"The Oldie is an incredible magazine - perhaps the best magazine in the world right now" Graydon Carter, founder of Air Mail and former Editor of Vanity Fair

Subscribe to the Oldie and get a free cartoon book

Subscribe

Christmas cards - Roger Lewis

Blog | By Roger Lewis | Dec 05, 2023


In this digital era, the sending of Christmas cards is becoming a dying practice. Roger Lewis questions whether we should be more selective in our mailing lists

I was always a diligent and loyal dispatcher of Christmas cards until a few years ago.

It suddenly seemed to me a bit pathetic to keep sending a seasonal message to my old geography teacher, whom I’d not seen since the seventies.

The Christmas-card list can be a frightful trap. My mother-in-law sends dozens of cards, even to people who are dead. The Queen sends 750 cards, personally inscribing each of them during the dull, wet summer holiday in Balmoral. Clearly the whole business is a burden.

I made an effort to be more selective – and I began to notice a tit-for-tat game was afoot. If I didn’t send a card, I wouldn’t get one back. If I started up again, they started up again.

The menopausal wives of old school pals were particularly prone to this – a lower-middle-class, suburban, provincial mentality, always on the alert for perceived slights.

Slightly nastier is the way sending no card implies war declared. It’s a postal version of cutting a person dead. A lot of that goes on in the literary world, with Christmas the opportunity not for goodwill but for spite. A lukewarm review – and no more shall cardboard crib scenes or pheasants in flight over a snowy landscape drop through the letterbox.

People who do send cards religiously – and I was until recently in this undiscriminating category myself – are the complete bores, whom I’d never want to see or spend time with at Christmas or any other time: flabby cousins, in-laws with company cars, dull, widowed aunts, the couple from Glasgow met in Rhodes in 1987.

Nevertheless, I am a devotee of their round robins, the more banal the better: ‘Julie fell off a ladder in Marlborough and broke five ribs and her sternum’; ‘We did a spot of hang-gliding in August’; ‘I am still doing battle with the DVLA over my personalised number plate’.

Owing to the coronavirus, and not wanting to queue up at the Hastings post office with the plague-carriers, I didn’t send any cards in 2020. I will know the extent of the retribution these subsequent Christmases.