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I GOT one from the man who gives me root canal.

Private dental plans have their plusses it seems. Santa Floss is the message that greets me when I open the fancy envelope. May all your Christmasses be white.

A card like this, which has seen no ink, would normally be filed under 'recycle' the day it arrives. This year, it's making up the numbers.

I've either been de-friended en masse in the space of 12 months or the Christmas card is being slowly written off, some 170 years after the first one was sent in England.

It's clear that many people now see Christmas cards as an expensive luxury that's just plain bad for the planet. With rising prices for postage and the items themselves, it's not hard to see why.

However, despite anectdotal evidence seemingly telling a different Christmas story, the department store Debenhams is claiming a 30% rise in card sales this year.

The first 1000 cards were designed by artist John Horsley in 1843, who was commissioned by Sir Henry Cole, a wealthy businessman of the time. He was trying to encourage ordinary people, not just the affluent, to use the new Public Post.

If the recipients were planning to indulge in the festive excess without a thought for those worse off, they were out of luck.

The card had three panels. While the centre panel showed a family tucking into a Christmas feast, complete with a wine guzzling child, the outer two panels showed people caring for the poor. An early charity Christmas card if you will.

I was facing a Christmas card sending quandry until I saw the pack on a shop stand.

There's no image on the front, just the words: Joy, love, peace, warmth, courage, kindness, tolerance and compassion. I'd struggle to add anything more meaningful inside.

Why am I reluctant to let this reassuring Christmas ritual go? Perhaps because it is one of the last tangible forms of written contact, in an increasingly virtual world. Who takes the time to read an e-card, that is marginally more heart-warming than spam.

Some have streamlined their card-giving to relatives and friends they don't see very often. Relationships divided by geography and time, but not me. For another year, I'll place a card on the desks of (most) of the work colleagues, I see almost every day. After another 12 months of office life with the petty squabbles and stresses it brings, it's a well intentioned thought, real at the time of writing.

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