(written by Hila Davies and illustrated by Vaneeza Jawad)
Small Beautiful Things: The joy of an unexpected Christmas card
Hila Davies, Nov 2021
Let me preface this by saying, I love Christmas. I love everything about it, from chaotic tree decorating to the inevitable John Lewis-ad marathon. Growing up in the tropics, the smell of pine was guaranteed to send me into a Christmas-themed trance. I’m that person singing (screaming) “Away In A Manger” at the supermarket check-out, aggressively sniffing the freshly cut trees whilst waiting in line.
Recently, I’ve also started a secret love-affair with the postal system. I have a letter-writing drawer, equipped with a wax-seal stamp and a fat stack of Ryman’s envelopes. It is I – the sole user of the international postal service. They regularly stand me up, keep me waiting for days on end, but the reward of hearing the letterbox swing open is oh-so-satisfying.
But, there is nothing better than an unexpected Christmas card.
It’s the best part of Christmas: trying to guess the author from the handwriting and smudged special edition stamps. Christmas scenes with gold-foil details are always preferred, unless the card involves a Dad joke, in which case, you win Christmas. How has it been signed? With a simple ‘Love,’, the dreaded ‘From’ or a Harry Potter-esque ‘Always’ (a personal fave).
Unexpected Christmas cards are like a pack of really cool plasters. They patch up the scars from the year’s cuts and bruises, mending us back together so that we can face the coming year with fire in our bellies and love in our hearts.
Living far away from most of my extended family, Christmas cards also mean getting to hold a part of them – getting to touch something they’ve touched from 6,000 miles across the world. The concept of ‘hau’ is the belief that in giving a gift, you also give a part of your soul. That’s what Christmas cards feel like: receiving a little bit of someone’s soul. They connect us in a way that little else can. £2 spent on two bits of paper that say ‘Hey, I’ve been thinking about you and I’m sending you lots of love this Christmas. And a hug xx’.
So here’s my challenge to you today: give someone the joy of an unexpected Christmas card. Send one to that friend you’ve been meaning to talk to for ages but haven’t got around to, or that teacher who has helped you out this term. Pick one up from the supermarket, or if you’re feeling particularly fancy, embrace your inner DIY-queen and whip out the glitter glue gun (see, Mum, I told you it would come in handy at uni!).
As students for whom the parameters of life are Pret subscriptions and nights at Tuns, Mariah Carey levels of Christmas joy can often feel very far away. But, I believe there is so much more to it than glitter, crappy Netflix movies and obligatory family time. Unexpected Christmas cards bring back the magic of looking out the window on the 24th, trying to spot Father Christmas flying through the sky. Now, maybe more than ever, we need that sparkle in our lives to feel connected to one another, no matter how many seas stand between us. They remind us that ‘love, actually, is all around…’.
Join me in this one-woman sinking ship of keeping the postal service alive. Feel the ‘hau’ no matter how far away you are from your loved ones, and always remember to leave enough space at the top for a stamp.