The first Christmas card I received this year — on November 30thno less, was the most perfect card of all. No one else needs to bother sending me one, since this one was flawless.
Handmade, with a watercolor painted 3-D snowcapped lantern snuggled in pine boughs, a religious inspirational quote about the Light of the World inside, and then . . . did they dare? Yes, they did. They ventured into the dark realm of Christmas letters, yet emerged victorious. The letter was non-braggy, full of family love and updated their whereabouts all without getting in a dig at their in-laws, politics or football teams.
I feel like framing the holiday masterpiece and putting a spotlight on it with guards marching back and forth in front because it may be the last true example of what Christmas cards are meant to be.
Not that it’s a biblical requirement to hand-make each card, but somewhere in Isaiah, I think it prophesied that a Christmas message should be full of love. It was talking about greeting cards, right?
Although I managed to pass Christmas 101 in Southern Lady School, I struggled with the card exam. (thank goodness the tree decorating pop quiz pulled up my average). As a result, some years I send great looking cards, mailed on time with ink that matches the stamp — but other years, have to send out New Year’s cards in order to buy myself a little more time.
Christmas cards are going the way of pink foam rollers and rotary dial phones. If you even send a card at all, you still get big points for actually caring for others, so pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and toss in some extra marshmallows to congratulate yourself on getting that far.
But now, more often than not, Christmas cards don’t even look like they’ve been touched by human hands. A printed card with a printed signature stuffed into an envelope with a preprinted address label makes me wonder if they trained their dog to handle the cards because there’s no sign of a human anywhere.
How about drawing a little heart on the bottom? Or just a quick scribbled, “Merry Christmas to you!” That’s what I usually write and if there’s room, I also add a “Happy New Year.” If I haven’t seen the recipient in a while I may add a longer note like, “we missed you at the reunion” or, “sorry to hear about your daddy’s mule.”
A nice tradition we tried when the boys were little was to put all the cards we received in a bowl on the dinner table and each night after Christmas, we’d pull one out and pray for that family. In reality, we usually ended up telling good stories about them — not gossip, mind you, but just fun things we remembered doing with them. The boys got to hear some of the tales about our crazy relatives and adventurous friends (some of you were used as warnings).
The sad irony is, this Christmas, it doesn’t look like I’ll get a card out at all. I hate the excuse that I’m too busy — because I have the same amount of time in my day everyone else does, but it’s been a difficult year for us and my heart just isn’t in it, which shocks the other Elves at the Southern Lady School, since at one time I was awarded the “PEA” award. (Perkiest Elf of All). To make amends, I’ll have a firm New Year’s resolution to update my Christmas card list for next year, and to start addressing cards in early November. But don’t expect anything hand painted. That’s for the advanced Elf class, and I wasn’t allowed in.
This story first appeared on AL.com in the Mobile Press Register, Birmingham News and Huntsville Times.