Why I Do This At Christmas

green collage background, two cards held on the left, three badges next to them, on the right text reads 'xmas cards are mutual aid'

Hi pals

I wanted to talk about why I hand write and post christmas cards (and sometimes a little gift) this time of year. It takes a lot of energy to remember, and to physically write cards, and it costs to buy cards and post them around the UK and Europe. Are you or your friends even religious? Not particularly. Didn’t you say you hated cards, found them pointless, and a waste of money? Yep… What’s the point when you can send a message or an e-card? Well, here’s my why.

Christmas Feels Like COVID for Chronically ill people…

Being part of the disabled and chronically ill community, I know a lot of us have been struggling emotionally and mentally, especially the last few years. It’s hard to remember people give a shit about you when the world is ignoring COVID and participating in eugenics or ableist beliefs very loudly online and in the outside world. Shielding is isolating. Being sick and unable to leave your house or bed is isolating.

I find it hard to keep track of everyone’s birthdays, so Christmas…. or winter holidays and New Year is the one time of year where it used to be common place to send cards. I’m not religious, and don’t really celebrate Christmas in the way that a lot of other people do, and most of the people I send cards to aren’t religious and don’t often celebrate Christmas either. So why do I do it…

Marginalised Communities Feel It Hard This Time of Year…

Christmas can be a lot like COVID for sick and disabled people, but also other marginalised people. You see everyone living their lives, celebrating, enjoying themselves, spending time with family… a lot of people in my communities can’t do that. The COVID risks are still high, the flu can really fuck up a chronically ill person’s body, a lot of queer or trans people don’t have typical family dynamics where they can enjoy the holidays with their family.

What Inspired me to do this?

So I write my cards and send them to remind people I care and I’m thinking of them. There used to be a scheme going run by Ru of Chronically Cute where they would send cards all year round to chronically ill people who might need a card to feel a boost. Ru hasn’t run this in a while now, but when COVID hit I decided I wanted to start doing this for people I’m in contact with online. So since 2020 I’ve been writing and sending cards to my online friends around the UK and in Europe. For me, this is a small bit of mutual aid work I can do this time of year to help keep my friends going. I try to send them to people I’m not that close with too, but it can be a struggle as I try to send cards to as many people I know as possible, and I have quite a substantial list of names and addresses already!

There are other schemes like this, for example TransGiving sends out parcels to trans people for thanksgiving/Christmas who may not get any other gifts in their true name each year (I was one of the artists who got a grant to send some of my art and some collaging bundles to be in some of the parcels this year!) and there are a few projects where you can write to prisoners (bent bars project, prisoner correspondence project, prison pen pals, etc) and I’m sure there are schemes for writing letters to elderly people, and Exist Loudly does Queer Black Christmas for the Black queer youth of London. It’s all worth a Google, what matters to you? – I think it’s well known that connection is important for our mental health as humans. Even the most antisocial or introverted person will eventually feel loneliness or isolation if they are not interacting with people in a positive way to some degree.

I’ve also been lonely…

I’ve personally found this is true for myself. I’ve been struggling a lot with my mental health since COVID started and I love to be alone. I’ve had to keep looking for and finding new ways to fill that hole that a lack of companionship and connection has left me. Initially just messaging people was enough, then I had to get over my nervousness about video calls because I missed seeing people and hearing them talking to me… Eventually that wasn’t doing enough for me either and lots of people stopped wanting to do video calls… then I joined the new Queer Theatre Collective local to me to see people in person and have something to do that wasn’t too overwhelming for my sensory needs. And even then I needed to do more. I recently was away at a mental well-being respite facility which has really helped me. (Currently, I would appreciate it if you did not ask me any questions on this, as I am not ready to talk about this experience publicly) It reminded me of my own needs for connection and what kinds of conversations excite and energise me. I’ve found that writing these cards helps me feel less alone, but also feel like I am doing something important. Uplifting people makes me feel something good.

What About People You See in Person?

I’ve handed out cards to people at my Theatre group and so far everyone’s initial response is surprise and confusion, followed by an ‘awhhhh’ and some of them have messaged me later in tears after reading my card and seeing the art I gifted them. It’s been nice to experience some of this in person, which is something I’ve learned about myself is I really enjoy experiencing people’s emotions and responses in real time. It adds another layer of feeling connected, not just to the people I’ve given cards to in person, but to the people I’ve not been able to give a card personally and just had to wait and hope it arrives and they like it. I still have a handful left to give and I’m using this as an excuse to try and meet up with a couple of people before Christmas to spend some time outside my home and with friends just catching up and connecting.

To close…

So… writing and sending physical christmas cards to remind people I care about them… its small but doable for me to work on every year. The cost of everything is going up, so if you have any money spare, please think about donating to my kofi so I can send a few more cards out to people needing a reminder they matter this winter. Otherwise, maybe consider doing the same thing for your friends, or think about signing up to a similar project to help strangers in need. There is a lot of need out there for a nice card from someone and being reminded we matter and are important. (If you want, I have some card designs for sale on my RedBubble and some stickers you could buy and send to the people you’re writing to, as well as tonnes of cool vintage postcards for sale on my depop you could buy to support me and use to send!)

I’ve been getting messages from my friends I’ve sent cards to, and been seeing people receiving parcels from TransGiving with my collage bundles or art in recently… and it’s so nice to see people’s messages. Some were more emotional, many of them said they needed to hear what I’d written to them, and one ended up with my friend in hospital when I’d sent the card way before she was admitted. This process is so fulfilling from start to finish. People are often chuffed when I ask if they would like a card. I get to write something I hope they want or need to hear. And then I see them posting or messaging me their thanks. Seeing how much of an impact my silly little cards have on people… there’s nothing quite like it.

Talking to my friend Yen (who I also offered a card to and shares a lot of the above struggles around Christmas) said doing this reminded her of parts of Care Work, (affiliate link) which I still haven’t gotten round to reading, and that this is an important aspect of mutual aid work. Doing what you can with your abilities and energy to help boost morale and increase the sense of community. It’s one of the simplest things you can do to help grow and develop support networks. Like I said, if you can’t do the cards right now, have a think about what you can do right now with the time, energy, and abilities you have… there’s so many people out there needing support and we all have unique ways we can do that.

Don’t forget to check out my other posts here on the blog, my last post was about the Boots recycling scheme which might help you or help you continue to contribute to mutual aid. Check out my YouTube channel where I post weekly. You can also find me on IG and Twitter. And please consider supporting me on Kofi to help keep making things like this possible and supporting me and my other work. You can make a one off donation or become a member, I have three very low cost tiers. Also give me a heads up if you would like to access my medical research master doc for all the resources I use personally and use for videos, or if you want to help me keep it organised please send me a message through the contact form on here. I hope this will be a good place to start for a lot of people interested in mutual aid but don’t know where to start. Let me know if you have any other questions or topics you’d like me to discuss in the future.

Merry Christmas for those who celebrate, I hope you have a good winter for those who don’t celebrate or celebrate something else. I hope you receive everything you need.

~ Artie


4 thoughts on “Why I Do This At Christmas

  1. Yeah my family get a few cards from a small selection of family/family friends but they are of older generations mostly. It’s just a shame that posting cards now costs so much money but I try to budget for it so I can do it every year 🙂 I’m glad this could possibly inspire you to hand write and post cards or letters again!

  2. I always feel that handwritten cards and letters are so lovely; a really personal way to connect. It used to be the norm when I was growing up as we didn’t have the widespread, everyday internet that we do now (which has both made us more and less connected to one another); it was great to get letters from friends and this has made me want to take this up again!

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