As children of the 80s, my sister and I would always receive a set of ‘thank you’ notelets in our Christmas haul.
On Boxing Day morning we would sit in the living room with a tray precariously balanced on our laps as we etched out our heartfelt thanks for all our wonderful presents – the Sylvanian families, the BROS cassette and, in later years, the Body Shop White Musk bath sets.
It didn’t matter how big or small the present was, or how well-received it was, the fact that the sender acquired a thank you card was non-negotiable.
Three decades later, in a year when physical interactions have become almost extinct, it seems to me that actual old-fashioned paper thank you cards are more important for all of us than ever.
Statistics suggest that in 2020, the popularity of sending letters has increased dramatically as a result of Covid-19.
The significance of the written word during lockdown has been made clear by research from Royal Mail, which highlights that one in five (18%) UK adults have been sending more letters and cards since lockdown started.
According to the same research, almost three quarters (74%) of Britons feel that there are positive mental health benefits to writing a letter.
In an article published by the BBC, the writer Lionel Shriver was quoted as saying that ‘This Zoom stuff doesn’t cut it’, when describing how she communicated with friends and family in lockdown. I feel much the same way.
Back in May, I was at my kitchen table one Friday evening, taking part in yet another Zoom ‘drinks’ with friends. Sipping on my glass of Cab Sauv as the WiFi signal kept dropping and the laptop screen froze for the umpteenth time, my frustrations rose and I vowed never to socialise on screen again.
Text messages and WhatsApps are fine, but mostly rushed, disjointed and lacking any sense of what the person’s really thinking or feeling. Phonecalls? If anyone apart from my mother’s name flashes on my mobile screen I assume there is an emergency, or that I had accidentally called them from my pocket.
Which leaves the good old fashioned ‘snail mail’ as an ideal way of really communicating with people.
As we celebrate a Christmas that many of us will spend apart from our loved ones, a thank you note may be the best way to let them know you care and that you’ve taken the time and effort to put pen to paper. A chance to give someone that multi-faceted joy of first hearing a letter drop through the door, then of physically tearing open the paper before taking in that familiar script of a loved one.
In many cases, for people who are completely alone, a card arriving through the post may be their only contact from the outside world.
When I went to university, moved into a London flatshare with friends, and then into a house with my husband, I always made sure the thank you cards were written in the days after Christmas.
Now that I’m a mother and my sons are old enough to write their own cards (well the four-year-old can write his name at least), it’s a tradition that will certainly be part of their Christmas, too.
We’ve already been to WH Smith and chosen some cards they like, and as soon as the excitement of the big day is over we’ll sit at the kitchen table and reflect on the wonderful gifts they’ve received as they pen their heartfelt thank yous.
A ‘thank you Zoom’ just wouldn’t be the same.
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