Our local mail carriers risk back pain and black ice to deliver warm greetings from afar. Cards pushed through the mail slot fill receivers with delightful anticipation.


 In America, Louis Prang printed the first Christmas cards in 1875. In 2008, more than 2 billion holiday cards were exchanged. Nationally, 85 percent of Americans mail out greetings, and the average number of cards sent per household is 26, according to The Greeting Card Association.


Yet it seems that more people are e-mailing virtual cards to friends and family. Now maybe it’s my age, but I prefer to slice open an envelope to a burst of red, green and gold. My fingers love to slide over the glitter of snowy scenes. Nativity scenes, smiling Santas and red-nosed reindeer are strung across my doorways. You can’t do that with e-mail greeting alerts!

Our local mail carriers risk back pain and black ice to deliver warm greetings from afar. Cards pushed through the mail slot fill receivers with delightful anticipation.


In America, Louis Prang printed the first Christmas cards in 1875. In 2008, more than 2 billion holiday cards were exchanged. Nationally, 85 percent of Americans mail out greetings, and the average number of cards sent per household is 26, according to The Greeting Card Association.


Yet it seems that more people are e-mailing virtual cards to friends and family. Now maybe it’s my age, but I prefer to slice open an envelope to a burst of red, green and gold. My fingers love to slide over the glitter of snowy scenes. Nativity scenes, smiling Santas and red-nosed reindeer are strung across my doorways. You can’t do that with e-mail greeting alerts!


But mass mailings take work. Write them, stamp them, seal them. And so my cards sit on a table waiting to be sent. They’ve been there since Halloween. Nothing has changed, only the décor. In October, my Santa greetings sat next to a pumpkin bowl full of candy. In November, a turkey paperweight topped my stack of unsigned cards. (This is my system for getting things done – a long-term daily dose of “visual nagging.”)


But I make the deadline, and soon my cards will join a flood of letters in other mailboxes. And I, in turn, will open envelopes that cram 12 months of living onto one green page. Degrees have been earned. Trips have been taken. Different dreams have been realized.


Brightly colored pages never contain bad news. After all, these are supposed to be Happy Holidays, right? There’s no way to merrily report divorce or dysentery. But somehow, even in a season that brims with sugar and spice, it seems too saccharin. (At least that’s what all the underachievers say. I lope away, my knuckles dragging on the ground, wondering how evolution passed me by.)


I do love the holiday photos. Previously teeny children now tower over their parents. Holy smokes, when did Sherri’s tribe go from four to nine? Old Father Time is jabbing into my side with his sickle.


But then a card arrived that gave me a new view on holiday mail.


Claire, a former neighbor from Connecticut, sent me greetings. It has been years since we lived there. That she even thought about me anymore sparked warm surprise.


Which led me to rethink bulk mailings. Why do we send cards to people we see all the time? You know, the people we burn up the telephone lines and the e-mail screen with when we’re not otherwise sharing a meal or a movie with them. Yet, our mailed card reads, “Hope your holidays are happy!”


Like we don’t know?


Perhaps the best cards are blasts from the past. Like the surprise greeting from Claire, the unexpected cards give rise to memories from “those good old days.”


It’s time to troll our address books for friends from the long-ago chapters of our lives. Dog owners who were once regular “park buddies.” Or the next-door neighbor who once gave a demonstration on making pizzelles. In my own former life as an event planner, I recall hotel workers who became my “family” during three days of organized chaos. This is the month to make a surprise appearance in the mailboxes of old friends and school chums.


Imagine, completely unexpected cards filling millions of mailboxes everywhere. The warm glow of good will is set alight in everyone – unless, of course, you’re the mail carrier.


Suzette Martinez Standring is furiously licking stamps at her home in Milton, Mass. Contact her at suzmar@comcast.net or visit www.readsuzette.com