jump to navigation

Christmas cards: Relics of Christmas past? December 11, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: ,
1 comment so far

Our friend Ben was unsurprised to read a headline in our local paper, the Allentown, PA Morning Call, yesterday: “Bad tidings for Christmas Cards.” The subhead, “Technology puts its stamp on season’s greetings,” implied to me that e-cards, which I believe are free, and certainly almost effortless to send, have annihilated the market for beautiful or whimsical but often pricey honest-to-God, hold-in-your hands paper cards.

Who wants to spend $60 for three boxes of cards, buy stamps, and then laboriously hand-address each card and write a personal message, maybe enclose some photos or a newsletter, when you can push a button instead? The cost factor alone is significant at a time when most of us are already busting our budgets buying and mailing presents.

So, as I say, I was saddened but not really surprised to see the story… until I actually read it. (For the full story, go to www.themorningcall.com.) Sure enough, there were the experts pronouncing that Facebook and Twitter, smart phones and iPads were rapidly putting Christmas cards in the quill-and-parchment category, quaint collectibles to purchase at your local antiques mall and display with your retro Christmas decorations.

But the article also included a chart with actual sales figures, and one showing percentage of Christmas-card buyers by age. Last year (2009), Christmas cards were a $3.8 billion dollar business. That would be almost $4 billion dollars Americans spent on Christmas cards during a deep recession. The next chart showed that 46% of Americans bought Christmas cards last year, including 38% of the age group (25-34) cited by one expert as being incapable of sending a thank-you note, much less a card.

Four billion dollars and 46 percent of the population does not sound like a dying franchise to our friend Ben. Instead, it sounds like an economic miracle in the electronic age, or any age, for that matter. Four billion dollars for Christmas cards! 

Silence Dogood and I love Christmas cards. We love getting them, seeing the family photos and reading the newsletters. We cherish the handwritten notes. We carefully select our own cards every year and write lengthy messages to everyone on our list. And no, we don’t enjoy getting e-cards. But neither do we enjoy getting a knee-jerk mailed card that’s obviously been chosen in haste and simply signed, without a message.

But that $3.8 billion is giving our friend Ben pause. Imagine what that amount of money could do if it were spent feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, and comforting the miserable? Surely that would be a fitter expression of the Christmas spirit. Perhaps those sickening e-cards aren’t so bad, after all.

Curbing Christmas consumption. December 1, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , , , ,

Silence Dogood here. Buying gifts for other people is one thing. But the aspect of Christmas I most dread is the huge temptation to buy things for myself.

Here’s how it always goes: Let’s say that, like me, you love Christmas ornaments. Now, you already have more lovingly chosen ornaments, family heirlooms, and etc. than you can ever display. You tell yourself, come on, it’s Christmas, so you can buy yourself one new ornament. Then you go shopping. It seems like everywhere you go, at least 50 ornaments are screaming “Buy me! Buy me!” Handmade ornaments. Vintage ornaments. Temptation is everywhere.

Okay, you think, I’ll avoid temptation by limiting my outings as much as possible. But then the Christmas catalogues come piling in the door. Not only are they full of wonderful ornaments, but they virtually explode with gorgeous trees, wreaths, and—my other unfortunate weakness—really stunning Christmas cards.

The two worst offenders in this category are the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Chicago Art Institute catalogues. From cards with exquisite Fra Angelico and Giotto angels to breathtaking photographs to delightful cutouts and whimsical creations, these catalogues offer up the creme de la creme of cards, and I always want at least 20 different boxes from each catalogue. And did I mention catalogues with real glass snow globes, old-time toys, colorful Christmas stockings, and delicious Christmas confections?

Fortunately, I’ve discovered a way to make this particular temptation work for me. I understand that it’s looking at these wonderfully creative expressions of Christmas that cheers me up and puts me in the holiday spirit, not necessarily owning them. So I have a folder labeled “Christmas Ideas.” Every time I see a page in a Christmas catalogue or magazine with something I love on it, I tear it out and put it in the folder. Each season, it’s enormous fun to open the folder and revisit the wonderful delights inside, while, of course, adding new ones.

Why “Christmas Ideas,” you ask? Well, who’s to say that one year I won’t unearth my box of tiny white starfish and sand dollars and make my own “White Christmas” wreath with them, rather than ordering one from a catalogue? And sometimes, you can get a great idea from a catalogue and adapt it to your own decor.

This year, I saw that L.L. Bean was offering a live “tabletop tree” with the ornaments attached to ribbons hanging from a bow at the top of the tree. Since hanging ornaments directly on a small live tree like a Norfolk Island pine or, mercy on us, one of those rosemary topiaries that always seem to be everywhere at Christmas, can potentially damage the plant, this struck me as a brilliant solution. And why not extend it to attaching ornaments to ribbons and stringing them on the mantel, on a chandelier, around a door, or on a banister? It seems like a great way to get to display more of your small ornaments while minimizing the risk of breakage from, say, a cat swiping one off its hook.

My “Christmas Ideas” folder has brought me great enjoyment and really helped curb that “I love this and have to buy it or I won’t remember it” impulse. And guess what? I have a second folder labeled “Christmas Gifts.”

The “Christmas Gifts” folder is designed to foil that other dreaded syndrome, the “one for you and two for me” gift-buying orgy. When I see something in one of those catalogues or magazines I’d just love to have, again, I tear it out and put it in the folder. If I see that I’ve put the same item in the folder for the past several years, I’m likely to give that page to our friend Ben (assuming the item is reasonable) as a subtle hint. Otherwise, I just enjoy my virtual Christmas shopping spree!

I can see expanding the idea so that each family member has his or her own “Christmas Gifts” folder. (As long as they clearly understand that this is a playlist, not a shopping list for you or Santa!) Each season, you could all look through everyone’s folders and get ideas for gifts you know would be appreciated.

These tactics are especially helpful in houses like ours where money is tight and space is limited. Just yesterday, I saw a bumper sticker that said “Question Consumption.” What a good idea! A few simple Christmas folders is a great way to start.

            ‘Til next time,