It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Snow is here! It is mesmerizing to watch the flakes float and twist against the backdrop of the evergreen trees, and as long as I am standing in my front window watching, it is beautiful. When reality kicks in and I have to go out and feed the animals or the snow plows and traffic do their things, then the sparkly beauty of the all-white background turns into ugly, slushy mush.
I suppose way back when the Currier and Ives prints showcased a beautiful scene, where all was pure and clean, and the horses trotted along pulling the sleighs, we began to romanticize snow and Christmas. Just writing that sentence makes me want to start singing “Jingle Bells” and Miss Fanny Bright.
On my ever trusty, research engine Google, I find that the first card recorded and sent was in 1611 to King James I of England. The words were flowery and complimentary, “A greeting on the birthday of the Sacred King, to the most worshipful and energetic lord and most eminent James, King of Great Britain and Ireland, and Defender of the true faith, with a gesture of joyful celebration of the Birthday of the Lord, in most joy and fortune, we enter into the new auspicious year 1612.”
What a greeting! They were as politically correct as we are becoming. They had to; we choose to.
The first printed cards did not rely on snowfall to be “Christmas,” instead they focused on floral designs, fairies, and the coming spring. Neither were they tied to religious ideology. The first American cards began around 1874, and they became more elaborate and took on different shapes as they gained popularity. After the two world wars, cards became sentimental and took on religious overtones.
The Hallmark card is one that tweaks the heartstrings of current generations, though that may be changing with the advent of technology. Folks now email, face-time, and talk on the phone daily. We no longer rely on written communications sent through snail mail to wish good fortune on someone. We Facebook our wishes to each other and share photographic memories instantly.
Times change as traditions change, and Christmas cards seem to be heading the way of other print communications. I always enjoyed my time sitting at the kitchen table, writing small notes to friends, family, and acquaintances, on the inside of country-themed Christmas cards. Now, I get up early, scroll through emojis and text everyone a message of good cheer.
I still like Christmas messages. I like the Currier and Ives style of prints. I like the Hallmark cards. I like the old Victorian cards with the beautiful handwriting on them and flowery sentiments. I like texts and facebook messages with pictures. I like Hallmark movies and all the other things that remind us that family is still important. Being together is still important. Being kind is still important.
Hopefully, Christmas time brings out some goodness in all of us as we reflect on being kind to others and letting them know how much they mean to us. For me, homemade gifts are the best. A jar of jelly made over the summer, some embroidered pillowcases, a carved wooden car, Ziploc bags of pecans, and perhaps a quilt, if the recipient is quilt-worthy! Even a card that is hand-written and embellished with a drawing or a ribbon is especially treasured.
I don’t believe that snow is the magic ingredient of Christmas, as depicted in so many cards, but rather time. Time taken to find, buy, and write a card or time taken to make a quilt or jar of jelly. Time taken to send out a quick text or email to wish friends and family a happy holiday. Time taken to visit, or time taken to sit down and play another game of Go Fish while the bread is baking.
This year, as we enjoy the “Christmas snow,” let’s also remember that time is a precious gift that we can give in so many ways.