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Home » The Vine

The Vine: December 14, 2012

Submitted by on December 14, 2012 – 11:32 AM46 Comments

Here’s two for the readers. The first was a book on tape that I listened to but never finished, probably sometime around 1998, although the book itself definitely predated that — I want to say it was probably contemporaneous with Peter Pan, but it might just have been set around that era. My memories are extremely vague, but the cover was blue and might have had a fairy on it; the main character was a little girl who was maybe named Rose; and Rose(?) had fairies living in her garden. There may have been changelings involved.

The second was a children’s picture book — the big, glossy-paged kind with watercolor illustrations. I read it in (I think) 1996 and it told a Greek myth that I’ve never been able to find anywhere else: Artemis was jealous that Zeus had given Apollo a chariot driven by twelve silver swans. When Zeus found out, he took the chariot away from Apollo and gave it to Artemis…and then gave Apollo another chariot, driven by twelve golden swans. Artemis may also have protested this, but that could just be my own outrage breaking through. This was definitely a standalone book, not part of D’Aulaires or another collection.

Any help from the Nation would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!



Dear Sars/Nation,

I’ve sent Christmas cards every year for years and years, but I decided not to do it this year. I’d been feeling more and more stressed out and resentful about it, I don’t have time, and I can’t really afford it either, once you add up the cards themselves and the stamps and whatnot, plus I send out dozens of the frickin’ things and don’t get nearly as many back. So after last year I decided, eff it, this is the last time.

But now I’m feeling guilty and like maybe I should do it, just a simple photo card or something? But then that’s a whole project too, picking a photo and sizing it…I don’t know.  Do any other Nation-ers send physical cards? Should I worry about people being hurt that I stopped? I guess I’m asking for permission to not do it anymore.

Hand Cramp

Dear Handy,

I can’t speak for everyone, but I had the same “ugh, no mas” moment a few years ago…and the same spasm of guilt/shame about my own laziness that I think you’re having. But I stuck the landing and didn’t send the cards, and if it’s not an annual tradition that you enjoy any longer, permission granted.

It’s fine to keep doing it, too, for a few older people on your list, or if you genuinely want to catch someone up on your recent doings without Facebook-walling it. You can get more selective about how you do the cards. But: Facebook. The Christmas letter doesn’t do the same job it used to; it is no longer an epistolary world we live in, and in several ways, that’s a pity, but in several other ways, it’s much more convenient to give and receive tidings of great whatever via the internet.

When I stopped sending cards, nobody said anything about it to me, and I can’t say that I’ve noticed a specific person or family no longer has me on his/her/their list, either. Patty Chase has a classic rant about the politics of holiday cards in “My So-Called Angels,” but I think most people don’t care that much.

Sit on your hands and don’t send the cards this year. See how it goes. You can always change your mind next year if it’s giving you too much anxiety not to…or send a Valentine’s letter, which is what my parents do.




  • Bria says:

    I still send physical cards, mostly so that friends and family from far away can get nice pictures of our kids. But have you tried Paperless Post? They have beautiful cards that are free to send online but (many) can also be printed on paper for the handful of folks for whom you don’t have an email address. Maybe that would be a nice middle ground?

  • Anlyn says:

    I get a card to go with the gifts for my mother and my brother. Usually because I need a place to put the gift card for my brother, heh. But I haven’t given cards in years, and I rarely get them, and I rarely notice. No one has given me shit for it.

  • scout1222 says:

    Sars has a good point – if you stop this year, that doesn’t mean you can NEVER SEND THEM AGAIN.

    I stopped sending cards a few years ago. Sometimes I think about doing it (usually every year a casual “should I?”) and then…effort.

    There was a story on NPR not that long ago about Christmas cards specifically but more about reciprocity in general. Some dude sent out X number of Christmas cards one year to people he didn’t know – picked them out of the phone book essentially. Ten years later he still received a few cards from some of them. There’s definitely a lot of feelings of obligation surrounding holiday cards, but only if you really buy into it. Is it really the worst thing in the world if someone gets their nose bent out of shape because you didn’t send a card? If it’s someone super important to you, you can always discuss it directly!

