Many people will sit down this weekend to write their Christmas cards, but the number taking part in this annual ritual gets smaller by the year. The reasons for the decline range from the cost of cards and stamps through the video messaging revolution to wider changes in culture. Yet without romanticising the annual licking and sticking, Christmas cards exemplify how the old ways can still sometimes be the best. Choosing which card to send and deciding what to write by hand involves, albeit in a limited way, having to think about your recipient friends rather than yourself. When their cards arrive through your own front door, provided they are not unwanted corporate ones, you know that all these same people have been thinking about you too. There’s a natural symmetry and equality in that, because a real card reaffirms a real link, sometimes vestigial and dutiful, conveniently distant in some cases, but a network of actual connections and obligations nonetheless. The effort and reward involved in real cards is modest, but the hour or two you may spend on them this weekend transcends all aspects of the soulless electronic Christmas card, the receipt of which is insulting by comparison. Real Christmas cards are an affirmation of our better selves. And they mean more job security for postal workers too.
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