Claire Gardner: Facebook greeting isn’t the real Christmas deal

Picture: Sean Bell.
Picture: Sean Bell.
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ONE OF the great traditions of Christmas is the giving and receiving of cards. Yes, I love the Christmas tree, the tinsel and every sparkly bauble hung. But nothing beats a card to spread a bit of feel-good festive cheer.

I don’t mean the cringey ones with the round-robin rubbish in them but something with a thoughtful little message penned inside followed by lots of exclamation marks. Something like “Here’s to a fantastic 2013 – we really MUST meet up this year!!!!!!!!!”

And they probably don’t mean it – and when you read it you probably don’t particularly fancy meeting up either – but it’s nice and chatty and friendly and traditional and has required at least some effort and thought.

So anyway, this year, like every other, we’ve been collecting Christmas cards as they drop through our letter box. Traditionally, we drape them over ribbons and string them around the sitting room to give it an extra Christmassy feel. And then, as an overflow option, we prop cards up on bookcases, balance them on pictures, and finally blue-tack them on doors and walls.

Then we sit back and admire our collection and silently congratulate ourselves on our wide circle of friends.

Apart from this year that is.

It started off well – a steady flow of cards through our door from the first day of December. But then, rather than picking up pace, the deliveries started dwindling.

I started quizzing the kids, thinking that perhaps they had been intercepting them – they hadn’t.

Then I started thinking that perhaps, with the end of the world predicted, folk were holding off to the last moment – they weren’t.

And now, with this being the last day for pre-festive post – I’m holding out for a bumper crop of cards to arrive.

But I know they won’t.

On the last count, I was about 30 cards less popular than this time last year.

So what’s this Christmas card cold-shoulder all about?

Puzzled, I started a mental tick list to try and explain the sudden drop-off of friends. Neighbourly disputes? A few. Drunken rants insulting friends? Can’t remember. Maybe I could explain a couple of missing cards away – but not 30.

However, I became one step closer to an explanation of my almost no-mates status when I eventually got round to logging on to my Facebook account.

Having clicked on my “notifications pending” box, I discovered there were no less than 15 Christmas messages and electronic e-mail cards from friends.

Bingo. That’s where some of my “missing” cards had gone – the blasted internet. How rubbish is that?

In my opinion, sending an electronic message to all your 347 friends wishing them a “Fantastic Christmas” is no substitute for the real deal.

Where’s the sparkly Santa on the front, the cheerful message, the joy of deciphering undecipherable signatures that comes with proper cards.

Don’t people realise that for people with young kids there are hours of Blue Peter-type fun to be had with Christmas cards.

You can cut them out, stick them on things, make Christmas present labels for the following year with them, count them, subtract them – you get the picture.

What are you to do with an electronic one? Print it out and stick it on your wall?

Luckily, I have discovered I am not alone. According to recent research, the tradition of sending Christmas cards is in terminal decline, with social media largely to blame.

Oxfam, one of the largest charities that sells Christmas cards, said sales this year were 14 per cent lower than a year ago.

Also a study, based on a YouGov survey, calculates that Britons will sent 141 million fewer Christmas cards this year than five years ago.

Almost one in five people think cards are no longer an important part of Christmas with 13 per cent of those asked planning to send online and e-mail greetings instead.

However, it is not just social media and text messages to blame. Above-inflation increases in stamp prices (a first class stamp is now 60p) coupled with environmental concerns have all been given as reasons.

So what are we going to do about this tragedy?

Well, this year I have made the kids give me all their cards from school friends to try and make up the shortfall.

But in the long term, I think I’m going to have to take drastic action and get a bigger Christmas tree with extra tinsel to try and hide the gaps. That or find some new card-sending friends instead.

Happy Christmas.