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A lament for Christmas cards

Updated: Dec 29, 2019 17:46 IST
Amit Newton
Amit Newton

Festivals are synonymous with tradition, but time changes many of them and renders others obsolete. Of the many traditions associated with Christmas, one tradition that time has dealt a death blow to, is the one of sending Christmas cards.

Before social networking sites came in and showed how easily one could fulfil the ‘formality’ of greeting a loved one – come Christmas time – it was Christmas cards that proved that a person had taken the time and made the effort to show that you were thought of in a very special way at this very special time of the year.

But then again, WhatsApp and its ilk, serve too. We spoke to families – dads/mums and the youngsters of the household – about how they viewed the ‘death’ of Christmas cards. The results of the interactions were eyebrow-lifting, if not outright surprising. Both the older generation and the younger one felt that while internet-based services might fulfil the formality of greeting one, they are never a patch on the personalised feelings that a Christmas card evoke.

The Godin home is decked up for Christmas and ready to receive guests. “Only the Christmas cards are missing,” laments UP government MLA Denzil J (DJ) Godin.

“Christmas cards were looked forward to and taken very seriously – like a birthday card – for it was sent and received only once a year.

“With changing times, we have adapted and adjusted to sending a short form of greetings and that too to 40-50 people at one go. But we must get back that tangible part of tradition. Taking the lead should be traditional publications like St Paul’s Publications. Otherwise, school children could make these – for all festivals – which could be sold to members of the public,” he added.

Godin’s son, Dennis, pursuing post-graduate studies in Zoology, echoed his father’s sentiments, saying, “The modern generation prefers ease and does not wish to make an effort. Christmas cards provide a different joy altogether and families should be encouraged to take the tradition forward. Even home-made simple cards will convey the effort one has taken to make another feel special and thought-of at this special time”.

However, while most people lamented that Christmas cards were not available in the market, shopkeepers were quick to point to the demand-supply math. “With the advent of internet-based services the cost of sending a message has come down tremendously, as have call rates. Compare that to the cost of a card and add postage to it. Then there is no guarantee that the card will reach the person intended. In the same cost, people can now call up and talk than wait for a Christmas card to reach,” said Universal Booksellers’ partner Manav Prakash.

“Associated to the above is the demand-supply aspect. If there is a demand for Christmas cards, I don’t see any problem in us stocking them.”

And if there is a supply gap that issue can easily be dealt with by the schools of the city. Each school employs art teachers, who can be tasked to design Christmas cards which can be mass printed and sold by the school, crediting the designer and the school. A simple notice on the school website could inform people desirous of purchasing them of the dates and time at which those may be purchased.

“Christmas cards were not just statements of good wishes and love: they served as excellent decorations too. Each year at Christmas, we pull out our stock of old cards that we received over the years and put them up for all to see,” said St John Bosco College manager Pradeep (Deepu) Frank.

“Someone has to take the lead and create publicity, a buzz around Christmas cards so that they make a comeback,” he added.

His daughter, Desiree, a psychology honours undergraduate said, “The ease that the internet affords, reduces the Christmas greeting to a formality. Choose a photo, write ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘send to all’ at one go. With a Christmas card there is emotion and an undeniable tangibility; the happiness of receiving it is altogether different.”

So what can be done that Christmas cards make a comeback? “We can start sending them with a message that it is hoped that the gesture will be reciprocated,” pat came Desiree’s reply.

Meanwhile, die-hard romantics have taken to personalising Christmas cards, getting them printed on their own and sending them to loved ones, for they know the worth of a personalised message.

“The personal effort that went into selecting a card, writing on it, choosing the exact words for a particular person – those were the little gestures that added to the feeling of the festival,” said St Francis’s College co-ordinator Derick Jackson.

“Today, at the click of a button, all relatives and friends can be greeted with the same message,” he added.

Can Christmas cards be resuscitated? “Not possible now,” Jackson said. “Times have changed and the process of sending a Christmas card is too time-intensive”.

Jackson’s daughter, Rochelle, a Class X student, said, “WhatsApp is great for speed and reach, but for the ‘feel of Christmas’, nothing like a Christmas card to have and to hold. Personally speaking, nothing can match the vibes a Christmas card sends out”.

Calling the Christmas card something special, she said that special efforts needed to be made for them to make a comeback. Asked what, she said, “Maybe, if a few families, each season, visited shops asking for Christmas cards, it might coax shopkeepers to stock them.”

But till such time as when Christmas cards make a comeback, one would have to make do with the cheerless e-cards and e-greetings.