J’accuse Henry Cole, Adolph Tuck, and Laurence Prang. They have made December a misery for us all, and the time has come to say "nun" je dis "nun" a Cole, Tuck, et Prang. The whole thing is ridiculous. Why didn’t someone lock Henry Cole in his bedroom on December 18, 1843, and plead through the keyhole: "Henry, don’t do it. Think of others. Think what it means." But no, Henry was a live-wire, a colourful character, always doing something new and original, like helping to introduce perforated stamps and founding the Victoria & Albert Museum. So he sent the first-ever Christmas card, and Tuck started manufacturing them, and Prang commercialised it, and now we are all up till dawn sending embossed robins to everyone we know. I, meanwhile, am here with three dozen Adoration of the Magis and the phone book, trying to work out my list in the certain knowledge that a card from me will cause nothing but panic ("we didn’t send him one"), relief ("we did"), or embarrassment ("we should have"). The pleasure involved is absolutely minimal. It is the one area of social contact upon which etiquette falls strangely silent. For God’s sake, couldn’t someone give us some rules? "No need to send them to people you have seen in the last two months" would be helpful. And "forget it" if you’re just going to write "Jack and Doris". This merely gives the impression that you’ve been Having A Session, whacking them out like a Dagenham conveyor-belt." Of course, the best solution was invented accidentally by my old landlord. A wonderfully vague academic, he once stopped up all night writing cards with his wife. But the days passed and no mail came in return. Then one morning a solitary card arrived signed, "Love from Tom and Kitty". "Do we know them?" asked the wife. "No," replied the bemused academic. Next day, 13 cards arrived, all signed, "Love from Tom and Kitty". "They certainly seem to know us," said the academic, “Don’t they, Kit—" At that point he realised that he had addressed all their cards to himself.
by Stephen Pile from the Sunday Times 1982