Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


December 7, 2012

Traditional cards bring cheer, joy

Already they are coming in all shapes, sizes and colors, stuffing up my mailbox and covering my refrigerator.

The Monday after Thanksgiving when I was still recovering from my holiday food coma I received my first Christmas card of the season. Though Christmas decorations are often up in the stores before Halloween, it is something altogether different to find your friends and family are already sending out their holiday greetings before the turkey on the table had a chance to cool. In my case, I’m not ungrateful for the well wishes, but I am feeling overwhelmed by the stack of holiday cards I have not only not yet begun to write but haven’t even opened from their plastic packaging.

Last year, I sent out around 80 cards to friends and family from Florida up to the northern reaches of Indiana and Ohio, and as far west as Texas and Arizona. I received many more, which might end up increasing my own Christmas card count this year.

I am still nowhere near my grandparents, who send out and receive as many as 300 cards in one Christmas season from the former co-workers, neighbors, family and friends they have accumulated over nearly 50 years of marriage. My parents themselves receive at least 100 every year, many from my mother’s former pre-school students.

Though I’m not seeing literally hundreds of cards in my mailbox, I do now get to enjoy the privilege of having Christmas cards addressed to me individually and not as a part of my nuclear family. Sometimes the colorful envelopes belie the card inside, but most of the time I am completely surprised by what I will find inside. Many are covered in stickers and, though I’m not much of a stamp collector, I do like to see what holiday stamp has been chosen for the card that year.

Of course, the best part of a holiday card is the opening of the card itself. Each Christmas card is like an unexpected Christmas present under the tree. I don’t know what shape or form the card will take, if it will have a highly artistic cover or lead in with a joke. The only thing about Christmas cards that makes me  nervous are the ones doused in glitter. Though glitter is supposed to stay on the card, it ends up sticking to me, and I will probably still be finding Christmas card glitter on my clothes in the summer.

I have already received glittery snowmen, Santa relaxing on a Florida beach with a cool bottle of Coca-Cola, singing angels and jumping reindeer this year. All of them are hanging up in my apartment, and due to procrastination are the only real holiday decor I have put up yet. I was also brought up samples of the holiday cards the Bluewell Improvement Association and Bluefield Fine Arts Commission are selling, but I have pretty much decided to keep those to myself rather than sending them out to others. It may seem selfish, but some times you have to keep the good stuff for yourself.

Though the outside of the card is always fun, I still have enough of that little kid in me who knows what is inside the card can be even more of a surprise. Sometimes I will open up a card only to have a Christmas carol belted at me. Within these cards I sometimes find long Christmas letters, short personal notes or pictures. Occasionally, some of my family members even send me a few bucks to buy myself a Christmas treat since we won’t be seeing each other during the holiday season.

These cards invariably outlast the holidays. In fact, the cards I received for my birthday in July are just now coming down to make room for these Christmas cards. And the cards going up in the next few weeks will probably remain on my fridge until at least Easter, possibly even later. I could say it’s because I’m lazy, but there is also something about seeing those cards, knowing that people cared enough to just spend the five minutes to pick out a card, sign their name and put it through the mail. It makes those cold winter mornings much more enjoyable to see those cheerful cards while I am thinking about what to eat for breakfast.

Sure, plenty of people in my generation opt for Christmas cards of the online variety, but I still find something very personal and extremely fun about opening up a physical card. It is something tangible, something with a physical connection you can hold in your hand. It is something you don’t have to refresh and reload when the screen freezes because there are too many penguins dancing with candy canes for your computer to handle.

From now until probably a few days after Christmas I will eagerly open up my mailbox each day in the hopes of finding something new.

Kate Coil is a reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at


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