15 December 2023

How to deal with the (Christmas) cards you've been dealt ... it's quite a gift

| Sally Hopman
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Christmas card

Lots of greeting card companies helpfully offer everything you need to personalise your festive message – all you have to do is fill in the blanks. Photo: The Gallery Collection.

So whatever happened to Christmas cards? About this time of year you usually can’t see the williams (big bills) in your mailbox for the cards with the cheapish stamps on them.

Cards, in their prime, could be more of a gift than presents – well, if they had money in them.

Do you remember when people sent cards with typed letters inside them – you knew that you were probably the 999th person to receive a copy – from people you hadn’t heard from since the previous Christmas? Telling you all the impressive stuff they’d been doing throughout the year, knowing they could write pretty much anything because you weren’t likely to check up on them/didn’t care/had forgotten who they were. You flew to the Moon? Fabulous. What was your name again?

But my favourite card-carrier would have to be Hyacinth Bucket (pron: Bouquet) who, in that fabulous TV series Keeping Up Appearances, proudly and loudly told everyone in earshot that she had been sent about a million Christmas cards.

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They were plastered throughout her house: she quickly ran out of mantlepiece space so had started papering her walls with them. How popular I am, she said, to anyone who listened and to all the others who did not. Look at all my cards, she cried, loud enough for Santa to hear from, neigh, on high.

Turns out though, that she sent them to herself. When her long-suffering husband asked her why, she said it was a community service. Huh? he replied. According to Hyacinth, those million or so people probably wanted to send her a card but for some reason had not proceeded, so she was simply doing them a service by sending them to herself.

But if you want to know who really nailed it when it came to the best Christmas greetings, remember Norman Gunston?

He wrote his Christmas cards like he signed his autograph, with that personal touch: “To whom it may concern, love from your good friend Norman Gunston”.

You can tell the senders who are clearly doing it under sufferance. Mostly you get these cards at work or from people you once did business with, but never again. Cheery scenes on the front, careful to say things like Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings so no-one is offended by words like “Christmas”.

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Almost always, if you turn them over, you’ll learn that by buying this card, your sender saved the world, a puppy, most of Tasmania and/or about 50 million people in a place you’ve never heard of – with “a percentage” of the card’s cost going to charity.

PR firms are champions at this, as they are also at sending gifts around this time of year. What journalist wouldn’t be swayed by a box of shiny things from the PR firm representing that business?

Helpfully, the PRers place a media release among the gift basket, just so you can spell everyone’s name correctly when you give them a free plug. Or not.

Welcome to Christmas, a time to give … back. Bless.

Original Article published by Sally Hopman on Riotact.

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