I have at least written out my Christmas Card list. That's Stage One accomplished. I now know the size of the job ahead. There are fifty-four individuals or couples on my list. Even if that makes it a short list by some standards, that's still a lot of people to select cards for, then write in them, and then address, stamp and post the envelope. Some local people will get a personally-delivered card. But many cards will need to be stamped, and by the time I get around to that, probably a first-class stamp. For various reasons, a few persons won't actually get a card; but if not, then they must have an email instead. One person will get both a card and a handwritten letter.
There's an awful lot of work ahead. I think this needs some seriously alternative thinking.
It is very nice keeping in touch at Christmas. I've already received a dozen Christmas Cards. I do appreciate the effort spent on them, and in fact they form part of my household Christmas decorations, colourfully (and of course tastefully) adorning my mantelpiece, with the overflow on the Welsh dresser. But I'd happily make do with a sincere 'Merry Christmas, Lucy!' in an email or text. Now how easy that would be for both of us, even if it left the mantelpiece bare...
In the modern world, where travel is easy and personal electronic communication is universal, we can if we want be in touch all the time. And if we are, then it does seem rather superfluous to send a Christmas card to somebody you see quite often, or may actually meet up with at Christmastime. You'll hug and kiss, and say things face to face, and toast each other, and be of good cheer. Why does this need a card as well?
Surely it's best to send cards only to those we can't physically get to - people living abroad, say? And yet I'd have no objection whatever to getting a quick but sincere email from someone abroad, if they were equally content to get an email from me.
Last year I experimented with e-cards. Only those who used email could have them, and only a few persons were actually sent one. I'd paid a subscription to a website (Jackie Lawson) and, having chosen, say, a rather beautiful animated musical 'card', I despatched it with a brief personal message. I received a couple of these e-cards myself. Granted, the 'card' was viewable only in my email inbox, but nevertheless the right festive gesture had been made. And because it was there on my phone, I could take it with me everywhere. It would have been an especially suitable way of sending greetings, if I had been away at Christmas. Sending or receiving an e-card didn't affect our feelings toward each other one bit, and not using card-quality paper must have saved the planet to some degree, more than using even recycled paper would have. So it felt virtuous.
In any case, the Christmas Card as we know it is a modern invention, a commercially-inspired thing as so many Christmas things are, and somehow we have all become trapped in a ritual that binds us all to a massive chore at a time when there is so much else to attend to. Messages of merriment and good intent are fine, but I do question the real worth of pre-printed conventional greetings on mass-produced cards. Wouldn't a homemade card add something extra, something truer? I always feel thrilled to receive such a card. It's impractical, though, to labour over more than a handful.
So what shall I do this year? It's now too late to order a batch of specially-printed bespoke Christmas Cards on high-grade white card, containing this message inside, with holly and berries above it, all in silver or gold:
A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM MELFORD HALL
May your Christmas be warm and cheerful, and the year to come full of happiness!
With love and best wishes from Lucy Melford
With, of course, a personal message and an appropriate number of kisses underneath, written with a gilded pen in my own fair hand.
Everyone would get the same card - subject to subtle variations in the personal message - so that nobody would be sent a better card than anyone else. All would be treated with exact equality.
How I wish I'd got a box of cards like this in front of me now, all ready to go. I should have given this some thought in October. It would then be simply a matter of addressing the envelopes, stamping them, and toddling off to the post box! Something to consider seriously for next year perhaps.
But this year?
Well, I think I'm going to be creative. I'm going to try my hand at producing one or more Christmas Card designs of my own invention, and send them by email. The card will be an attachment which the recipient can either just view (as he or she would view a commercial e-card) or actually print out and pop on their mantelpiece. I'd design it to print on A4-sized card or paper, and to be folded so that the message ends up inside and the design outside, all the right way up. If you imagine a sheet of A4, to be folded twice, you put the front design upside-down in the north-west quarter as you look at the sheet, and the main greeting the right way up in the south-east quarter. And the Christmas Card thus created will be stiff enough to stand up properly - I've just done a mock-up with ordinary printing paper. It works.
I'll also attach the design as a JPEG that can be used as a seasonal screen saver, if the recipient so wishes.
I'm sure this idea will do the trick. I feel inspired to work on the design or designs first thing tomorrow.
People who haven't got a computer, or never use email, will get a bought card sent in the ordinary way. (And so would anyone to whom I was romantically attached - but of course there isn't anyone, and I'm not looking for love, even at Christmas!)