The tradition of Christmas cards has taken a big hit from the digital age, but Debbie Duncan keeps it up because the rewards are many and unexpected.

The mailman delivered twice a day in December to my Southern California suburban home in the 1950’s. Morning and afternoon I helped my mother open hand-addressed Christmas greetings, and add the cards and photographs to our collection strung over the fireplace—everyone from my cousins in Sedro Woolley, Washington to Red the Butcher down the street.

Personalized holiday greetings and I go way back, in other words. And I’ve kept it up, though years ago I stopped assuming all of my recipients celebrate Christmas. I know they do not. We try to include a family photo. My clever, funny husband writes a letter. I address the envelopes. I realize labels are more efficient (I tried that one year), but I like to show that a human hand was part of the process. I don’t need two snail-mail deliveries a day, but I don’t mind buying Forever stamps forever in order to continue to receive those cards and letters.

Going through my torn, tattered, 20-year-old address book is an annual reminder of family and friends who have died. There’s no “delete” in my book; just crossed-out names. I have more notes scribbled in the margins than Senators put in the tax bill—notes such as referring to one family as our “misplaced Kansas relatives.” They have their same last name as my husband’s sister. For some reason one year our card was delivered to their Kansas home rather than hers. So they sent one back to us. Instant long-distance friendship! I’ve watched their boys grow up, as they have our girls. I smile every time I write to them.

This year I’ll be adding several families I also have not met. They live closer, in the North Bay. Most lost their homes in the October fires. I know of them because they had the grace to send me thank-you notes for the small gift cards I sent up to Santa Rosa when I wanted to do something—anything—to help fire survivors. They told me they belong to a Bible study group. I will wish them Merry Christmas, and remember them every year when I write their names.

With a Perspective, I’m Debbie Duncan

Debbie Duncan writes and reviews children’s books from her home on the Peninsula.

Christmas Cards 12 December,2017Amanda Font

  • Curious

    The digital age has destroyed a lot of what was once good.

    • Debbie Duncan

      Perhaps, but there are many traditions we can continue and even expand upon in spite of technology!

  • LibrarianGuest

    I heard your perspective after dropping off the last batch of my 100+ hand written and hand addressed Holiday cards. You’ve hit every single reason why I do it, and most eloquently, as well. Hats off to you (and me, as well) for persevering in what many may think is an arcane practice. It truly does help up stay connected. As long as I’m able to hold a pen, I’ll be sending cards. Thank you so much for making my day.

    • Debbie Duncan

      Brava, us! And you just made MY day. (I was away on retreat, far from technology, when this piece aired.) Thank you from a fellow Holiday card sender. Merry, merry!

  • Long

    Often, in our management training classes, we were told that people appreciate handwritten thank-you notes far more than printed ones. My experience told me that it is absolutely not true. What people care about is how much EFFORT you put into a greeting card or a note. Often, a signed Xmas or thank-you card deliver no real message.

    Sending card became a special tradition when mail delivery and printing were expensive and slow. Under financial budget and time constraints, spending a little time to send a card shows your dedication to the addressee. Now, these limitations are lifted by modern technologies.

    If you want to send a personal card to somebody to have an effect, it should at least prove itself that the writing, handwritten or printed, would take more than 10 minutes to do (just to be thoughtful). A handwritten envelope just does not show that effort.

  • eb


    This year we ordered 225 cards. They arrived and there was a defect in the printing so the order was redone and now we have 450 cards! Our standard 250 were sent and now we have the chance to send to others that come to mind. It is a joy for me as it is for you.

    • Debbie Duncan

      Ha! That is a LOT of cards! But what a treat. I finished almost all of mine out before going away on a six-day silent retreat, missing hearing myself on KQED. I’m so glad others heard me, and I thank you for commenting.

  • Peter Gavin

    What a nice tradition you’ve started.

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