Monday, December 03, 2012


Some of the holiday cards I've sent over the years
Sure, people love to give and get gifts this time of year.  But to me, nothing beats getting a bunch of fun holiday cards in the mail and then putting them up to look at each day.  Part of the reason I'm impartial to "real" paper-based correspondence is that I love everything related to mail  - stamps, cards, stationary, stickers, the whole nine yards.  When I was little, I would walk to the local Hallmark store and spend hours looking at cards, calendars, stickers  and scrapbooks.  I was (and still am!) in love with those tiny, free calendars they give out which list things like holidays; birthstones (I hated that mine was topaz; I wanted diamond or ruby!); birth flowers; modern and traditional gifts for wedding anniversaries. 

It's not really surprising that I love all this stuff.  I grew up in a family that prized hand-written letters.  This group included my grandma, who regularly wrote letters to me and included magazine and newspaper articles about things I was interested in.  At holiday time, my nuclear family members (mom, dad, brother, me) each wrote each other a blessing - a hand-written expression of what we appreciated about one another and what we wished for each other in the year ahead.  We started that tradition when my brother was five and struggled to form his letters.  I still have that blessing and  almost all the blessings we ever exchanged over a 20-plus year period.

When I was growing up, my dad, then a children's dentist, would send out holiday cards to at least 300 people - colleagues, patients ,family friends, etc.    The cool thing is that he would pay me a little something to hand address and put stamps on each letter.  The amazing this is that he wrote personal notes to each and every one of these people.

Thirteen years ago, I started my own holiday time tradition by sending cards accompanied by a typed letter with highlights from the year.  A few years into this ritual, I began to alphabetize the list.

Does this tradition take time?  Yes, it does!  All said and done, I invest about 15 hours.  It helps to start early, break it down into 1- or 2-hour time slots, and do some of it while listening to holiday music or having fun tv shows on in the background.

Like any other tradition that involves an investment, there's a pretty generous return on the investment.

Here's some good things that come out of it:

1.  It's so awesome having an excuse to go into a bunch of stationery and paper good stores:  I'm looking for a really festive card to send out to a bunch of folks!  Then there's the pleasure of selecting a festive stamp from USPS, ordering a great return address label, and finding a fun sticker to put on the envelopes.

2.  Making the list of highlights from the year gives me the chance to go all the way back to January and think about all the good things that happened, all the interesting things I got to do, and life's simple pleasures that I've enjoyed.  Often, I go back and read blog entries from the year to get ideas.

3.  Sending out cards reminds me of all the good people in my life.

4.  People send cards back!

5.  A bunch of folks have borrowed this idea and started writing their own list of highlights from the year.

6.  I know that people look forward to receiving this letter.  One of my friends told me that she saved the one I sent to her last year.

To summarize:  Gifts are great, but nothing beats the gift of the written word.  The investment of time is well-worth the opportunity to connect with good memories and express thanks for the positive  things that happened over the course of the year.

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