Saturday, 11 December 2010

Christmas cards

Clare & I have just dispatched our first round of Christmas cards for the year.

We send our Christmas cards in three rounds:
  1. those that are hand-written on real card (early December)
  2. electronic cards in response to cards received
  3. electronic cards to people on our card list we've not yet heard from (final week or so before Christmas)
The emphasis on electronic cards is not an accident. They help resolve what we once felt as a dilemma, between the individual hand-written card and the round-robin. The hand-written card lets you adapt what you're writing, so it personally fits the people you're writing to; but it's very labour-intensive, and it risks being illegible. On the other hand, the printed round-robin, easy to produce in numbers and with a clear typeface, can lead to big squirmaceousnesses. Simon Hoggart has wittily demonstrated the pitfalls more than once.

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, 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?


  1. I'll use my new iPhone app this year for sending Christmas greeting cards:

  2. Thanks. I'll bear that in mind in case I ever get an iPhone.

  3. A kind comment from Robert at e-cards:

    Hi Aidan,

    I tried to post the following to your blog, but for some reason kept receiving an error.


    It was fun to read your blog post. It helped me think about my family's system of sending Christmas Cards: lots of good intentions near Thanksgiving, then a panicked rush in the days proceeding (and sometimes following) Christmas. You would think (being in this business) that my family cards would already be completed and in the post. However, my wife and I were, just last night, feeling as stressed as Santa's over-extended elves about getting our cards created let alone sent. Thanks for mentioning our site and thus supporting our efforts to make a fun greetings site that supports wildlife and nature. We should have some fun new Christmas card additions in the next few days. I hope you and your readers will enjoy them.

    Best regards,