Claire Gardner: ‘Thanks’ seems to be hardest word

The festive season is coming to a close for another year. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The festive season is coming to a close for another year. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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AND breathe! That’s the festive fun over for another year.

Just as our Christmas tree is slowly wilting in the corner of the sitting room, I, like many others, am in a state of exhausted decline, having spent days in a frenzy of wrapping and shopping and cooking and cleaning to make sure our Big Day went with a bang.

And now every cracker has been pulled, every last cold roast potato has been devoured and every last drop of wine has been guzzled from our rather large booze stash.

Radio stations are starting to scale back on the number of cheery festive tunes they play and supermarkets have re-stocked their shelves ready for the next onslaught of panic-buying before Hogmanay.

Many people have already gone back to work while others will be stuck at home entertaining relatives who are, by now, well past their sell-by dates.

So in this relatively quiet break before New Year’s Eve parties, there is time to kick back and enjoy a few precious days just chilling out and ignoring the kids who are plugged into the latest technology and eating their bodyweight in chocolate.

Well, maybe for some. However, for many mothers, there is still one big job left on the To Do List – the task of getting the kids to write the dreaded thank you cards.

Across the land, armies of generous grannies and grandads, aunties and uncles and friends are waiting for a note spelling out just how much their gift has been appreciated.

And then there are all the the parents faced with telling their offspring to put pen to paper.

Even the smallest whiff of the thank you card task in our house provokes sounds that wouldn’t be out of place in a torture camp – and that’s just the adults.

The kids try to make a run for it but still I insist that Great Auntie Christabel among others is given due thanks for her thoughtful gift (despite the fact that last year she gave my son a Masai warrior’s lunchbox).

However, I have recently discovered that the tradition of making kids send thank you notes is on the way out.

A study by grandparents’ website Grannynet showed that the number of children writing thank you notes had dropped dramatically from 86 per cent to just 35 per cent today.

Of course, there is no mystery about this – all those thank yous have gone on-line.

Yes, rather than sharpen their HB pencils, children are logging on and simply emailing a few lines of “thanks very much” then just pressing Send.

Then there are the texting brigade who are just tapping tyvm (that’s textspeak for thank you very much) to the gift-givers and, of course, the naughty few who don’t bother at all.

I know you could argue that a thank you is still a thank you, whether sent by carrier pigeon or electronically, but I can’t help feeling that unless it’s the old-fashioned sort, it’s cheating.

We all know that receiving a letter or parcel through the post is a joyous experience (with the obvious exception of bank statements or bills) and grandparents are no different. So why not say it with a card?

In my book, a real present, thoughtfully picked, wrapped and sent through the post with love, demands a real reply.

I realise that I am in a minority here – and that time pressures as well as the cost of a stamp (up 30 per cent in the last two years) is enough to put off the most ardent letter-writer.

Then again, when it comes to knowing what is right, I’m often way off the mark.

All those years ago, when mobile phones bleeped their way into the world, I was the bah-humbug in the corner, mumbling that they would never catch on and, again more recently, I said the same about those dreadful onesies.

And this Christmas, while I painstakingly wrote down a list of who gave what to whom, my mother-in-law was merrily posting festive messages to her army of Facebook friends.

What I do know, however, is that when I was a child, I refused to write a thank you card to a crusty old aunt. She never gave me a Christmas present again.

So as I chase my kids around the house with a sharpened pencil and a pack of thank you notelets, I will tell them the story of the un-thanked aunt and ask them the question: “Why take the risk?”