December 04, 2009

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

December 4 - Christmas Cards
Did your family send cards? Did your family display the ones they received? Do you still send Christmas cards? Do you have any cards from your ancestors?

When I was a small girl, the only way mail came to Hawaii was by boat. We would receive letters weeks after being written and mailed, and we read each one eagerly, before composing a reply that would take equally long to get delivered. Christmas cards had to be sent about 4 to 6 weeks before the date you wanted them to arrive, especially those that were going to other countries, like Canada, Jamaica, and England.

Mother had a silver tray that she placed on the coffee table the day the first Christmas card arrived, and would read and re-read all the notes, letters (not at all like today's Christmas "newsletters", and photos that were included. She had a wide circle of friends and relatives who would share family news and personal greetings every year, and as I grew old enough to decipher the handwriting, I , too, got to know them all. Children grew up, married, and had their own kids; elders passed on; local news was shared about neighbors, neighborhoods, and institutions. We marveled at the beautiful, funny, glittery, gilt, and cut-out cards - every one different, just like snowflakes. Mother was a very good correspondent.

Daddy's father, though, was not. Postcards and letters from his sister and cousin in Austria always admonished him to write more often. They obviously had great affection for him, sending photos and postcards of the family in the Old Country with news of the war, of Papa's health, and the fate of the restaurant they owned. I transcribed one Christmas postcard during the first year of this blog, but I will repeat it here:

Attnang, 25. / IX - 915

Lieber Pepi!
Dir und Lucy und Euren Kindern fröhliche Weihnachten und ein frohes Neues-Jahr! Wir Alle sind gesund! Unser Hans steht in Serbien. Toni ist noch in Brooklyn gibt seine alte Addresse! Unser Bruder Karl steht in Russich-Polen in der Front. Mein Mann ist daheim, ist vom Militärdienst befreit, unsere Eltern sind wohlauf. Sorge Dich um uns nicht! Schreib doch ofters! Grüße und küße Dich, sowie Deine Lieben Alle, Deine Schwester

Attnang, 25 Nov. 1915
Dear Pepi,
To you and Lucy and your children, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! We are all in good health! Our Hans is posted in Serbia. Toni is still in Brooklyn, gives his old address! Our brother Karl is posted in Russian-Poland on the Front. My husband is at home, is released from military service. Our parents are doing well. Don’t worry about us! But write more often! Love and kisses to you, as well as to all your loved ones, your sister

We do not own a coffee table. So when the first Christmas card arrives - and it has - I hang a snowman card-holder on the wall in the dining room, and add the new cards as they come. More and more, my correspondents do not write news in the card itself, but include a word-processed newsletter recapping their year. Some even forego the card, and just send the newsletter. This year, I expect more of my friends and family will e-mail their news. That's OK, I guess, but unless we print and post them our kids might never have the pleasure of getting to know our extended family and friends, who span the globe from Singapore and Saipan, Hawaii, the United States, Canada, Jamaica, and United Kingdom and Ireland. Husband's friends range even farther afield, to Europe.

No comments: