On the whole I agree with this article by David Mitchell about the commercialisation of Christmas, and the tradition of sending Christmas cards in particular. It is too commercial and it is pointless to send cards and presents just for the sake of it, because you feel you have to. But the older I get the more I appreciate the excuse that the commercialisation creates for actual goodwill.
I know, I know, you don't need an excuse, you could just send a card when you felt like it, to anyone. But, woolly lefty that I am, I know that I can't escape capitalism. We're not going to get to turn the clock back on this one. People are busy because of work and the busyness directly impacts how we socialise and for many people it's just a thought too weird to contemplate that you should send a card at a time outside that prescribed by Hallmark. You could get sad about that, or you could do something radically subversive and start writing letters or sending cards at other times of the year for no other reason than you want to, because you like the person you're thinking of (they'll not think it's weird, they'll be really happy). But if you don't feel confident enough to do that then Christmas is your big opportunity.
This year I have (so far!) received two cards that have meant a lot to me, both from people taking the opportunity to say something more. My daughter who is 6 is learning to read and write, and thrilling herself to bits by sounding out words and trying to spell them without asking me for help. She has written about 100 cards to everyone she can think of and as far as I can tell she has loved every minute of it. But my card was the only one she wrote without any spelling help. It has a reindeer with a missing eye and the message says, 'SHIrLey Mircrsms Love Ana xxx'.
The other card was from an elderly friend of Ian's parents. Billy used to live near them before they moved house when Ian was 18. I met him earlier this year at Ian's granny's funeral, but for the past 6 years or so he has been sending us a card at Christmas, a handwritten letter and a cheque for Ana. This is the kind of thing that makes me adore Christmas. It is an annual act of kindness and connection between people who might not even recognise one another in the street. He's just doing it because he wants to, and Christmas is the excuse.
That's why I like Christmas. Like the rest of the year there are things you have to do because you just have to do them, but those things can also create the opportunity to do the things you want to do, and I think it's those things that mean the most to people. Happy Christmas!