— By LARRY M. JONES
One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season has always been the sharing of Christmas cards with friends and family.
From my earliest recollection of this ritual, I have seen this tradition as a way of keeping in touch with loved ones and acquaintances who might live in other parts of the country. I recall the cards my mother would send would always contain a short personal note, and the ones we received would do so, as well. Serving so many years in the Navy, I found this to be a wonderful way to keep in touch with old shipmates who became scattered to the four winds.
The sending of Christmas cards is a relatively modern practice, originating roughly about the time of the birth of our nation. Early handwritten Christmas greetings were originally delivered in person, but they quickly became commercially printed and were delivered by the postal service. I’ve read that an early “Superintendent of Mails” in Washington, D.C., complained to Congress and encouraged them to restrict the practice because it created such an extra workload.
I recall seeing my mother pore over her address book, making a list of those she wished to include in her Yuletide mailings. Unlike many folks today, we did not include local friends and family on our card list. For many of these folks, we would take the time to drop off a plate of cookies, fruitcake or candy. Others we would offer our holiday greetings during parties at school and church events, or at gatherings throughout the community. Spending 3 cents on a stamp to send a card two miles seemed to be quite a waste of money down on the poor farm.
Over the years, I’ve heard many folks complain about the rising price of stamps, saying that this would probably be the last year they would be able to afford to send cards. While this may be the case for some, fortunately we were never been so destitute as to limit this spreading of Christmas cheer. Our cards may have been cheap “dime store” editions, but the sentiment was as rich as the season.
I recall seeing advertisements on television for Hallmark cards. Their logo was, “When you care enough to send the very best.” Down on Route One Millsap we didn’t care that much, but I always looked on the back of the cards we received to see who did.
With the advent of email, Skype and social networking, staying in contact with others through Christmas cards has become less important, but I still view it as an important part of my life. My wife Helen and I enjoy making our cards and including a personalized message and photo reflecting the past year.
Christmas letters became quite popular decade or two ago. You know the kind – the ones that tell you about the great beauty and accomplishments of their children and grandchildren. To me, these rank right up there with lime green leisure suits and velvet Elvis paintings – tacky on steroids.
As part of each Christmas season, one of my favorite Christmas songs was sung by the late Jim Reeves, “It’s the Memory of an Old Christmas Card.” It is wonderful to fondly reminisce, and I hope that each of you experience the same joy and happiness.
Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.