We have received 3 Christmas cards so far. I know it’s still 2 weeks until Christmas, but last year at this time we had at least 20 already! I diligently went out in mid November, purchasing packs of cards, and started sending off a few to arrive in Europe in good time for Christmas. And then I started writing a few for friends and teachers, and acquaintances, and neighbours here. But now the shocker: people here are not that bothered about cards. It might just be this part of California, I’m not sure. It took me a good 5 years of living in the UK to finally relent and join in with the annual festive card frenzy. I got quite good at it even, managing to send out the cards before Christmas, and before I’d even received my own cards. So used to churning them out I was that now I feel slightly bereft. Who am I going to give all those cards to? But if I’m honest, I feel relief more than anything. No crazy card giving spectacle at school or pre-school (although E and F actually did write some cards because they wanted to (sorry if you haven’t received any, but I’m not going to make them write any!) I’ve never understood why English 3 year olds have to give every single child in their pre-school a card, “signed” by them. And maybe now is a good time to come clean: the cards F and E distributed when they were that little? Well, at least half of them (what am I saying, at least 75%!) were fake. Faked by me. How many hours have I spent scrawling child-like letters on jolly, glittery Christmas cards?! ( Come on, girls, own up – you must be doing the same? I actually have visions of other British women, after a long exhausting day, sitting hunched over their little darlings’ cards, muttering “oh, only another 20 cards, mustn’t grumble!” to themselves. Or others, whip in hand, watching over their sobbing children’s shoulders, and doling out the Cadburys bars after each valiant effort). And those cards probably got discarded the minute they were received! Not before having received an approving nod from the recipient’s mum, of course, who’d just sent her offspring out with their cards. But no more of that!!! Oh what a liberating feeling! I really hope I’m not going to eat my words, when Elise and Frankie come home on the last day of school, laden down with cards from all their friends and foes. I might have to shoot myself.
If not being bothered about Christmas cards is one phenomenon here, the other extreme is, of course, the typical American OTT family Christmas card, with children or whole families in garish sweaters (yes, jumper just doesn’t sound right here) draped decoratively over the tree, or the mantelpiece, or a life sized glowing reindeer in their backyard, or something like that. Taken by a professional photographer, of course, and maybe even more tasteful in sepia, or black and white. I totally adore those cards (although I’ve never received one myself), precisely because they are so spectacularly OTT. But also so much more personal than just a simple “Merry Christmas, love, the Smiths”. I kind of wish I’d thought to do that this year (maybe minus the reindeer, and minus the professional photographer). But of course, there’s always next year. Watch this space! And here, I have to introduce you to a fellow blogger, Geekymummy, a British expat who’s lived in San Francisco for quite some time. She has some brilliant thoughts on Christmas cards, and on life in this country in general. Check her out!

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