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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Heartwarming Greeting Card Memories of the Past

For this edition of the Wednesday Gift Shop, I thought that I would use this opportunity to talk about something that can be found at almost every gift shop in the world. Now, I realize that this opens the doors to a wide variety of objects, so I'll give you clues in order to narrow it down before we get right to it.

CLUE #1 – In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that over one billion pounds are spent on these every year.

CLUE #2 – On average, a person will purchase fifty-five of these items in one year.

CLUE #3 – They can come in all colours and sizes, and can range in price between 99 cents and fifteen dollars.

CLUE #4 – If one is lucky, one might find a gift card or some cash enclosed inside one of these objects.

And, the clue that will likely give it away...

CLUE #5 – American Greetings, Carlton, and Hallmark are among some of the leading producers of these items.

Have you figured it out yet?

Yes, this week on the Pop Culture Addict's Guide To Life, we will be taking a look at greeting cards! We'll take a look at how the tradition of sending a greeting card first came to be, have a discussion about the various kinds of cards that are available, some of my personal memories of greeting cards...and I'll even post some examples of real-life cards that I have gotten over the years.

(And, yes, when it comes to cards, I am a semi-hoarder. But I'll explain why that is as we continue.)

The tradition of sending greeting cards is widely believed to have originated in Ancient China, where people would exchange messages of good will to celebrate the New Year. Although the tradition was also noted to have been used in Ancient Egypt as well, who sent their well-wishes written on papyrus scrolls. As early as 1400, Europeans began exchanging hand-made paper greeting cards, and handmade Valentine's Day cards were known to exist in parts of Europe during the mid-15th century.

By 1850, greeting cards evolved enough to be seen as a popular means of communication. And, thanks to the invention of the postage stamp, sending a letter or a card to people who lived far away never became easier.

Innovations to the greeting card industry have made sending cards even better than ever before. Colour lithography technology in the 1930s propelled the industry forward, humourous greeting cards began to surge in popularity in the 1950s, and by the time the 1980s rolled around, holographics and 3-D imagery soon began to appear on greeting cards.

Of course, these days, many people have began to rely on electronic greeting cards, or opting to wish someone a happy birthday on their Twitter or Facebook accounts, which I suppose is fine. But you know, there's no feeling quite like looking in the mailbox and opening up a birthday card or a Christmas card. It can certainly brighten up your day when you're feeling down.

(And, hey, any greeting card trumps the usual bills, junk mail, and letters claiming that you can win a million dollars if you buy twelve subscriptions to Good Housekeeping magazine!)

Seriously, I think that sending greeting cards is slowly becoming a lost art. Many people claim that sending cards through the mail is too expensive...and I do see their point, as stamps have consistently gone up in price each year. But, for those of you who swear by the Facebook birthday greetings, would your monthly Internet bill be higher than sending out ten cards to people?

Call me old-fashioned, or what have you, but I love sending out Christmas cards to people. For the last dozen years or so, I've been a part of several Christmas card exchanges, and over the last twelve years, I've gotten hundreds of cards from people that I've met both in the real world and the online world from several different countries. I know that Christmas was three months ago, but I just wanted to show you some examples of Christmas cards that I have gotten over the years, and in a couple of cases, I'll tell you a story about them.

As I said before, many of my cards come from either Canada or the United States. Here are a couple of examples from my friends Cary (above), Bailey (above), and Sharyn (below)...

But I've also received Christmas cards from Finland. This one below is from my globetrotting friend, Kitty, who I sadly have lost touch with. Maybe she'll see this one and track me down...

And, I've gotten some lovely cards from jolly olde England from my British buddies Mandie and Helen...

I've even gotten some cards from my friend Cathy in Italy...but since her cards had family photos on the front, I'll just scan the inside...

I'm always in awe over people who take the time to make their own cards. I can't draw for toffee myself, so I can appreciate someone who can take the time to create something magical, as my friend Jill from Texas has shown in this card that I received from her a year ago.

And, then there are the cards that I have gotten from those friends who are no longer with us. Those cards will forever hold a special place in my box of memories.

You remember almost a year and a half ago, I shared my story of a wonderful woman named Pierette? She passed away in December 2011, and she and I shared a very special bond. In fact, she was one of the main reasons why I ended up getting so many cards from all over the world, as she was the one who spearheaded the Christmas card exchange on a forum in which we were both members. And, she always had just the right words to say to make anyone feel better about themselves, while still maintaining her sarcastic wit. So, rather than show you the outside of the card, I thought I'd share with you one of the messages she wrote me inside the card...just to illustrate what I mean.

(Just to clarify...”YL” stood for, a now defunct pop culture site...and “Jughead” was part of the screenname I used. Imagine that, a time in which we tried to conceal our identities online.)

I also wanted to share with you my memories of another special woman who meant a lot to me. Her name was Rosemary, but she went by the screenname of TexasRose. And to say that she was one of the most interesting people I've ever met online would be a complete understatement. Born in 1936, she used the Internet better than some people my age! She had stories to tell about her life growing up, loved her family with all her heart, and in 2006, she sent me a Christmas card along with this calendar magnet wishing me a happy 2007...

(NOTE: I blacked out the address.)

You might be wondering why I have kept a 2007 calendar for so long. Well, shortly after getting that card, Rosemary fell ill quite suddenly. We were all hoping that she would be able to pull through, but in March 2007, Rosemary passed away at the age of 70. That calendar and card being the only things that I have to remember her by. That's why I will always treasure them forever.

And, to end this look back on greeting card memories, I wanted to share with you one more.

I've talked about this a few times on this blog, but as many of you know, I underwent a very serious health scare two years ago. On February 12, 2011, I had my gall bladder and part of my liver removed, which lead to a two-week stay in the hospital and being off work for eight weeks total. It was a really scary time in my that I hope never to experience ever again.

You know what got me through it though? Knowing that a lot of my co-workers cared about me. They sent me flowers, visited me in the hospital, kept me updated on any television shows that I was missing, and perhaps the one thing that stood out the most was the fact that they sent me this card.

I know...looks fairly plain, right? Look inside.

Isn't that something? But wait, there's more. Check out the back cover!

Now, isn't that a cool way to let someone know that they care? I hung that card up proudly in my hospital room, and now have it kept in a personal photo album to remind me that there were people who did care. I didn't have a whole lot of that growing up. It was such a small gesture, but it meant the world to me. And, sometimes that's all that it takes.

No wonder I'm pro-greeting card!

And, now it's your turn.

BONUS QUESTION: Do you have any special greeting card memories?

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