As some of you may already know, I love getting snail mail. It just makes my heart happy to anticipate the arrival of and then to receive things addressed to me. It’s been a joy of mine for as long as I can remember. I don’t even particularly hate flyers. I mean I don’t yearn for them but they don’t bug me as much as they bother others.
Anyway, I got a Christmas card in the mail the other day and it is the one I look forward to most every year.
My cousin Kendall takes the time every season to draw a scene on the inside of the cards she sends, along with a handwritten account of three interesting facts pertaining to the holidays and traditions from around the world that she’s dutifully researched.
My sister told me she received hers as well and that it’s the only one her teenagers are ever excited to receive. They’re very special and personalized cards and she sends roughly 40 of them out to friends and family each year.
I knew I wanted this column — my last one before Christmas — to be about the spirit of giving, but it didn’t occur to me until I sat down to actually write it that my cousin’s annual tradition truly fits the bill.
I don’t see this cousin much. In fact I don’t know when the last time it was that I saw her in person but I know it’s been years. I’m touched she cares enough to send me a card at all! I texted her to thank her for the card and then, ever the reporter, I started asking her a ton of questions about it.
I mean who doesn’t want to be interrogated by their older cousin?
She told me this year she drew 40 cards.
Holy cow. Just writing “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” and then addressing 40 cards would take a considerable amount of time. But doing them all so detailed and by hand? I couldn’t resist asking how long each one took.
“I didn’t time myself this year because I didn’t want to know,” she said with a laugh. “Previous years took a half an hour-ish? I watch Netflix while I do them.”
I did the math. So 40 cards at roughly 30 minutes a pop… I’m not a mathematician but I’m pretty sure that’s 20 hours. That’s a lot of time she’s putting in for the sole purpose of making people smile.
She starts working on them in October, which is way more organized than I am that’s for sure. This year on the afternoon of Oct. 31 I still didn’t have my son sorted with a Halloween costume. I can sincerely say I hadn’t yet thought about Christmas cards.
I asked her if she ever recycled the facts she’d used in previous years. To my great surprise her answer was way more complex than I’d imagined.
“Nope. Not yet,” she said. “I have photos of previous years that I reference,” she explained. My dear cousin then went on to note that she does sometimes customize the messages depending on the recipients, though.
“If my facts are super gory and I’m sending them to people with kids, I’ll throw in a more family friendly fact,” she said. If she knows a family has a strong heritage from elsewhere in the world, she skips facts from that region because she knows they likely already know the customs and traditions.
It sounds like a ton of work and I told her as much.
It all began in 2012, she believes, or at least that’s the oldest card she has record of.
“I don’t remember why or how it started,” she said, but it’s turned out to be one of the things she — and all of us that get one in the mail — look forward to most about the holidays.
It really is the little things, isn’t it?
“It’s my favourite part of Christmas,” she said. “Doing them is fun, and then I spend half my December getting texts from people saying how great I am,” she said. “It’s a win-win.”
With that kind of humour, I can definitely tell she’s related to me.
Have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year, everyone. Thank you for your kindness (most of you) this year. I don’t take your pleasant feedback lightly. It means a lot to me. And I don’t take your negative feedback lightly either. It means more to me than it should. Here’s to adding more brightness to the year ahead.