  • Karen says:

    Handy, I feel you. This year I spent $70 on cards and stamps. It’s such hassle to get everyone’s current addresses, organize the labels in a way that makes sense, and (if this applies to you) get your S.O. to sign the cards too. (I don’t mean put in additional effort, I mean simply write “& [Name]” which I refuse to do for my husband.) I only get cards back from about 25% of the people we send to. Thanks for Facebook, people know what we’re up to. Especially in years where there’s nothing really interesting to put in the letter (we didn’t go anywhere, do anything interesting, work was fine, etc.), I think about not doing it.

    And then, invariably, some relative asks “So, are you doing your letter this year? We always look forward to it!” And I think about how happy I am when I come home and there’s a brightly colored envelope or two in the mailbox and it’s probably the same for the people who get my cards, especially for those who don’t send. And I think that, for a little over a dollar a person, I get to send a little holiday something to everybody I wish I could buy gifts for but can’t afford to.

    I agree 100% with Sars, if you’re not feeling it, don’t do it. If you quit, it won’t be a big deal to people. But if you do send, it probably will be a big deal to them, in a good way.

  • valerie says:

    @Hand – After I got divorced, I didn’t send Christmas cards for several years (in my case, it was because I felt so guilty and like the whole world hated me and who’d want a card from me, anyway)…anyway – nobody noticed! As far as I know. People who always sent me cards continued to do so, and nobody said anything about not getting one from me. Now I send out a few cards to people I don’t keep in touch with in other ways – e.g. elderly aunts and uncles, friends NOT on Facebook, and a few people I especially WANT to know that I’m thinking of them. Seriously, it’s about a dozen (I also only get about a dozen in return, anymore, but I’m OK with that). Our ways of communicating and staying in touch have evolved so much, this is a thing you can adapt to what works for you. You have my permission to stop sending cards if you want to.

  • jen says:

    Cramp – I’ve had three boxes of Christmas cards I bought at an after-holidays sale in 2005 that I’ve moved to no less than four apartments, convinced that I will send cards again someday, because in 2006 I was too busy and depressed to send them, and… the same has been true for every holiday since. I never heard a peep from anyone about it, although I do know I receive a lot fewer cards than I used to as a result. I love the idea of sending them. I love the idea of having a life where that could be a priority instead of a damn albatross around my overworked, overextended, broke-ass neck, but… that is not my life, and it’s not likely to be my life for several years to come if ever. The holidays are stressful enough without manufacturing more stress for yourself.

  • Nanc in Ashland says:

    I am zero help on the books. I did send Christmas cards this year but only because I happened to find some in a local store I really, really loved. Usually I send either Thanksgiving cards or Happy New Year cards, which I started after I took over doing the holiday cards for work and oh hell, talk about politics! If I had my way we would fire a couple of folks as clients but it’s not my call . . . .

    I have a long-time family friend who sends a postcard from wherever she vacations that year as her yearly stay-in-touch greeting. That said, I do it because I enjoy sending the physical card and I write a personal message in each one.

    Round about way of saying if it stresses you, don’t do it because the holidays need more fun and less stress. Go have a glass of egg nog and don’t stress!

  • attica says:

    The last year I sent cards, I got…one. So I figured I was already late on the bandwagon and stopped. I’ll still send one to my favorite aunt, but that’s it. I liked getting them (we had a family tradition that received cards became part of our holiday decorations — we’d tape ’em up around a doorway or somesuch), but if nobody’s sending them to me, I can only assume it’s a relic, and, ugh – no mas.

  • Maria says:

    I will also give you permission not to do it. No one will be offended; younger people give up on it because they don’t want to anymore, and older people give up because they just can’t do it.

    I really think it’s only good to do them if you enjoy the process. It sounds like you do not. If you take a year off, that’s cool too. Just use it to decide how you would do things differently if you start up again. I think the big thing to do is get your list down to the right size, and then think about having photo cards made up by a service. There are good deals to be had on sites like Snapfish. I’m sure others have recs, too. Then, decide that this is a fall project. The photo doesn’t need to be Christmasy, so either use a summer or fall photo. Finally, decide that if you haven’t got it together to do cards by some date you set in say October, then you are just plain off the hook for it that year.

