Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Christmas cards remain unbeatable after 167 years

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Try hanging a jpeg on a Christmas-card line during the holidays, or placing an e-card on the fireplace mantel, snuggled up there next to the Christmas candles and yuletide candies.

Try as you might, it's just not gonna work.

Ah, that's the beauty of the old-fashioned Christmas card, the ones you get via snail mail. If you're lucky, they sometimes contain photos of loved ones, family and friends who live far away but who remain close to your heart, especially during the holidays.

Whether funny or sentimental, containing a personal message or simply best wishes for happy holidays, there's nothing like sorting through a stack of mail and discovering brightly coloured envelopes mixed in with the advertising flyers and monthly bills.

Sure, those electronic versions you might be sent over the Internet, complete with snickering Santas, rocking Rudolphs or ornery elves, are cute, but when it comes to receiving something special at Christmas time, nothing beats the traditional Christmas card.

According to a survey by Canada Post, conducted by Harris/Decima last month, 80 per cent of respondents said they'd prefer to get a card in the mail if they had their druthers. It seems that no matter how tech-savvy you are, most of us appreciate the thought -- and the extra effort -- that goes into scribbling a few lines and popping a card in the mail.

Rising postal rates aside, sending and receiving Christmas cards in the mail is as enjoyable as stopping under the mistletoe, wrapping gifts or enjoying a good slug of eggnog -- cherished moments during the holiday that make it feel like, well, like a holiday.

Back in 1843, Londoner Sir Henry Cole commissioned John Calcott Horsley to paint what is believed to be the world's first Christmas card. On it was a picture of a happy family embracing and sipping wine, engulfed completely in the spirit of the season. Cole's simple message: "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You."

It's good to know that in this day and age of instant this and instant that, there are some dearly held traditions that tend to linger like the smell of turkey in the oven or the scent of fresh-baked pie.

Canada Post recently reported that Canadians will send an average of 15 cards this year, with nearly one-quarter of us sending more than 21 -- and women are more likely to drop a card in the mail than men. About 40 per cent of those surveyed said they'd resort to sending some digital Christmas cards this year, but the average was only five per person.

So as the big day approaches, feel free to get a chuckle out of those fleeting, e-mailed greetings, but make yourself a cup of hot chocolate, grab some Christmas baking and spend some quality time enjoying those traditional cards. Recognize the effort it took to send them and the happy sentiments behind the holiday gesture. Then take the time to jot down a few thoughts of your own and send a card in return.

Chances are, the person who sorts through the mail at some far-flung location will appreciate the personal message as much as you did. After all, nothing spreads the holiday spirit like a traditional Christmas card.

--The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 22, 2010 A10

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