Why I still send snail-mail holiday cards

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The holiday season is about carrying on the traditions that are special to you, whatever they may be. It might be anticipating the daily antics of the Elf on a Shelf, curling up to watch a favourite yuletide movie or baking a classic family recipe. For me, it’s sending holiday cards.

I realize that in today’s day and age, sending paper cards by regular mail may seem ridiculous and archaic. It’s more expensive. It’s more time-consuming. It’s slower. It’s (as my son would say) “from the olden times.”

That’s exactly why I still do it.

I love signing, sealing, stamping, labelling, adding checkmarks to my list and eventually depositing the stack triumphantly into the yawning mouth of the mailbox. It makes me feel good to send tangible proof of my holiday wishes to the people who are important to me.

My theory is that if something takes more time to create, we instinctively take more time to appreciate it. For example, we eat fast food quickly with little attention to detail, but we savour a home-cooked meal out of respect for the effort that went into preparing it. Similarly, while a person may skim through a holiday e-mail and throw a quick glance at a photo attachment, a card requires more attention. The envelope gets ripped, the card gets unfolded, the message gets read, and the recipient gets a smile. It’s a small moment of focused peace amid the hustle and bustle of the season.

If our family has had a special interaction with someone earlier in the year, sending a holiday card is a nice way to follow up and say an extra thank you. It can also be a thoughtful gesture for a friend who lost someone this year and might be struggling through her first Christmas without them.

I’ll admit, I do send e-mail greetings to people we see on a regular basis, or to those who are more inclined to communicate via their mobile device. There are people in my family who rarely check their Canada Post mailbox, and even when they do, they leaf through the contents so quickly that my lovingly crafted message could be inadvertently discarded with the junk mail.

So while e-greetings are more practical for people I see on a regular basis, there is a list of people for whom a snail-mail card is a must. My husband’s grandma. My beloved classmate from grade nine. A former colleague who moved several provinces away. While I may not see them or communicate with them regularly, I still want to wish them well as the year comes to a close.

Sending holiday cards became even more relevant once my kids were born, since it was fun to share an annual photo of them. I have gleefully photographed them alongside plush snowmen and ordered photo cards with holly-jolly designs. I also have a thing for folded traditional cards, which I buy at the end of the season (on massive discount) and stash away for 11 months.

Even if I’m sending a photo card that has our names pre-printed on it, I still hand-write a ‘to’ and ‘from’ message on the back. To me, the card is nothing without the personalization. I shy away from enclosing a full-page newsletter, as I don’t assume people want to know every nitty-gritty detail of our lives.

Decorating the envelope is also part of the fun. I just ordered a set of Mabel’s new holiday wraparound return address labels with the “Village” design and can’t wait to apply them. For an even more festive presentation, I usually recruit one of my kids to add cute seasonal stickers as well.

I’m not alone in my appreciation of December snail mail. I have a friend who looks forward to pressing play on the Nana Mouskouri Christmas album and addressing her cards with a steaming mug of hot chocolate at her side. I once visited a home where the family decorated their front entrance by stringing up every card they’d received with red and green ribbon. I have a cousin who lives on the other side of the country, and we both had a special connection to our grandmother, known to us as Nanny. Growing up, Nanny diligently mailed us cards and letters, always written in her sophisticated cursive. She was from the generation that relied on the mail for everything. Even the phone was a luxury to her – if you called her long distance, she would protest that “this must be costing you the earth.” When Nanny passed away, my cousin and I vowed to keep in touch by snail mail in her honour – and we have, for 11 Christmases and counting.

While sending the cards is my main focus, I also eagerly check the mailbox in hopes of receiving snail mail in return. Maybe the hip smartphone users of today get a warm fuzzy from a Christmas-tree emoji, but for me, it’s still a thrill to receive an envelope that has travelled a great distance to land specifically in my hands.

So, thank you to those of you who send me heartfelt wishes across the miles every year. You know who you are, and if you don’t, you’ll be reminded when my card arrives in your mailbox later this month.

 

***CONTEST NOW CLOSED***

CONTEST ALERT!

Tell us why you send Holiday cards (or why you don't!)  for your chance to win a set of Mabel's Labels Wraparound Address Labels.

Contest closes December 12th, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. One entry per person, winner to be chosen by random draw. This contest is open internationally. By entering you are confirming that you are at least 13 years of age.

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Author: Kristi York

Kristi York is a freelance writer and mom of two sports-loving boys. She is a regular contributor to ParentsCanada magazine, Running Room magazine, and the ParticipACTION website.

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