Remember your friends with Christmas greetings

It’s been years since we’ve sent Christmas cards, but still a few of our closest friends remember us every year.
We hear from my college friend, Margaret, a writer in El Sobrante, Calif.; from Lee and Fran, my uncle and aunt from Wooster, Ohio; from Harvey and Darlene, who live in Slave Lake in northern Canada; from Doris, my cousin and childhood friend from upstate New York; and a few others.
But the vast majority of our friends from this country and Canada, like us, no longer send Christmas cards. Although busyness is never an excuse, that’s the one we use.
There’s so much to do around Christmas. Gifts to wrap. Cookies to bake. Parties to go to. Decorating to do. Christmas dinner to cook. There simply isn’t time to address Christmas cards and put a little note in each one.
That’s exactly how Henry Cole felt in 1843. Cole was the first director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and found himself too busy to write individual Christmas greetings to his friends. So he decided to engage an artist to create a card to send.
Cole’s card featured a picture of a family enjoying the festivities, with two side panels showing acts of charity. One thousand of the cards were printed and sold for a shilling each, and the Christmas card as we know it today was born.
It wasn’t a hit at first. But by the 1870s, advances in colour printing and the introduction of the halfpenny stamp meant Christmas cards gained widespread popularity in England.
By 1880, the cards were so popular that the post office advised the public to “Post early for Christmas.” At about the same time, Christmas cards were introduced in the United States by Louis Prang, a German living in Massachusetts.
Throughout their history, Christmas cards have reflected the times. In the 1920s, for instance, hand-painted cards were influenced by the Art Deco movement. In the ’30s, Depression-era cards poked fun at poverty and prohibition.
In the ’60s, peace symbols were featured, and technology changed Christmas cards as embossing and gold foil embellished many designs.
With the health trend booming in the ’80s, cards featured a thinner Santa. And by the 1990s, environmental concerns and traditional snow-covered landscapes were prominent.
Now it’s 2001, and many people just forget about their friends at Christmas. Do you sometimes feel like Henry Cole did in 1843—just too busy to send personalized cards?
What a tragedy to let busyness cause you to lose touch with friends and family. As James Boswell wrote in 1791, “To let friendship die away by negligence and silence is certainly not wise. It is voluntarily to throw away one of the greatest comforts of this weary pilgrimage.”
Maybe there’s a better way. Throughout history, Christmas cards have reflected the times and changed with technology. As the electronic era has exploded, many friends are finding it easy to keep in touch on the Internet.
So if you love the tradition of writing and mailing beautiful cards, by all means keep doing it. But, if you are one of the many who have lost the card tradition, why not begin a new tradition this year?
Forget about gold foil and snow-covered landscapes. Instead, remember your friends with a quick personal e-mail message.
It may not be beautiful. But keeping in touch—even in cyberspace—is much better than letting “friendship die away by negligence and silence.”
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist.

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