One of the things I think is really important, and often overlooked, is Christmas cards.
No, I don't mean like when you're a kid and you carefully write out cards to all the kids in your class apart from that one smelly poo-head you don't like.
No, I don't mean like when you're a teenager and in competition with a sibling to prove who is more popular and ace based on how many cards you got.
Nor do I mean when your business sends cards to all your regular clients and vendors, or when you keep a couple of blank cards in your glovebox just in case, or those godawful "family newsletter" things where you try and advertise how wonderful your household is, and I definitely don't mean e-cards or worse still, the "happy xmas!" email sent automatically to *everyone* on your contacts list including the various email@example.com. Be honest now. How often have you ever re-opened a Christmas email or given a second thought about the person who sent it?
No, I mean an actual Christmas card chosen and given or sent to someone you actually give a monkeys about.
You see, it's not just a bit of cheap card (as in "£1 for a pack of ten cards?! That works out at TEN PENCE per card! That's ridiculous! It's only a bit of card! I bet it doesn't cost anything like that amount to make!" and so on).
It's a physical reminder, at this dark, cold time of year, that someone cares and appreciates you. Perhaps you're lucky enough to see and speak with other people every day. Perhaps you're constantly surrounded by people who care about you or at least talk to you. Not everyone has that though.
Let's do a thought experiment.
Your [friend or relative] is at home, wearing three jumpers because it's getting bloody cold lately but the cost of heating is getting silly. They're very much looking forward to Christmas Day, big family meal and so on, but right now, time is dragging by a bit and they're kind of alone and there's not much to do and not much cash with which to do it. The post arrives - a gas bill, some advertising, and a Christmas card from you with a little message to say you hope he/she's well, and maybe a bit of personal news. Not an essay, just four or five lines in the card.
(a) read it, smile, put the card on the mantelpiece, and smile again every time they sees it over the next week or so, perhaps even occasionally taking it down to have another little look at it?
(b) read it, and then pop it into the recycling box along with the advertising? (admit it, this is what happens to those bulk Christmas emails)
(c) read it, and then phone you up to launch into a diatribe about how it's a terrible waste of money and playing into the hands of corporate fat-cats, and write you out of their will?
Extreme example, obviously, and if the answer is (c) then Do Not Do It. But I reckon the majority of people - even if they are incredibly busy and popular - would smile upon receiving a card from a loved one.
Sometimes the absence of a card can be as striking as its presence. If you're swamped by a hundred cards from work alone, you probably won't notice that a family member hasn't sent a card. If you're a little more isolated, then you will. If you have three grown-up children and only one of them sends you a card, you will wonder what has happened to your relationship with the other two to make them feel you are not even worth a 10p card and a postage stamp?
The last posting date for the UK (Royal Mail first class) is December 20th. UK people wanting to post to other places should check here.