We send our Christmas cards in three rounds:
- those that are hand-written on real card (early December)
- electronic cards in response to cards received
- electronic cards to people on our card list we've not yet heard from (final week or so before Christmas)
The electronic card can be read without difficulty; its text can be copied and pasted from card to card, with far less labour than in wielding a pen; and it can be totally adapted to suit the individual it's addressed to. So it gets our vote, and we hope the recipients feel the same. We generally use http://www.e-cards.com/, but there are plenty of other sites offering this service.
Not all of our friends and kin are wired, and some have stated a preference for cards hand-written on real card. They represent a sizeable minority, just over a quarter of our card list, and theirs, as you see, are the cards we send first.
I'm not quite sure how long we've been following this system, and its development hasn't left the trace in old diaries that I thought it might. Probably we decided we were going to adopt it after Christmas 2002. In our single days our card practices were widely dissimilar. Clare used to send cards to pretty well everyone in her address book; I used to send cards only in response to those I received. I liked to say, of those I got and answered after Christmas and into January, that they were spreading one of the most enjoyable aspects of Christmas into the part of the year that most needed it. I reckoned, being an obsessive correspondent in those days, that people I didn't write to at Christmas would probably get something from me later on.
The main drawback to Christmas e-cards is this. Whilst our labour-saving approach to Christmas cards is to send them electronically, our labour-saving approach to Christmas decoration is to put up nothing more than our incoming Christmas cards. Sooner or later, as our friends and kin catch on to the benefits of Christmas e-cards, there's going to come a Christmas where we don't get any cards suitable for putting up. Printed-out sheets of A4 will probably not make a good substitute.
Have to work on that one. Any ideas?