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An old-fashioned, Before-Twitter Christmas

In his holiday column, Stu Bykofsky waxes nostalgic about a time when Christmas was Christmas and people sent real cards.

IN A TIME Before Twitter, in a land lacking glitter, all Christmas - oops! - holiday greeting cards were made of paper (printed in the U.S.A., not China), purchased in a cozy card shop (not a big-box retailer) and signed by a hand in the warm incandescent glow of a lightbulb not shaped like a corkscrew.

The cards were not electronic. They did not sing or play music. They were neither animated nor pixilated. They were not spit out by a home color printer.

The name and address on the envelope were not generated by a software program, nor were they peeled off sticky-backed paper. The envelope was addressed by a hand that held a pen, not a plastic stylus.

In a time Before Twitter, stamps cost 3 cents, or 13 or 22. They were not downloaded from anywhere; they were purchased at the post office. Images were American presidents, our flag or the Liberty Bell, not a cartoon character or a dead pop singer. You licked the stamp yourself. (The first self-stick stamp was issued for Christmas 1974.)

In a time BT, toys were not slathered with lead paint and had no microchips. Spray snow did not contain asbestos.

Yes, this is the annual Christmas - oops! - holiday column (prodded by diversity to include Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and even Ashura.) If I've overlooked your marginal celebration - Druid? Wiccan? - let me know, by mail. (Use a "Forever" stamp. I've been here forever.)

The question, not exactly original, is whether Christmas has become too commercial.

In a time Before Twitter, before cell phones and plasma TVs, Christmas was about the birth of Christ, not the lowest price. Christmas now is more reflexive gift-giving than reflection on the Prince of Peace.

Want proof? Fistfights, deaths and near-riots last Christmas - oops! - "winter solstice" in stores selling limited amounts of luxury electronics for cheap. What happened in some stores was more low-rent than Section 8 housing.

Shoppers pummeled each other, threw elbows and knees and hurled curses. Seeing this, What Would Jesus Say?

"Me first"?

"Get outta the way, fatso"?

"I want that toy for my kid!"?

I went to Walmart last Christmas - oops! - holiday season just to look around. The crowds were vast as wildebeest on the savanna, surly as water buffalo.

Walmart was selling upside-down Christmas trees, an inexplicable innovation to lighten the wallets of the trendy. (Don't ever try an upside-down Hanukkah menorah. Fire hazard!)

Now that "sustainability" is as hot as Comcast stock, and we're over the moon for green (Kermit the Frog peaked too soon), I see Christmas - oops! - holiday lights peddled as much for their low energy as the bright colors they emit.

Anything that increases sales and boosts the economy is a good thing, I guess.

So, the Christians stocked up for Christmas, the African-Americans laid in food and candles for Kwanzaa, the Jews emptied the shelves for Hanukkah, the Muslims - hey! Do they buy anything for Ashura? If not, what's wrong with them, anyway?

Is Christmas too commercial? Yeah, probably it is. But it is better than no Christmas at all.

Finally, I reach out to whoever sent me a pretty red and gold "Happy Holidays" card last year. It arrived at my office with no return address.

Since it was anonymous, I had an intern open it. (The young are expendable.)

No anthrax. I was relieved. (The intern was really relieved.)

The card carried a slashy signature that would defy CIA analysis. It looks like, "tlly Beth Bj." That's a guess.

The take-away lesson? Practice the Palmer Cursive Method or use a return address so people will know who sent the card.

Or is that too BT for you?

Happy Holidays - oops! - Merry Christmas!

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