I have this amazing cousin who has never in her life missed a birthday, across 3 generations.  She knows everyone’s postcode, has an endless supply of correct denomination stamps on hand, and has truly mastered the dark art of purchasing, writing and posting personal and meaningful handwritten greetings, at the correct time to arrive on the right day with each recipient.

It’s frankly amazing, because whilst I never miss a professional deadline, personal stuff like this is something I have always been rubbish at.  Even in an age of electronic diaries and calendars and reminders, the combined actions of actually buying writing and posting the card has often been a challenge too far for some reason.  It’s not that I don’t care about people, I really do!

Nowadays though it’s easier for sentimentally-challenged people like me.  Because not only are the reminders unmissable, the actions are so much easier.  Especially for those of us living away from family and friends… if I manage to miss the reminder blinking on my iCal that it’s Suzie’s birthday this week, when log in to Facebook on the day I am not only reminded but offered an immediate solution/action – do I want to write on Suzie’s Timeline for her birthday? Hey, that was easy!

So, does this devalue the whole thing for Suzie, that most of her greetings come to her this way rather than via the postie or correos?  A lot of people have accused Facebook of devaluing many concepts from liking to friendship itself… but to be honest, I really like getting lots of lovely messages from friends and family around the world on my birthday. I don’t have a problem with the lack of dead trees or forethought involved… I know everyone has busy lives and uses electronic tools to keep track of things and to deliver – I certainly wouldn’t have a problem if a colleague used an electronic diary and reminder system to remember they had a meeting with me, or insist that if they really cared about the meeting they wouldn’t need to do that!

So for me, it’s no different personally.  The thought and intention goes into the words themselves, the unique personal friendly and thoughtful messages, and I am happy for everyone else to see those messages on my virtual wall too.  My villa doesn’t have a mantelpiece for displaying Hallmark’s finest on.

Similarly with sending gifts, its very easy now to do so instantly across the miles, sending people vouchers or applications for example.  One of the stranger things about this is that it’s often not possible to do so in advance – I wanted to send my Mum a nice creative writing package for her birthday earlier this year, and the boxed version was prohibitive on shipping and lead time coming from the US.  They offered a gift option to download, but could not post-date it! Leaving me a strange sense all week of not having done anything for Mum’s birthday, and an ironic array of reminders to make certain I didn’t miss the day itself to do the deal!

I know some people say that sending vouchers for any gift shows a lack of personalisation and thought, but to be honest no one knows what I really want better than I do, so I am quite happy to do the choosing – a great deal less hassle than returning anything, which I would almost never do anyway!  If someone gave me cash as a gift it could easily get absorbed into household bills, expenses and desperately uncelebratory things – but if you give me Amazon vouchers, I can choose from a massive category of things (OR put it towards my Kindle savings – Santa, if you are reading, YES this is a big hint), nearly all of which count in the fun category rather than useful or boring.

What about Christmas cards? Well, I am going to put my hands up here and say that for the past couple of years I have opted OUT of sending paper cards to everyone I’ve ever met, as I did for so long.  Of course I send a few, but mostly to elderly relatives who I know will never have Facebook or even email, and to accompany gifts I am sending anyway.  I never understood the thing of handing cards to people you see all the time anyway, just because you happen to see them during December at some point.

I know some lovely cards will hit the buzon regardless and I will feel a twinge of guilt knowing I have not reciprocated, but I will try to show my friendship and feelings for that person (if such exist) in other ways at Christmas and throughout the year.  I know the biggest and glossiest cards will actually come from businesses anyway – size and shininess generally in inverse proportion to the glamour and intensity of the business arrangements, the most impressive being from someone you ordered  a laptop battery from once 3 years ago

I wont send an ecard around to my entire address book either telling them which good cause I have donated to.  I might put some general thoughts about the festive season on social media to share, but for the people I care about I am going to try something a bit radical this Christmas – calling them for a chat.

What about you, how do you like to share your seasons greetings these days, has it changed?

Published in Costa Blanca News, 14th December 2012

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