I can remember my father sitting down at the desk in our home on E. 13th St. in Erie, back in the days when telephones were heavy, black, and had rotary dials, and writing out the Christmas cards for that year. The important things to remember here are that this was the only family related function he ever chose to engage in ( except, of course, the administering of punishments – which he relished entirely too much), and he did it only because some internal sense of propriety told him that only a card signed by the householder himself had any value or meaning. The irony, here, is that by the mid-fifties (uh…nineteen fifties) Christmas cards had become sort of the emojis of the communication of the time.
You see, hand written or typed letters were the equivalent of today’s emails. Anything the writer held to be of importance was committed to paper and sent off through the post to be delivered in meer days to the intended reader. They contained no advertisements and were generally considered to be important communications because the sender had invested 3 (and later 4 or 5) cents in postage to ensure his reader received the message.
Post cards, on the other hand, while being at once more personal and direct, were very much the modern day text messages we all send with an almost diuretic frequency. I remember being totally awed by a post card my mom received from a neighbor who was lucky enough to be vacationing in Washington D.C.! Imagine! The card was a picture or trees (cherry trees) in full bloom in front of a view of the Washington monument (Washington the President, I was told, not the City). I quick note of some of the sights they’d seen was written on the back, along with a personal “hi” to all of us. I remember being astounded that anyone having so great an experience would take the time to”dash off” a note to a friend in the middle of all that fun! Of course the unwritten “look at ME!” would not have been lost on my parents.
And if these quick, simple greetings, these “hellos” from far away were texts, the Christmas card could only serve as an emoji: a simple symbol of a commonly felt emotion or impression we’ve all felt and recognize. “I wish you the Joy and Warmth of the season”. “Merry Christmas from my home to yours”. “May you feel the Wonder of the Birth of Christ”. Etc. These trite sounding greetings seem canned and insincere, but they are actually direct reminder of the season, and actually quite sweet and effective if only you take them as intended. Where once my father ticked off the names of people who sent cards in return, scratching out any who did NOT send a card, we now (I hope) simply send cards to those who mean something to us. Personally. We send the a smile and a heartfelt blessing because we want to, and we want them to feel the same childlike delight and blessing that we feel in sending our christmas smiley face.
But when all is said and done, I must admit I miss the postcard days. Think how much more personal a Christmas post card would be, with it’s short private missive on the back and the Santa or Snowy scene or Mother and child on the front. It would be the same reminder, the same greeting, but it would also have that suggestion that I picked this for you because I was actually thinking of you in the middle of all this fun! I think that if they still made Christmas oriented post cards (and if the USPS actually humbled itself to deliver post cards) I would start using them again. (or, to be honest, I’d ask my wife to use them, since without a keyboard my handwriting is unreadable – even to me.)
Have a Happy and Blessed Christmas.