    I think also that you can alleviate your guilt for still receiving cards by writing a letter in January to anyone who sent you one, particularly if theirs has a letter or news in it. Win all around. You can even compose a letter online and add a beginning and ending paragraph to customize it to people, to forestall hand cramping further. Just put it on pretty paper and don’t think twice.

    For myself, I still do the cards but I just sign my name now. I used to feel it required a hand written letter inside but those days are gone. I still send to the elders and use the cards to send out school pics of my child. Between FB and email, and the odd phone call here and there, everybody knows my business. I just don’t feel the need to go there. I use return address labels but still hand write their address. This is the part most of all that makes me evaluate who still gets a card. The only thing I don’t do is play reciprocity games. If you send a card, you get one back. But if you don’t send them and I just like sending to you, that’s okay and you get it anyhow. But no way do I send one if we have no contact or no feeling, or if there is any hostility. I do not do obligatory cards to the whole address book.

    Good luck with your decision!!! Happy Festivus to you.

  • Christy M says:

    I send cards, but I’m pretty much the only one I know in my generation that does. My husband is actively trying to get me to stop, but all I think of is how much I love getting a card and hanging it on the wall and I like to pay that forward. I also spend almost no time/effort on it (no picture of my 3 year old is ever perfect, let me tell you), sign just a name and go. This year I’m combining the cards with our change-of-address announcements, so I feel like I’m getting away with something. Heh.

  • ferretrick says:

    I still do the cards, but I trimmed our list by at least 20% this year. It’s just getting too expensive and there are so many OTHER tasks connected with the holidays. But then I put all the ones we receive out on the mantel and shelves until after New Year’s, and it’s so nice to look at them. We get a pretty good number-but on the other hand, I doubt I’d notice if any specific person that had in the past didn’t send me one this time.

    If it’s not bringing you joy to send them, skip. No one will notice or care, I promise you. And I do think the Christmas letter is now, and was always, a waste of time and paper. Just signing the cards and writing Merry Xmas (or whatever you prefer, I REFUSE to get into that argument) is enough.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I kind of like the letters, especially the legendarily stupid ones. My mom’s friend who would painstakingly go through the year, in order, sharing every brunch and bunion, and then in July, THE HUSBAND CHEATS ON HER AND MOVES OUT. This is IN THE CHRISTMAS LETTER!! We waited eagerly for that letter every year. “Gallstones? Seriously, Betty?” “Um, maybe a spoiler warning, DAD?”

  • Bopper says:

    I take a photo of the kids, upload it to Shutterfly or the like and create a Christmas Card. I keep a MS Word file of addresses (in a table) and use that with Word’s mail merge to create address labels. I used the Avery Clear labels that are about 1″ x 2 5/8″. Slap a label, return address (I have a self-inking stamp), postage and you are good to go!

  • RobinP says:

    My husband and I (so, you know, mostly me) stopped sending cards years ago, before Facebook was even a thing. We’re both seasonal depressives, and it was just one more thing at a time of year when neither of us manage very well. You know what? No one cared. We maybe got dropped from a few lists as a result, but if that’s your only contact with someone, it’s really not much of a friendship. We do make an exception for our few aging relatives, but that’s literally five cards total. So, give yourself a break. It worked out fine for us in 1998, it’s more than fine today.

  • GeorgiaS says:

    Oh, the legendarily stupid Christmas letter. I still remember one my mom got from an old school friend that was pretty much split into 1. detailed descriptions of the friend performing in vitro fertilization on her dogs, and 2. selling my mom on the wonders of Billy Graham. (My family is not at all religious.)

  • Kate says:

    @ Sarah D Bunting, I got an awesome one like that last year. “You may have noticed that [Husband] is not in our Christmas picture this year. In July he asked for a divorce, and in October he re-married his first wife. But the boys and I are doing great!”

