness”. I am talking about Christmases in my native England of course, but from what I can tell it’s pretty much the same anywhere Christmas is celebrated. I realised during this last festive season that while I do have wonderful memories of Christmas as a child I also remember great Christmases 25 years ago when I was already wearing long trousers and telling the truth about girls.
The big ritual every year in those days was the giving and receiving of Christmas cards. Every house you visited during the Christmas season would have Christmas cards all over the place, on every flat surface and sometimes displayed proudly up high, splayed over a piece of string as part of the seasonal decorations. Everyone used to send cards by post to people they wouldn’t see over the holidays and take personalised cards with them wherever they went around Christmas-time to distribute among family and friends as and when they saw them. Everyone would keep a few spare cards and a pen in their pocket or in the car so they could hurriedly make one out to somebody who turned up unexpectedly or had been forgotten. Lonely people would even send cards to themselves.
Why did we display Christmas cards so proudly in our houses? Because they represented people who had thought about us and taken the time and trouble to write a card and make sure we got it. Why did we go to such great lengths to make sure that we gave a card to everybody we knew? Because if we didn’t e romance, and not giving somebody one at Christmas was like not giving your girlfriend one on Valentine’s Day (I meant that whichever way you understood it). We would even lie rather than admit that we had forgotten to get a card for someone. “Did you get my card? No? That’s weird…” Nowadays we just go through our address books and copy the same message to everyone. Over the years this has slipped from an email to a text message, but at least with the new messaging services we can send the same pictures and videos to everyone.
The Christmas card was more than just a greeting, it was a message. The message was not just “Happy Christmas” (the text messages, emails and ecards we send now say that in an instant with minimum hassle and maximum sterility). The message was “I am thinking about you, I value you, and I am prepared to make an effort to make sure you know that.” In many ways, the Christmas card was the ultimate thoughtful gift we gave to everyone we knew, not just to the people closest to us. So, let’s bring back the Christmas card. The time-consuming, thoughtful, wonderful, pain in the rear-end that it was – but on recycled paper of course!