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Christmas cards still a brilliant tradition - even if they're late!

Byline: Carolyn Hitt

WHEN we were kids, with the exception of coveting the Christmas lights that glittered in windows the length of Trealaw Mile, there were few ways to feel festively inadequate.

Before social media no-one beyond your immediate family knew if your yule was uncool or whether you'd managed to construct the Blue Peter Advent Crown from two wire coat hangers and a pile of combustible tinsel.

Now it's all out there. Quite literally.

Ever since we watched Home Alone, Christmas decorations have become as much about the outside as the inside. When it comes to exterior illumination, nothing less than making your personal mark on the National Grid will do.

Wreaths are big in my street this year. We've got enough to fill a festive funeral parlour. But while my neighbours are turning our road into a Dickensian theme park, I am yet to trim up. This wouldn't have been an issue in days of yore. While my father's colour co-ordinated bauble themes were the stuff of legend, my parents liked to be fashionably late on the decorations front.

But now the pressure builds from Bonfire Night. And by the time the John Lewis ad is released, it's festive fever pitch.

The tension of living up to the Great Facebook Tree Parade is immense. Every page refresh brings another picture of a lavishly adorned Norwegian Pine, complete with ubiquitous caption: "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!" Then the showing-off shifts from trees, through log fires and Yankee cinnamon candles, home-baked ginger bread stars, Christmas cakes and mince-pies to kids in tea-towels.

The arrival of Scout Post this week was another reminder of one's seasonal inadequacy. How are these people so darned organised? Scout Posters can allow themselves the smuggest of Yuletide build-ups. Not only have they written their cards at a time when I haven't even been near a 3 for 2 display of Luxury Embossed, they've saved serious amounts of cash. Given the price of stamps, it may well be cheaper to drive across Britain and hand-deliver your cards this year in the manner of an 18th century footman.

If you had the time, of course. But don't feel too pathetic about being in danger of missing the First Class deadline, let alone the Second. Check out your early bird Scout Post senders. Chances are they will be: (a) Retired; (b) On maternity leave; or (c) that anal-retentive friend of yours who buys all her gifts in the January sales and has them wrapped by September.

It takes me long enough to choose the cards, before I even think of actually sending them. Should I go Catholic Holy or Quirky Paperchase? Should immediate family get those enormous naff ones with long verses or should I get creative and personalise them on Moonpig? Will the neighbours clock that theirs have come from the bumper assortment pack? Will close friends expect Luxury Embossed? And how can I make sure I pick the charity ones where the charities actually get most of the money? Sending a message reminds simple trump Then there's the annual slog on to find addresses I'm too embarrassed to text the recipients for. And then there's the even greater shame of not remembering every child they've produced so you have to resort to the giveaway "and family" line, or worse still for your neighbours: "To all at no.35..." It's a mortification minefield.

But at least I can spare them the family round robin newsletter with no little Olivia achieving a Grade 8 oboe distinction or a student Seth enjoying a gap year in Guatemala.

If there's one thing more annoying handwritten of goodwill us that traditions can still technology at than this missive of familial pride it's the saintly declaration from those eschewing Christmas cards for a charitable Christmas donation. Yes, this is all very noble but we'll never know if this is just a cunning ruse to hide the fact that they just can't be bothered with one of the season's more time-consuming activities. And show us the receipt so we know you're matching the donation stamp for stamp.

Of course, charitable giving is a wonderful thing but, here's an idea, do both. Research shows for many people - particularly those who are alone or elderly - receiving a card is lovely too.

Christmas cards have been around for more than 170 years. They do the job of letting somebody know you're thinking of them - at what can be a difficult time of year - far more sensitively than a Santa emoji, a frosted Snapchat filter or a mass-email with an animated robin.

Half of adults questioned in a recent Oxfam study said they would be insulted to get a digital message of goodwill rather than a traditional handwritten card. The umbrage increased with the closeness of the relationship. Two thirds admitted they would be offended to receive a Christmas text or seasonal status update from parents, siblings or a best friend.

A massive 83% believed more thought goes into the written word than the typed text or post while 64% reckoned those who don't bother to send a card have lost the true spirit of Christmas.

Fee Gilfeather, head of customer experience at Oxfam, said: "We love our traditions, and this survey proves our nation is united when it comes to festive greetings. Electronic messages just can't replace reading a handwritten message from a well-wisher, or the lovely decoration they bring when strung up at home.

"And unlike some charity Christmas cards, every penny of the profit raised from Oxfam Christmas card sales goes to a good cause - fighting poverty at home and around the world."

So sending a charity Christmas card can be a charitable act in all senses. Half of those questioned feel sending a card shows someone really cares - and for one in 10, the sound of a card coming through the letterbox makes them feel a little less lonely.

And as social media heaps on the seasonal stress with its emphasis on festive competitiveness, sending a handwritten message of goodwill reminds us that simple traditions can still trump technology at Christmas.

(As long as I can get organised in time for the Second Class posting deadline...)

the get the com I'm too text the then there's shame of not remembering than of it's those for donation. all very never know cunning ruse to that they just can't be Sending a handwritten message of goodwill reminds us that simple traditions can still trump technology at Christmas


Around one billion Christmas cards were sold in the UK in 2016
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 14, 2017
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