  • mel says:

    I am facing the card issue right now. I’ve always loved it,and even participated in a holiday card-exchange club for several years. But this year is a horrible mess of depressive episode and very sick mom and horrible work issues and I can’t seem to get it done. And it probably won’t get done. I read what you say and I agree, but I have a feeling I will still feel guilty.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Kate, hee, exactly. I kind of admire that they just get right out in front of it like that.

  • V says:

    My boss told me about a website where you can upload photos, a message, and your address list…and they’ll print cards, put them in envelopes, stamp them, and mail them for you. She said, though, that the quality of the printing wasn’t very good, and reviews online are decidedly mixed, so I guess I’m not sending cards this year either. (She used, so if any of you have any experience with them, or with another such service, I’d love to hear about it.)

  • Lindsay says:

    I don’t send out Christmas cards. It’s part laziness, part bad handwriting, part ‘I just never have’. Every once in a while, my husband mumbles something about sending out cards, and the convo goes something like this:
    Hubby: We should send out cards this year…
    Me: Good idea — go ahead!
    Hubby: But it’s woman’s work.
    Me: Hi, I’m Lindsay, have we met?

  • Bria says:

    @Sars – I have a family member whose Christmas letter is always full of special gems, including but not limited to casual references to the impending apocalypse. I always rip into it the second it arrives, because who can resist the awesomeness of “we will do our best to enjoy this holiday season, knowing it’s most likely the last we’ll enjoy on this Earth due to the rapture.”

  • iiii says:

    I’ve still got the box of cards, and most of the stamps that were to go with them, that I meant to send to friends and family in 1987. I guess I’m an early adopter of the card-non-sending tradition?

    My eldest sister has taken to sending Groundhog Day cards. It’s a lot more convenient, schedule-wise, and Groundhog Day lacks all the baggage of Christmas or Valentine’s while still being recognizably a holiday. Plus, she gets to toss in photos of December’s holiday festivities. All-around win.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    “we will do our best to enjoy this holiday season, knowing it’s most likely the last we’ll enjoy on this Earth due to the rapture.”

    It’s funny ’cause it’s true!

  • Susie says:

    Hand Cramp,

    I’m not sending out cards in a big batch, too time consuming and expensive. Instead, I got an app for my iPhone that lets me send postcards with one of my photos on them. I have a Christmas card saved in the apps, and when I get one in the mail from somebody, I just fire up an app and hit them back. Back in the day I used to write long letters in my cards (by hand), but I just don’t have time/energy these days.

    I use:

    Postcard on the Run
    Nice glossy postcard, great colors. You can include a really short message (basically just a greeting) and sign your name with your finger. $1.49 mailed. For another 50 cents you can add a smell, which is kind of funny. The annoying part is that it says it’s going to save my credit card info for future orders, but I always end up having to enter it again.

    Ink Cards
    These are by Sincerely, which also makes the Postagram app below. These are glossy postcards too. They can hold a little bit of text on the back, and for the front of the card you add your photos a premade template, including lots of holiday choices. I think they’re $1.99 per card. It’ll save your credit card number for later (so will Postagram) but for some inexplicable reason it doesn’t read the addresses in your Contacts, so you have to “build” an address book in that app. This is the one I’m using for my Christmas card this year.

    If you use Instagram a lot, these postcards are designed to be used with your Instagram photos. The card is a rectangle (regular postcard shape) but your Instagram photo is on the front in its square format, and you can actually punch it out of the card and keep it, like a little square trading card. They’re cute, and only 99 cents each. (Promotion running now gives you the first 5 for free.)

    Apple’s app isn’t postcards, it’s real letterpress cards in envelopes. High quality. But they’re $2.99 each. The big convenience is that they have your credit card info on file already (they just use your iTunes account), so that’s easy.

  • Kim says:

    My sister divorced this year, and while we all remain on good terms with her ex, I regret that we won’t be enjoying a Christmas letter from one of his distant minister uncles, whose report some years ago of anal shingles and the subsequent healing thereof was legend. “Praise God!” Uncle Minister concluded, as did we.

