Christmas Valentines

I am embarrassed to admit this, but over the last few weeks, I have been sending out Christmas cards. Yes, Christmas cards. The ones I ordered at four in the morning on Christmas Eve while I fought a bout of the stomach flu. Lovely details, no? But they communicate the reality: that I knew receiving the cards, writing brief personal notes, addressing them, and mailing them during the twelve days of Christmas was an unlikely stretch, and that family and friends alike would be receiving our annual form note and pictures long after most of our society would be thinking of Christmas, or even New Year’s, or even January.

So illness and normal vacation antics prevailed during the days after Christmas, and other duties and houseguests and responsibilities filled up January, and all of a sudden, I realized I had many, many cards still sitting on the floor by my desk. What to do? I know more than one person who doesn’t send Christmas cards at all. I even know a few that have ordered them and just not sent them, as days turn into weeks and months. So I considered filing them away and trying again this fall, at the socially appropriate time to write notes and send annual greetings.

But I just couldn’t. I am too practical, for one, to want anything to go to waste. Even more, I feel a strong responsibility to responding to those who have made an effort to share their lives with us. I am guilty that I have not yet done so. Silence is neither polite nor loving. Simple etiquette says as much.

Some millennials are embracing the physical greeting card tradition that older generations largely practice. But the fact is that most people rarely write letters or send cards. I understand the draw to and need for electronic communication–I’m blogging right now, which is one form of it, after all. But in our atomized world, where loneliness is prevalent, I think mailed notes are a small token towards cultivating the kind of connections that matter to us. And those are the physical kind, the real kind.

That’s why I’m sharing my project of sending out Christmas cards in February. They’re belated love notes, like Valentines, to tell loved ones, “We still think of you and remember you and love you. And here’s something real and tangible to prove it.” You can do the same. It’s never too late to tell someone you care, that you love them. I hope to send Christmas cards at a more appropriate time in the future, of course. But for now, Christmas Valentines will do.

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