It's that time of year when mailboxes everywhere are a little more crowded than usual.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau 1.9 billion Christmas cards are sent out each year in the United States. That dwarfs the second most popular holiday card - Valentine's Day - which reports 192 million cards sent each year.
I wasn't able to find a similar statistic in Canada but I'd guess Canadians send similar proportions of Christmas cards, so somewhere around 190 million cards. That's a lot.
Before you go all crazy this isn't another "Bah humbug" I don't want your stupid card rant.
I actually like getting Christmas cards. First of all, with most of my bills now coming in electronic format, the vast majority of stuff in the mailbox is crap. Special promotions and letters from various companies I do business with masquerading as real mail. So having a greeting card from someone to open amid the promises of elaborate discounts and the best pizza ever is a nice change.
Not to mention, that even if I'm only one of 200 people on your list, and we haven't spoken in years, it is a nice thing to know that I'm still rated high enough in your esteem to address an envelope and sign your name.
I don't even hate the yearly letters. Who has time to write an individual letter to all your loved ones, especially in December when I swear there are actually less than 24 hours a day to get everything done you need to do. I like getting photos of friends' children because so often they live far away and I don't get to see them growing up. Heck, even the ones who live a few blocks away from me I don't see as often as I probably should.
Then there are the business holiday cards - and the sort of annual competition among colleagues to see who rates the highest by getting the most cards.
Right now most of the desks in the office here in Ottawa are decorated with various cards from MPs and senators. I think it's interesting to see the various different ways politicians choose to wish Happy Holidays. Many include photos of their families. Some might think it's a crass vote-seeking attempt. "Look how cute that baby is, I better vote for him."
Rubbish. It's a chance to see a little bit beyond the every day of these people. A chance to be reminded they truly are people too. Industry Minister Tony Clement appears casual in khakis and sunglasses, in a red Adirondack chair surrounded by his family. The photo however is slightly blurry triggering a suggestion perhaps it was taken on his blackberry.
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau's card has a photo of him, his wife and their two children all in white, sort of floating in the air. I couldn't help but think as a young child Justin Trudeau probably appeared in a similar way on his father's cards.
That thought prompted one colleague to wonder how long it would be before pundits began speculating about the political future of Trudeau's son. Xavier James just turned two in October. Let's hope for the sake of that little boy he can at least be legal to drink in Canada before he becomes fodder for political games.
But so far the best holiday card photo I've seen has to be that of Manitoba Conservative MLA Mavis Taillieu. The provincial representative for Morris is standing with her husband and two sons under a tree in a park-like setting. It is pouring rain and they are huddled under an umbrella and Taillieu is hunched into herself, arms crossed around herself for warmth and looks like she is positively freezing.
At first I wondered why they wouldn't have just rescheduled the photo shoot if the weather were that horrible. Then I thought hey, bravo to Mavis. First of all, with the wet, cold weather of 2009, finding a day when it wasn't raining was about as easy as it is to find Waldo at a convention of red-hatted people.
Plus that photo is in many ways symbolic of the year that was. For 2009 will not go down in history as a year many people want to remember. From the economic meltdown and major government deficits, growing unemployment lines, H1N1, you name it, It kind of feels a bit like the entire year was spent under a rain cloud. That picture just kind of personifies it.