  • Sherry says:

    Hand cramp,

    If you don’t want to do cards, don’t do them. Or take a middle ground and just send cards to the people who you think would especially appreciate them–friends not on Facebook, older relatives, etc. I send cards to a few people–maybe 10 or so. I love the photo cards. If you’re worried about the time it takes to make them, why not just create a folder of favorite pictures on your computer, add shots throughout the year, and grab one of them when it’s time to make the card? Most photo card software is pretty easy to use; it really doesn’t take long to make the cards. They have the advantage of being so much cheaper than the regular cards, too.

  • LaSalleUGirl says:


    Is there any chance that you’re thinking of The Fairy Rebel by Lynne Reid Banks? (

    The main character is a grown-up, but there are fairies in her garden and a not-quite-changeling sub-plot.

  • anotherkate says:

    Anne-Cara, is there a chance the fairies book was a poem? I found this on a google search. It doesn’t seem long enough for a book on tape, but who knows.

  • Dana says:

    I send (and get) a ton of cards, but my kids are at that “awww” stage, as are most of my friends’ kids. And I look forward to cards VERY much, esp the photo cards. (See “awwww” above.) But, should you feel bad about not doing them?? Absolutely not. No one is gonna put you on the naughty list for eliminating stress from your life. Don’t feel guilty about it.

    I also think it is perfectly acceptable to do an electronic version of a card and email it out. It’s greener, too.

  • KT says:

    @Sars – my mum’s friend sent a very similar letter to the one your family received. Chronological list of happenings (kids did this, I did that, blah blah), and then she reached August, when she discovered that her husband had been in contact with his high school girlfriend on Facebook. By September he had moved in with her! Classic letter.

  • Elsajeni says:

    I have a relative who has been working on a Theory of Everything since he retired, in a casual kind of way (he’s not a theoretical physicist or anything, he just had An Idea at some point and decided to run with it), and for several years his Christmas letters would update us on how that was going. Then a few years ago the Christmas letter indicated that his son had come over, shown him how to use the Internet, and he had discovered via Google that someone had disproven a central piece of his theory years earlier. Heartbreaking!

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    …Now I’m feeling like we should have a bracket for these holiday-letter stories. “The NC Ay Yi Yi,” something like that.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Hand Cramp, If it’s expensive and time consuming, there’s no law that you have to do it. Of course. But…

    I send cards (just to direct relatives–mom, dad, sister, nephew and nieces) and it really does mean a lot to me that they send them in return. I got a card from my grandma, my last remaining grandparent, and the fact that she’s 94 and still thinks of me meant a huge amount. Plus, it was the first card I’d recieved that wasn’t from my paper carrier or dentist. (Seriously. I put up the one from the paper carrier on the bookshelf, just because I didn’t have any others at the time.)

    Cards really, really do mean something that to me feels like “essence of the season.” In that I know it’s a pain to pick them out, write in them, post them, etc., because I do it myself, but this person thought of me and did it anyway.

    Sorry for the guilt trip–here’s a card!

  • Sandman says:

    I think “The NC Ay-Yi-Yii” holds promise, but I also want to add Casual References To The Impending Apocalypse to the Nation’s list of great album titles in honour of Bria, because, hello, genius!

  • Katherine says:

    I have a relative who used a christmas letter to inform us that her son was going to get married if and only if their church congregation approved of her via voice vote after meeting her. I had to take a step back from THAT one.

  • Hillary says:

    I send cards, but agree with others that say send cards if you like doing it, and not from some outside obligation. I love sending cards, but I don’t do it just at holidays. I send thank you, get well, cheer up, congratulations cards at the drop of a hat (only one or two eye rolls from the husband so far when I must stop in every card store I walk by and we’ve been married 18 years). I like picking them at the store, selecting the right one from my stash for the right person at the right moment, writing just the right thing in them, picking a sticker to put on the envelope … I like the whole thing. It makes me happy. That’s why I do it.

    I don’t count return cards as the reason, though I save a few that contain precious words. I count the reason when someone mentions a card I sent them at just the right moment, and that can be years later with some of my friends. When I visit a friend in the office and my card is on their desk. When someone says mine was the only card they got when they were home ill. That’s why.

    If I can have that small impact on someone for the cost of anywhere from .99 to $3 and a stamp, then that’s what I can do for my friends and colleagues at this moment. But don’t do it for any other reason, people won’t be upset.

