Is this the end for Christmas cards?

The Great Green Team

6 January 2023

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So, Twelfth Night tonight and I’m taking down my decorations in order, as tradition dictates, to avoid bad luck.

Or was Twelfth Night yesterday, as some believe, in which case I’m already cursed? I’m always suspicious about bad luck superstitions. They must have been started by someone with a vested interest – perhaps a king or landowner who wanted to put an end to peasants’ carousing so they got back to work?

People are so different when it comes to putting up and taking down decorations. One friend follows the tradition she saw on holiday one year in Austria, where decorations are taken down at Candlemas on February 2nd, whereas one member of my family takes her decorations down on Boxing Day. This may sound rather brutal but she does put them up as soon as she takes down her Halloween trimmings.

This week I saw that one of my favourite Instagrammers – Nancy Birtwhistle – had spent a rainy day turning Christmas cards into gift tags for next year. NANCY (@nancy.birtwhistle) • Instagram photos and videos This prompted many comments from her followers and I read them all because I love this activity too. There was a lot of nostalgia, with people reminiscing about doing this as children with their mother or grandmother way before anyone had heard of upcycling.

The comments started me thinking.

Yes, they gave me many more great ideas for recycling cards (see below) and also joy at the kindness shown in many comments,  but I also started to feel slightly anxious for my beloved Christmas tradition of sending cards.

 More than a few of the comments talked about receiving fewer cards this year. A few reasons were guessed at – pandemic hangover, postal strike fears, but also environmental concerns.

One commentor said they now only sent cards to older relatives or neighbours.

Some people said they were getting more Facebook messages or texts instead of cards. I’m with one of Nancy’s followers who said: ‘A message on FB doesn’t cut it for me.’ And another who wondered if this was the ‘death knell of a lovely Christmas tradition’.

Another said that there was ‘something lovely about taking the time to choose and write a card for someone’. This sums up exactly how I feel.

But are feelings enough? I started wondering if I should be looking in greater depth at this issue. I also read an article about eating your Christmas tree (seriously), in which a writer asks whether in a climate crisis ‘when trees are our best armoury’ we should be cutting down thousands a year.  The best way to get rid of your Christmas tree? Just eat it | Christmas | The Guardian

My heart says:

  • Cards are mini works of art to send to loved ones. I love the images, the artistry and the craft involved.
  • I love to see the individuality of the person who sent them; they might be funny/ religious/animal-oriented or supporting a charity that has been important in the person’s life.
  • I also wonder about the effect on charities if people stopped buying cards that support them.
  • What about the contact that cards give me with people I only contact at Christmas with a card and sometimes a letter? Yes, I could send them an email, but would I really? Apparently sales of greetings cards went up during the pandemic when people couldn’t see each other but wanted to send a message to show they were thinking about each other. You can’t put a Facebook message on the mantelpiece or frame it on the wall.

One of Nancy’s followers said they kept cards from ‘beloved friends and relations no longer here and that way they are present at Christmas for ever.’ A beautiful idea that I intend to adopt.

My head says:

  • I just don’t know enough about it. I’ve given myself another resolution – to do more research so I can make an informed decision for next Christmas. A mere 11 months away.

Recycling Christmas cards? Follow Nancy’s followers:

Make banners or bunting (easy to store, put up, take down)/turn cards into mini calendars/ make bookmarks to include with a book gift. Another good idea is to turn birthday cards into Thank You cards

One follower talks about girl guides making mini boxes to give with chocolates inside for Christmas lunch fancies to be given out in care homes.

Activities recommended for schools include:

  •  recycling cards into postcards for next Christmas
  •  making bookmarks

Incidentally, I came up with my own recycling idea as I was dismantling last year’s office calendar for recycling.  It’s a Royal Academy calendar with beautiful pictures. I always use some of the pictures to make a colourful office wall display. But perhaps reading Nancy’s followers’ ideas gave me inspiration.

The calendar pages have images but also the days of each month, of course. I plan to use the pages as personalised gift wrap with the birthday girl or boy’s name emblazoned on the date.

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