Come December, I indulge in what some may consider a defunct practice — I buy Christmas and New Year’s greeting cards for my loved ones and actually send them through snail mail.
In the age of social media, when an e-card arrives in your inbox in a matter of seconds, I still follow this “ancient” tradition.
I believe getting a card through the postal services is a much warmer way of sending wishes than a cold, impersonal e-card.
And the one person most on my mind when I send these cards is my little six-year-old grand-niece who stays many miles away, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
This card not only brings joy to my heart, but there is far more to it. It is my way of telling her about a beautiful past practice, a time when people took the time and trouble to choose cards, pen a few lines, and send them on.
It’s the night before Christmas, and I’m holding a card I received that morning. It’s a hand-drawn card, of fir trees and houses and a star in the sky. Inside, there are a few words written by hands that have just learnt to hold a pencil.
I’ve picked for her a card with a teddy bear wearing a bright red knitted sweater and a background design of pink-and-white candy canes.
A big red heart in the corner has the words: For the one I love. With little white hearts printed all over the front and back of the red envelope, it’s the perfect card for a little girl.
I pen a short letter inside the card, asking her about her life, her school, her friends. I affix a stamp, and the card is on its way.
Part of my pleasure in sending cards to the little one is the delight I imagine she feels. First, a card just for her, lying in the letter box. I can imagine how eagerly she’ll pick it up. Most kids don’t even know what a post card or letter is, but this little one would. It’s an education in itself, as well as a lesson in appreciating non-materialist gifts.
And then the thrill she’d feel just opening the envelope carefully — her mother would oversee that — so that the card doesn’t tear. This teaches the value of patience. And then, her utter happiness at seeing the card and reading the lines I have penned just for her. She has learnt to read, and can string the letters into words and make sense of the sentences. That’s a lesson in itself for her.
Perhaps this little girl will keep this card for posterity. Perhaps in another 20 or 30 years, no one would have heard of Christmas and New Year cards sent by snail mail. Perhaps she’ll keep it for a long, long time, until she too becomes a grandmother. She’d take it out of her precious box of memories, gaze at it lovingly, and tell her grandchildren about those good old days when people actually wrote with something called a pen, actually made marks on paper, and sent it to someone living perhaps on the other side of the world through what was once called postal services.
You see how the lesson would continue …It’s the night before Christmas, and I’m holding a card I received that morning. It’s a hand-drawn card, of fir trees and houses and a star in the sky. Inside, there are a few words written by hands that have just learnt to hold a pencil. This card, with its childish handwriting, is more precious to me than the most expensive gift. A card made exclusively for me by the same grand-niece.A hundred years ago, the famous Irish poet W.B. Yeats said it his own way, the importance of traditions. How but in custom and in ceremony/Are innocence and beauty born?/ Ceremony’s a name for the rich horn/ And custom for the spreading laurel tree.
In our own small way, we are keeping this laurel tree alive.
— Padmini B. Sankar is a Dubai-based freelance writer. Twitter: @paddersatdubai