Christmas cards. Or xmas cards, if you prefer. Or winter festival, seasonal greetings cards. Whatever you call them, they present a dilemma.
The people of the UK spend millions of pounds on Christmas cards every year. Around 85% will be bought by women. We buy them individually, in boxes, from charities, craft stalls, online and even make them by hand. In a time of financial hardship around the world, we are spending more than ever on these products of no real value but of real cost. In a time of global warming, perhaps a billion Christmas cards will be dumped or burned – not to mention those that will accumulate for recycling.
I say ‘I will not send Christmas cards’.
I say ‘They are a waste of money’.
I say ‘They are a waste of paper’.
I say ‘They are a waste of my time’.
But this year, like every year, I will send them. Why? The binding, relentless force of polite reciprocity. A force stronger than gravity, magnetism or moral equivocation.
My six year-old will receive 30-odd cards from her classmates. We will spend an eye-gougingly boring evening writing 30-odd cards to give to them. All the parents, having bought the cheapest pack from the local supermarket, will end up with a collection of 30-odd identical cards. Santa, Santa, Santa, penguin, penguin, penguin.
Neighbours whom I have not met will send me cards. Relatives I had forgotten about will send me cards. The old lady from the P.T.A who thinks my name is Wendy will send me a card and I shall return them all to avoid causing offence.
Electronic cards you may suggest. The quick, cheap, green option, yes, but unfortunately reliant on email addresses I just don’t have. My mother thinks Facebook will allow the government to spy on her and my in-laws believe the internet is a mystical entity not to be tackled without charms and holy water. My email address book contains work contacts, solicitors and the complaint department of a phone company. It’s the anti-Christmas card list. Besides, I think there’s a law against contacting children you don’t know over the internet.
Should I bother? Should you? My answer is no, but I will. Will you?
I wish no-one would send me a card in the first place. But then… would I be offended? Probably. Merry Christmas!
(Statistics from the GCA market report 2016)