A few evenings ago, a news reporter instantly captured my interest, revealing the story of the first Christmas card ever printed. “Victorian Englishman, Sir Henry Cole commissioned a friend to design a card for him in the 1800’s,” the newsman explained, “as a way of keeping in touch with friends…”
Peering closer at the TV to see the wonderfully engraved card the artist had designed– a warm picture depicting an English family of several generations, celebrating together — I couldn’t help imagining what a delight it must have been to be one of Cole’s friends that year!
“The very first cards were not only seasonal greetings and hopes for the Happy New Year, but were often used as “thank-you’s,” the reporter went on. “People wouldn’t talk so much about their own lives as to write out a few lines expressing something they especially appreciated about the recipient.” An encouraging word… I love that!
On this Christmas Eve, this story makes me think… We are all leading such hectic lives… postal costs are ever escalating… and there’s always innovative e-mail cards, right? But can anything take the place of a beautiful card in hand, one the receiver can save and look at again and again, with a few handwritten lines letting that someone know how and why you value them? Even more, offering a heartfelt prayer for their new year?
I remember one of my strongest memories from a little child… how wonderingly I fingered each card Mom placed on our two louvered hall closet doors until there was not an inch of space left… Where did my parents get so MANY friends and people who loved them this much, I’d ponder, marveling. These were their childhood friends, once-close neighbors who had moved across the country, distant relatives, business acquaintances and “angels” like Gloria (see my post below, entitled Light*Post Part Two) – and no one missed a single year. They didn’t stop at just signing the card. Mom didn’t either. It was a chance to connect, thank friends for their love, send prayers and wishes for the New Year, let them know distance couldn’t separate their care. Now that Mom isn’t here, my Dad has taken up her mantle in writing cards… Oh, not as many. And probably not quite as detailed. But it is still important to him… a tradition his generation never forgot.
So I’m thinking…What if this year we started a new version of this tradition… and, hearkening back to when these cards expressed appreciation of friendship, chose just three or four people who might need an uplifting word, selected a card that reminds us uniquely of them? Or made them one. Then simply jotted a sentence or two letting them know… “I always think of you at Christmas because…,” or “Thank you for the way you always…” or “This card made me think of how you…”
Yes, it’s fun to discover what others have been up to all year, but what a treasure to know someone is simply thinking of you, praying words of joy for you…
A few years ago, I sent an acquaintance a unique and fun card…only because something about it reminded me of what he might have been like as a boy. And I wanted to cheer him, remind him of his first Christmases, warm and bright with heavenly light. The black and white photo depicted a young boy riding his bike, lifting his face to the first snow… exulting in the taste of Christmas. Only later did I discover, this person’s all-time favorite gift was a long ago bicycle… and how this card must have taken him back to that boyhood joy.