OPINION: Why now is the perfect time to stop posting wasteful Christmas cards
PUBLISHED: 17:47 21 November 2019 | UPDATED: 09:48 22 November 2019
Written your Christmas cards yet? Nick Richards says you can save yourself time, energy, cash and maybe even the planet if you just don't bother
This time last year I witnessed something at my local Post Office that still staggers me.
Standing behind a smartly-dressed gent in the queue, I watched as he moved forward, seemingly to withdraw his pension before handing a good chunk of it back to the cashier. In between transactions he'd barked out his request with words I still find hard to take in.
"Can I have 200 second-class stamps please?"
My eyes bulged and eyebrows raised as I did the calculations. This man spent more than £100 on stamps which I found out a few seconds later were for his Christmas cards.
What a complete and utter waste of money.
At this point I need to say I do like Christmas, I am not a killjoy and, to coin a phrase, I like to do my bit for charity. But Christmas cards? Never been a fan.
Even at primary school when I had to write 30 and drop them off in a red-painted cardboard box with cotton wool snow on top of it, I found the whole idea a farce.
'Ooh, I wonder who this card could be from' I used to mutter to myself in faux excitement.
It's come full circle now, though, as my seven-year-old son has around three dozen cards to write and take to school to hand out to his pals. I get that it is part of the pre-Christmas ritual for him at this innocent time in his life, but I am sure in another 10 years he'll see them in the same hopelessly outdated way that I do.
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I have many reasons for thinking we should stop sending them.
The one comment I expect readers to point out is that they're a great way for elderly people to keep in touch with distant relatives. I'll save you the trouble and say it for you right here: "We only hear from so and so once a year and that's at Christmas."
Why? Write to them in the summer, phone them at Easter, email them on Shrove Tuesday or send them a smoke signal on St Patrick's Day. There are plenty of modern, free and instant ways of keeping in contact with people rather than writing the same boring old message once a year.
Far from being a nice thing to do at this time of this year, Christmas cards are expensive to post (especially if you are my Post Office queue buddy) and are, if anything, a lazy way of keeping in touch. I'd far rather give the people deemed fit enough only for my Christmas card list (if I had one) a phone call, email or see them in person than just resort to a card.
My next-door neighbours, for example, have never had a Christmas card from me, although they did get some beers when they moved in and I've cleared their path of snow and moved their wheelie bins in when they've been on holiday. They're far better gestures than simply writing my name on a card under a pre-printed message from Hallmark and co and bunging it through their letterbox.
There's also the pressure factor that nobody needs at this time of year. It's hard enough working out work patterns, where you're going on Christmas Day, getting all the food in, presents bought and tree up than having to waste an evening or two getting sore hands writing out card after card - and who can really afford all that money to send them any more?
My parents have friends who last year announced they weren't sending cards any more, just giving the money to charity which is an admirable thing to do. But then there's a bit of an awkward social loophole. Does that mean my parents now don't send them one? And what if they suddenly did turn up with one? Would my parents have to tap into that stash of spare cards just in case the neighbour from down the road decides to pop one through your letterbox.
See how troublesome the whole Christmas card world is?
The overriding reason for not sending them really should be the environmental factor. More so than any other year in living memory, 2019 has been a year of focus on climate change and cutting back on waste.
How does green teen champ Greta Thunberg feel about Christmas cards? It would be hypocritical of her to send them. Not only is it a waste of paper, but think about the fuel your postie is burning driving around the country at this time of year adding more pollution to the world.
Royal Mail estimate they send around 16 million Christmas cards each year - which is a staggering waste of money, time and energy.
So save yourself time, donate money to a better cause, go and see people in person if you can, and let's consign Christmas cards to the outdated practice they now are.