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Christmas cards are actually a lovely way of spreading festive cheer

PUBLISHED: 21:10 24 November 2019 | UPDATED: 21:16 24 November 2019

Christmas cards are a wonderful part of the lead up to Christmas, says Helen McDermott

Christmas cards are a wonderful part of the lead up to Christmas, says Helen McDermott

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Returning columnist Helen McDermott says Christmas cards aren't a waste of money and are actually one of the nicest parts of the festive build-up

Well, who'd have thought it? With a name like Nick he should be overflowing with the spirit of Christmas and all the warm-hearted expressions of peace and goodwill to all men, and yet here's this paper's columnist Nick Richards taking a pop at Christmas cards.

In his column on November 22 he dismisses them as expensive, wasteful and time-consuming, and a lazy way to keep in touch with people you haven't seen for a while.

Now I have to agree that card-sending can be a bit of a chore, what with checking addresses, writing the little messages, and cross-checking with your other half so that his list matches yours. There is the risk of getting tired so that your stock of goodwill might run out. The trick is to do about 10 or a dozen cards at a time, preferably with a glass of wine handy and some Christmas music playing. Although not Slade, please.

I met them at a lunch once .Nice blokes. Irritating Christmas song.

What's wrong with sending a cheery card to somebody I've known for a long time but for one reason or another I haven't regularly kept in touch with? Each Christmas they are very likely feeling the same. Then our cards turn up and we know the friendship goes on and we know it's Christmas that's done it. To Nick this might sound like an old person's soppiness but I really like getting cards each year from long-distance friends.

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Expense is one of the objections raised by Nick, but the cost of a Christmas card is a mere trifle compared with other stuff that melts your credit card. And where does the money go anyway? Charities depend on the festive spending and there are designers and printers whose earnings would be dented without Christmas revenue.

Some thrifty and creative people spend hours recycling each year's cards, cutting and pasting reindeer, choirs in the snow, Santa Claus (Saint Nick), stagecoaches and robins. Some even create their own original works, like Annette, a friend from schooldays who's a professional musician; we haven't seen each other for years but we've never lost touch.

Every year we get the virtue carollers who declare that they are not sending cards but donating to charity instead. Oh, yeah? Up go the eyebrows, out come the sighs. How noble we say, all you have to do is show us the receipts. With cards that are bought to support the work a charity does, plus the cost of postage, we can see that money has actually been spent. When it comes to virtuous declarations we have to take their word for it.

There are some witty and ingenious online greetings, with tail-wagging dogs in falling snow and trees that light up in time to the music. Some say they are a charming way to cut the pollution caused by card production and the petrol for the posties' vans. But now we're being told that the internet takes up a lot of energy that has to be generated from polluting sources.

So I want to keep to Christmas cards, but I draw the line at round robins, those smug annual reports of a family's brilliant year. There are accounts of expensive, exotic holidays and the shining achievements of Roger, now risen to chief executive (the job's lousy but the pay is fabulous and he has a chauffeur) but a veil is drawn over his third driving ban. The children are doing wondrously well: Sebastian has got high marks for his A-levels (in spite of being excluded for bullying another boy whose trainers he coveted) and Cordelia is coming on in leaps and bounds now that the school has been a bit less finicky about her nose and lip studs.

Dear Nick wrote that his eyes bulged when he overheard a man in the Post Office queue ask for 200 second-class stamps for his Christmas cards. Well, I've just bought a couple of hundred too, and if Nick's a good boy one of them could be coming his way.

Happy Christmas.

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