E-Christmas card? No thanks
I have a soft spot for Christmas cards . . . both sending and receiving. As for sending, I rather take pleasure in choosing the right card for the right person (all mine are from the Fitzwilliam Museum this year -- as you can see above) -- the nice Madonna for those I know or suspect are religious types, the Quentin Blake of the choristers, for those who would like a bit of a Cambridge feel, etc .
Quite who is on my "Christmas card list" is a question that would keep an anthropological analyst of gift-exchange going for an hour or so. I exchange cards with some people I see often (and yet there are others of my day to day mates that I would never dream of sending a card to . . . I guess in part we have mutually decided, probably years ago, whether we would have a "card" relationship or not). But there are, of course, also a large number of people with whom the only contact I now have is the Christmas card. It's what lets us still claim we know each other -- giving the card up, and that would be that.
I'm not just talking about the more or less distant relatives. In my case it's the girl from my village I used to play with 50 years ago. Why not let her go? you ask. The simple answer is that I dont want to, and the fact that we think about each other once a year, as we put our cards in the envelope, is well worth the couple of quid it must now cost. (As I was writing this, I just heard someone on the radio saying how useless it was to write "Hope we catch up in 2013", like one has written ever since 2001, and never got round to it. Well true, but better than not writing it all, I say.)
But the other side is the receiving of them, opening them up, remembering the sender for a little while -- then displaying them around the house. I pick out my very favourites and put them on the mantelpiece, and squeeze the others wherever they'll fit, balancing the ones left (with the help of a bit of blutack) on the picture rail.
It's classic ritualised activity -- as utterly meaningful as it is totally pointless.
But that's where the gripe at the top of this post comes in. I'm sorry if this offends all my friends and acquaintances who have just constructed and "sent" their e-cards. But what on earth is the point. However "all singing and dancing" they are, the idea of dispatching it at one click to the whole of your address book just isn't the same as writing "Love Mary and Robin, hope we see you in 2013" and licking the envelope and sticking the stamp on.. all individually. Besides, the smarter these e-cards are, the more they clog up your inbox... and you cant put them on the mantelpiece. So what is the use.
(That said, I did have one great electronic greetings yesterday, from a uni friend who -- in desperation with the card routine -- sent a handful of electonic pics, including a couple of him as a tiny boy. I spent a good few minutes trying to detect the grown up Alastair in these 1960s image, and giggling to myself. That WAS pleasure.)