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The card is in the mail

  • 11 December 2023
Once upon a Christmas time, the streets were filled with posties carrying sacks full of letters and cards. Like so many mini Santas they would fill the mailbox with cards from family that lived in the same suburb and you saw almost every day, great aunts from remote country towns, work colleagues or friends whose letters bore exotic-looking stamps from the various countries they were visiting or living, and businesses that wished you Merry Christmas and reminded you that though they were closing for a couple of weeks in the New Year they were looking forward to seeing you after that. There was so much mail that posties would work six days in December, taking time off in January to make up for it.

Every day brought a new connection – sometimes resulting in a hastily written card in reply because you had left them off your original Christmas list. And these Christmas lists were works of artful organisation – divided into people who got a simple Merry Christmas and signature, some who got a personal note in the card and those who got complete letters; and then divided again into mailing dates. We memorised the cut-off dates for international and national guaranteed by Christmas delivery, crossing fingers that they would make it in time when we were a couple of days late.

Slowly, this annual ritual began to wither. People wondered why they were sending cards to relatives they never saw, and perhaps didn’t much like when they did, or why they were putting themselves under pressure to meet postage deadlines when they could email a letter to overseas friends up to and including Christmas Day.

Family handed cards over in person, saying it didn’t make much sense to spend money on a stamp when they were seeing you anyway. In fact, it seems the last hold outs for the Christmas card tradition were the businesses reminding you they were looking forward to seeing you in the new year.


'It is a small gesture of maintaining personal connections in a world that can sometimes appear downright hostile to human interaction.'  

And now this week, Australia Post has been in the news saying it will end daily letter deliveries. Australians will receive ordinary letters and unaddressed mail every other business day. The move is in response to the long-term decline of letters and AusPost’s first loss in eight years.

Yet, despite all the reasonable reasons not