He took off his spectacles and fiercely kissed me

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Christmas Eve,  I’m just back from another neighbours’ gathering.  Another mince pie. Walking up the road, I see I got off lightly in last night’s storms – there are broken fences, trees and branches down everywhere.  I chat with people I haven’t seen since last Christmas, or even the previous year’s Jubilee party.

I then  walk with the dog to deliver a card in the opposite direction. I put it through the letter box and wave to the extended family inside watching tv.  I’d seen them all in the pub two nights ago and last night a card from them popped through my door.  So I reciprocate.  Is it all a bit silly?  Yes, probably but I like these rituals.

This is my favourite poem about sending Christmas cards  Mr and Mrs R and the Christmas Card List.  Perhaps it’s the only poem about sending Christmas cards.

Connie Bensley’s poems remind me how small aspects of human relationships stand for larger ones.  The humour is always poignant and I recognise many of the situations she describes.  Like the speaker of the poem, my default is to send the card. If there was ever love there – or even a sneaky snog or a handy kitchen tip – then there was a connection, and cards at Christmas reinforce that connection.

I like the way now the traditions are mixed up.  Tasteful cards, handmade cards, up-cycled cards, re-sent cards, rude cards have all been received.  Most American cards are scrupulous at wishing Happy Holidays, Brits of various persuasions send Yule and Solstice greetings.  No-cards vary from simply ‘I don’t ..’ to charitable donations instead-of, to whoops-I-forgot-and-now-it’s-too-late.  Jacqui Lawson’s e-cards initiate a flurry of email responses – where are you now? I get various emailed cards including one incongruously with an image of Christ at the Last Supper.  Why not? Birth and death are so close at this time of year.  It’s all fine by me.

I do though, get genuine  pleasure from the traditional ones and my inner librarian has fun arranging them by theme.  I don’t think there’s a single duplicate.  Plenty of robins, the Magi out-number Nativities and snowmen have it over Santas this year.  Some of the cards have sad news and I remember how my former husband I decided we’d put news of our forthcoming divorce in the Christmas cards – it seemed a sensible way of broadcasting the news – less momentous than phone calls, more personal than email.  One of the pleasures of cards is seeing handwriting in all its variety.

A waste of resources, yes, but then nature is profligate too.  This was an extraordinary year for mushrooms and fungi in general .  The mycelia that create them exists as a massive network under the earth, stretching, I read. over many acres. The mushrooms and toadstools that pop up unexpectedly are the manifestation of that network.  I like to think Christmas cards are comparable, that the human connections that bind us, pop through the letter box, manifest as a robin, a santa, a Madonna holding the Christ child.