Virginia Barton

12 August 2013: It’s that time of the year again…

12 August 2013

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You can tell Christmas is on the horizon by the avalanche of gift and card catalogues on the doormat. Traidcraft was the first, an excellent charity promoting small businesses in the developing world. Then came the birdie protection society, always close to my heart, and then Lifeboats. So much for July.

In August expect the catalogues for Save the Children, the Donkey Sanctuary, the Stroke Association, Cancer Research, Retired Gardeners, Retired Musicians, & so on & so on. At least a half dozen more to come in the run-up to December.

Every cause has its merits, and each is short of funds, what with the current economic climate. And every one pulls at our heart strings — though personally I draw the line at donkeys. Humans before animals in my book.

2818647_-_photograph_of_yul_brynner_as_king_mongkut_of_siam_from_the_king_and_i_available_in_4_sizes_framed_or_unframed_buy_now_at_starstills__53697Who to support? How much to spend? £5 each or £100 to one?

“Is a puzzlement”, as the King of Siam, a.k.a. Yul Brynner, allegedly said.


Then there is the vexed question of e-cards. These save time and money, but: you can’t decorate a room with e-cards, and neither can you cut them up to make blotters, recycled cards, bookmarks or elegant shopping lists. Besides having a religious picture, there’s room in a paper Christmas card for a brief catch-up, a new address and fulsome apologies for not having written since last year. There is also the satisfaction of knowing that, in a tiny way you are supporting a good cause. I believe a large part of a charity’s annual income comes from the sale of cards and gifts at Christmas.

What about the postage? The stamp costs more than the card itself! It’s a tricky decision and last year our friends abroad got the short straw of the e-card and those nearer home a proper one. I felt awfully mean but fear it may become a habit.


Actually, the older BH and I get the more we enjoy the proper paper cards. Since we no longer put up a large Christmas tree (farewell to our beloved Christmas Box! — although a daughter makes a pretty little table-top one), the cards are our main decoration. We love hearing from the people we haven’t heard from for a year or more.

Like an Italian priest we knew in Hong Kong, I don’t remove all traces of Christmas on Twelfth Night, but leave everything up until Candlemas. After all, one can’t be certain one will be around next Christmas…


Right. What shall it be? Life? CAFOD? Aid to the Church in Need? It’s that time of year again, Virginia. (And for goodness’ sake don’t be disparaging about donkeys, those poor put-upon, biblical beasts of burden.)







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