I got a bit of a shock yesterday from which I’m only now recovering. I received a Christmas card, in the post, from Ireland. I did the usual and spent some time trying to see if I could recognise the writing, something that’s getting harder and harder to do as so few people actually use a pen to write any more. Then I checked the postmark but it wasn’t very helpful. And then finally I saw the stamp.
It cost one whole euro to send a Christmas card from Ireland to Hungary! €1. I was in shock. When did the price of postage get that high? Is it because so few people are using it that the costs have to be increased, spread as they are over a narrower base?
I’m not one for e-cards. I far prefer a real paper card, one that’s preferably made from recycled paper and supports some worthy charity or cause. I’m a great believer in cause-related marketing and I was genuinely excited when I found a shop around the corner selling Hungarian UNICEF cards. I bought all they had.
But €1 for postage!!! Then I thought back to last week, when I sent my REST OF WORLD Christmas mailing (i.e., everywhere but Europe) from Hungary. I rooted out the receipt and saw that I’d spent nearly 15 000 forints (nearly €50 / $60) mailing cards and packages and that the price of a stamp here is equivalent to about €1.80! I’d never noticed. Probably something to do with all the zeros.
When I go on holidays, I buy postcards and send to about 15 people scattered around the world. And I can distinctly remember coming out of a few post offices marvelling the cost of postage, but for some reason it is always associated with holiday spending in my mind and so never gives me any great cause for concern.
But the price of postage for Christmas cards? That’s different. I get few enough personal letters in the mail any more. It’s all window-envelope stuff – bills, flyers, junk. So I really look forward to my Christmas cards. The thoughts that people might stop sending them because of the prohibitive cost of postage has made me a tad nervous.
We’ve been sending Christmas cards since 1843, when Henry Cole and John Horsely got together and designed and sold the first ones for a shilling each. It’s a tradition that might be slowly dying out as more and more people choose to send electronic greetings. But it’s simply not the same. I’ll be one of those hanging in till the bitter end though, no matter the cost. Old traditions die hard indeed.