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The Tyranny of the Christmas Card

A Christmas card from 1870
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Well, that’s it, I’m finally ready Christmas.  It’s just a pity that Christmas  couldn’t wait a little longer for me.

On December 1st, the inescapable countdown begins, and my heart sinks a little lower with every passing day.  No, not the countdown to Christmas Day – opening presents and eating too much I can cope with.  What I dread is the arrival of the last posting date for Christmas cards.

Always, I buy my cards in plenty of time for that deadline, picking up tany that strike my fancy as and when I see them.  I’m very particular, avoiding anything fluffily sentimental or inappropriately commercial.  Favourite designs are those depicting snowy postboxes (ironic, considering my aversion) because I live in an old post office, wintry Cotswold scenes reminiscent of my own village, and anything  at all in support of my favourite charity, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

I spend a great deal of time thinking about the friends and relations I’ll be sending them to, fondly recalling their last year’s Christmas message, wondering how this year has treated them,  and selecting snippets of my news to tell them.  But my inspiration always falls at inappropriate times when I don’t have a Christmas card to hand – driving in the car, pushing a trolley round the supermarket, submerged in the bath.

Meanwhile the blur that is Advent begins, with a rush of Christmas shopping, nativity plays, carol concerts, and parties at home, school and work.  In such a social whirlwind, it’s all I can do to keep the household running smoothly, with quick pit-stops between events.  And I like to get the house extra clean and tidy so that it’s a more pleasant place in which to spend the extended holiday. The house doesn’t dust itself, you know (contrary to my husband’s apparent belief).

Around 5th December, I make a start on the cards, transferring my stockpile from my Christmas cupboard (well, it gives me the illusion of being prepared) to my desk.  Then I amass my various address books, paper and electronic, and the writing process begins.

The people who are only due a simple greeting message get priority treatment.  Those meriting a letter are set aside to be picked off one at a time later, in reverse order of the likely length of the letter.  Thus the friends to whom I plan to send the longest letters receive theirs last of all.  They may appear to suffer from the greatest neglect, but my intentions for them are of the very best.

This year, they’ve had to wait a very long time indeed.  I know myself better these days than to stock up on Christmas second-class stamps.  I accept that the second class posting deadline will have come and gone long before my cards are ready to send.  First class it will have to be.  But what I really need this year is some sort of uber-first-class, a time-travelling stamp that can make a card posted after Christmas Day arrive a few days beforehand.  Only today have I finally finished and posted the final card, slinking furtively up to the pillarbox, slipping them  through the slot as guiltily as if despatching a signed confession.

This year, I’m thankful that any friends who don’t read my blog may just blame the snow for the delay in receiving a card from me.  When my missive  finally arrives, they may be glad to have belated proof that I’m not dead.  But my honest nature compels me to confess my inadequacy.

By chance, one of the cards I chose this year  had a 12 Days of Christmas theme.  I’m hoping that recipients will pick up the subliminal message that the festive season doesn’t officially end till January 6th.  That would left me off the hook.

However, sufficient is my chagrin to make me resolve to do better next year. Some people I know start their Christmas shopping in the January sales.  Maybe I should resolve to start writing my 2011 Christmas cards the moment the new year dawns.

Happy New Year, everyone.  No, actually, make that Merry Christmas!


English author of warm, witty cosy mystery novels including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries and the Gemma Lamb/St Bride's School series. Novels published by Boldwood Books, all other books by Hawkesbury Press. Represented by Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agents. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. Course tutor for Jericho Writers. UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors. Lives and writes in her Victorian cottage in the heart of the beautiful Cotswold countryside.

3 thoughts on “The Tyranny of the Christmas Card

  1. I’m so glad I’m not the only one 🙂

    My cards are in my bag as I read this. Unwritten (as ever) and probably ready to go back in the Christmas box for next year. It pains me that there are missed intentions amongst them: the friends I haven’t seen for years, the old neighbours I think about but have failed to keep in touch with, the long lost relatives. If nothing else it gives me a New Year’s resolution for 2014, if only I could believe the old dog new tricks adage doesn’t apply.

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