Monday, December 19, 2011
Seasonal Change of Pace: Christmas Cards and Nostalgia
An article in our local newspaper entitled "Has Facebook Killed the Holiday Card?" stimulated me to write a seasonally-oriented post. Anyone who has noted my picture on this website or on Twitter will understand why I now quote something Prf. Tió'otu A'a'ma (one of my avian off-worlders) said: "I am no longer – how do you Earthers put it? – a chicken of the spring.” Just last Thursday I performed the annual holiday ritual -- I mailed out a small number of paper greeting cards. They go mostly to friends who are as old or older than I am and who don't even have computers (imagine that!) or are in nursing homes, or whose email addresses I don't know. But I send to others simply because it's the one time a year that I get in touch with them and I want to send a real letter. And besides, as the article in the newspaper went on to say: "Email and text greetings don't look good on the mantel." It's like that "Pearls before Swine" strip a week or so ago, where Pig read the newspaper on his eReader and then used the device to line his birdcage. Paper does have some uses that electronics just can't fulfill!
But that's a digression. I wanted to talk about my mother. There can't be anybody in the world who loved greeting cards more than she did. When I was a child and even after I got older, if we went into a card store, there was no getting away in under an hour. My mother would look at every card on the rack and I would be chafing and getting impatient, dying to get on to something more interesting. And my mother never threw away a single card (Christmas, birthday, Easter, Valentine, anything) that anybody ever sent to her. After she died in 1997, I spent two and a half years going through all the stuff she had accumulated during her life and in every box I opened would be a packet of greeting cards. I still have them all; I collected them together and organized them by date (that's the old catalog librarian's response) and I have several boxes of them sitting right here across the office from me at this very moment. They range from material dated in the first twenty years of the twentieth century (the only part of the collection with some monetary value, I think) all the way up to the present, because I still keep all the cards I get (alas -- a small number compared to the way it used to be.) I do that because the act of preserving greeting cards was engrained in me from babyhood.
The collection is actually quite interesting because it shows how the greeting card evolved over the past century. In the '30's and '40's, cards were fairly small and the paper wasn't very good and they often had glitter that came off all over you. The high point was the '60's and maybe early '70's. At that time Hallmark really outdid itself -- beautiful, big, gilded reproductions of old masters' paintings at Chistmas and orginal art of high quality and careful craftsmanship. Then it began to decline as costs went up. Everything became generic-looking and uniform and basically cheap -- a dime-a-dozen sort of result for a much higher price.
Anyway, I'm sure my mother would be glad to know that I have kept her hoard. I've always thought maybe the collection could go to some museum of card history or of cultural history after I die, but the most likely outcome will be that the cards will go in the recycle bin or the trash. Oh, well, carpe diem.
By the way, the newspaper article found that lots of people (even the "chickens of the spring") still like to send paper greetings at Christmas, even going so far as to design their own, and that Hallmark is not in danger of going out of business -- yet!
Now I want to wish everybody a happy holiday season and good cheer in the coming new year! Next post, I'll be back in my own world!