Sending cards, letters and gifts during the holidays was an important tradition in my family. My mother kept a hand-written address book and regularly updated the details that included names of friends and relatives, changed addresses, names and birthdays of children, and notes about who had divorced or died.

In early December, she would cover the kitchen table with cards and stamps as she wrote individual notes to each person. The tally often reached 100, and the process took days.

She also kept the cards she received, filing them for future reference. Unashamed, she would proudly declare by the end of the month how many cards had arrived. Ironically, her love of receiving cards now is similar to the desire to receive ‘likes’ on our social media posts.

 
 

Social Media Has Changed the Way We Communicate

We now communicate in different ways, especially during the holidays. I keep an address list on my computer and can instantly update the facts.

I can print out labels, attach them to envelopes, and include a word document letter, complete with inserted photographs. Or, I can simply email the letter to friends and family. The entire routine can take less than an hour.

Modern technology is convenient and timely, but I miss the interaction that my mother enjoyed. She wrote notes that solidified and honored important friendships.

She reread every card that came in the mail and would often grab the telephone to call and thank the person who sent it. They connected on a personal level that I envy.

Adapting to New Communication and Gift Giving Trends

Generations adapt to current trends, and I have fallen into the trap of constantly using the Internet and my cell phone. My grown children and I often exchange text messages when I wish we would just talk on the phone or communicate in person.

Now my grandchildren can send text messages, and I feel as if they’re on the other side of the world when they’re really only twenty minutes away.

Gift-giving, also, is more convenient nowadays, but thanks to technology and the Internet, it is mostly impersonal. I can order online and send wrapped gifts I’ve never seen. The out-of-state relatives receive gift baskets from an Idaho website. With one click, I can even supplicate last year’s order. It’s all so easy.

But… I’m chagrined when I think of my mother making gingham ‘hats’ for her homemade jars of grape jelly and proudly sending them as gifts.

In their later years, my widowed grandmothers lived on limited incomes but always made ornaments to give. My favorite displays on my Christmas tree include handmade crafts and starched doilies made by my grandmothers.

Moving Forward with New Ways of Reaching Out

My mother passed away three years ago. I continue to sort through boxes of her possessions. One of the most difficult choices I made was to throw away her address book along with hundreds of birthday and Christmas cards. After they were dumped into garbage bags and placed in the trash can, I felt guilty, but they no longer had any value.

This Christmas is especially difficult because my younger brother died in May. At least through one advantage of technology, I can call his cell phone and hear his voice that remains on his answering machine.

My biggest regret is that we didn’t communicate more in person. If I could have one Christmas wish, it would be to see my mother and brother on Christmas morning and share some of mom’s homemade jelly on grandma’s homemade bread. As with most impossible dreams, I can treasure those memories.

For this new year, I vow to improve the mutual communication between family and friends who are still here to share good and bad times. I’ve asked family members for an hour of personal time each month with no cell phones allowed. That is the gift I want to give and receive.

Do you have favorite traditions of communicating during the holidays? Do you use the Internet for sending letters and gifts? How can we improve communication between family members?

Elaine AmbroseElaine Ambrose is a #1 best-selling author of eight books, including Midlife Happy Hour and Midlife Cabernet. Read about her books and blogs on her website ElaineAmbrose.com.

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