  • Lily says:

    @LaSalleUGirl: Thank you! I’ve been trying to remember the title of that book for a few years now, and have been considering writing a Vine letter about it. I read it so many times in middle school that I wore out the school’s copy. The description on Amazon doesn’t really match up with Anne-Cara’s description, although I too thought the daughter’s name was Rose – I vaguely remember that she was given a dress that was rose themed, with a layered skirt like rose petals.

  • Buni says:

    My Ma refers to them as ‘Missives of Smug’, because the ones we got always seemed to be full of whatever national award/top exam/1-in-a-million placement their shining offspring had achieved and what faaabulous international holiday they took to celebrate.

    We would’ve quite liked a few Impending Apocalypse / Anal Shingles ones to break through the unbearable gloating….

  • Jacq says:

    I stopped sending Christmas cards a few years ago, primarily because I forever missed the international cut-off dates (and most of my friends and family are overseas). However, I started making Happy New Year cards instead, and sending them before the end of January – it just seems easier to do this kind of thing after all the drama and stress of Christmas is out of the way. This year, I’m going to wait until February, though, and combine them with new baby announcements.

  • Mary @ Parenthood says:

    I started writing Christmas cards last year. We don’t do a letter (I wrote a short poem).

    I did get my 3yo & husband to painstakingly sign each one by hand, which: unnecessary masochism but good writing practice.

    I did not get a ton of cards in return, nor do people appear to judge negatively for not sending (after all, I am on Facebook and write a blog; so it’s not like friends and family have no idea what we are up to if they are interested). BUT: boy oh boy do most people seem to appreciate – I discovered via various family grapevines MONTHS later that those cards got displayed and mentioned to the most unlikely of people.

    Something about receiving physical mail means something that cannot be replaced with dancing elves or a FB status. If you didn’t send me a card this year, it wouldn’t be a big deal or something to feel guilty about. But if you do, you bring a level of sunshine into our lives that is otherwise missing. I think this is especially true for families with small children, who often love receiving mail with an all-consuming passion.

  • Jeanne says:

    I still send cards, though I reduced the amount significantly this year. I don’t get nearly as many as I send but I enjoy it nonetheless. I’d love to send a picture card but seeing as I’m single, childless, and petless, it’d probably be too weird.

  • holly says:

    @jeanne if you really want to send a picture card of just you, you can always do it from somewhere cool you went or with santa, or something fun.

    I finished putting 125 cards in envelopes last night, which means I am totally masochistic on it, but to me it feels like an easy way to get a updated picture of the kids and some general “hey, someone out here remembers you” to all the relatives and friends that we really never see in person.

    I would never think less of anyone for not sending one in a given year, or not sending them at all…..It isn’t a part of everyone’s deal….

  • Laura says:

    My son is also at the “awwww” stage (TM Dana) so we send the photo cards & I love getting those from everyone. Aaaaand then they stay up on the fridge for a ridiculous amount of time. Do whatever you have the time & money for. I like the idea of picking a random holiday to commemorate instead – after the stress of CHRISTMAS!!!

    But what I really want to know is why I don’t ever get any holiday letters about cheating husbands and anal shingles. Why don’t I know any of those people???

  • Susan says:

    Is the first book possibly “No Flying In The House”? The little girl is named Annabel, and she is sort of a changeling herself (she’s half-fairy). She lives in a house with a big garden and has a guardian fairy in the shape of a tiny talking dog, and there’s an evil fairy, who’s a talking cat.

  • Megan says:

    I’m a crafter and I make my own cards and send them out with (carefully) handwritten notes. . . Except the years I don’t. Get over the guilt. Everyone still loves you.

  • Rachel says:

    I send about 50 cards each year (no letter, just a card and good wishes for the new year). I get around 10. It totally doesn’t matter to me. I like sending the cards, and I only do it because I enjoy doing it. And most people really enjoy getting something in the mail that isn’t junk or a bill. But I don’t think there’s any sense of obligation there, and I don’t know that people would notice if I stopped doing it. I do it for me. (Although I would like to know if there are people out there wondering why I continue to send them a card!)

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