Introducing my new mini-book which also functions as a Christmas card!
Knowing how rubbish I am at sending Christmas cards to people on time, on a sudden whim last night I decided to go off piste and produce a little book as a substitute instead. It even includes in the title page a Christmas greeting plus the space to add your own message, if you’d like to buy it to send to someone else.
A visit to the Bath Postal Museum renews my guilt at failing to post as many Christmas cards as I’d intended. My negligence is another tiny dent in the viability of our postal service. So two reasons to feel guilty.
Every November the same thing happens: I buy second class Christmas stamps as soon as they are issued, smug at my preparedness. It strikes me as indecently early to start writing my cards just then, so I put them to one side.
December dawns, but while the days of the month are in single figures, card writing seems less than urgent. I determine to wait until the Advent calendar doors reveal more than they conceal. By then, I tell myself, I’ll be feeling Christmassy enough to write cards.
And then, all of a sudden, the last posting date is looming. I scrawl a quick signature on the cards that don’t require an accompanying letter and whiz them up to the pillar box. With misplaced optimism, I set aside the others into my letter-writing pile. So far, I’ve refused to succumb to the catch-all standard letter as issued by some friends and family, but maybe I should, as without such drastic recourse, those cards awaiting letters won’t make it as far as the postbox, never mind the intended recipients’ mantlepieces.
For a small subset of these people, it’s no big deal if I miss 25th December. These are my Jewish friends. To them, the Christmas festivities serve simply as a trigger to an annual exchange of news. One of them pointedly writes to me each year on Christmas Day itself, just to remind me that they’re not celebrating. That’s fine by me: the main thing is that I hear from them. They may even interpret my delay as a thoughtful recognition of their faith.
Christmas Day passes, and Boxing Day. Well, who wouldn’t welcome a New Year card instead? I love New Year and its promise of renewed good intentions.
New Year comes and goes; the unwritten cards remain on my desk. I despair until I realise that despite the BBC’s broadcast of 2012 dawning around the globe as it turns on its axis, there are still some quarters in which the New Year has yet to arrive. It’s not too late for me to wish my friends a happy Chinese New Year. That doesn’t fall until next Monday, 23rd January. So all is not yet lost.
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!