Home » Intrinsic nature of his art » JEAN SHEPHERD–Christmas Cards. etc.

JEAN SHEPHERD–Christmas Cards. etc.


On Christmas Eve of 1964, Jean Shepherd, on his nightly program, commented that Christmas cards reflect the times. In part, he said:

I noticed in the last few years there was a rise in the put-down Christmas card–the hip Christmas card. In fact, in many cases, the sexual Christmas card.

He said that he felt that the current Christmas reflected a change, that people consciously or unconsciously choose the kind of card they do as a reflection of the current scene in their society. He noted that there had been a momentous event last year  (the JFK assassination, obviously) and that it had probably changed some peoples’ attitudes toward the kind of card they would buy.

He said that in many ways, because Christmas is a far-deeper holiday than most people would concede–he is expressing something very important about his world. Shepherd comments that in the future anthropologists would be studying Christmas cards as a very important means of gauging attitudes and prevailing winds of any given time. 

He describes some of his collection of 50 or 60 Christmas cards from about the year 1900, and that they have written messages on the back. The cards are different in how they express peoples’ attitudes toward emotions, passions.


Indeed, in recent years, cards are very different from what anyone would have sent

around 1900. For example, there are all the funny cards–

just look at the one I got recently, based on the movie A CHRISTMAS STORY:

ACS Christmas card

Its inside comment is:


Somehow it does not convey the joy of seeing Jesus in a manger

or even a nice Currier and Ives winter scene.

currier & ives print

In recent years many people write family letters and make copies, especially to send at Christmas time to inform friends and family as to what has been happening to them since last Christmas. Even with letter writing, telephoning, email, etc, much does not get told about our daily lives, and these multiple copies of family news is a modern, convenient way to convey the same basic info to many people. Here’s our current letter:

Christmas letter 2013

Shepherd, as he does from time to time, comments that his listeners

should have better things to do than

listen to him (especially on Christmas Eve):

I realize that not many people are listening, and I advise you not to listen. Why don’t you look out of the window. Why don’t you walk in the street. Why don’t you, really–I mean it–why don’t you walk up and down Fifth Avenue a little bit. Why don’t you get out just this once in the world and observe the stars. If there are no stars, observe the sky. That will suffice. It’s still out there. Even if it’s gray and tumbling. It is there.

He seems to be reflecting on the assassination again as he comments on what had happened just before last Christmas (November of 1963). He comments that it takes a while for a whole new realization of reality to be reflected in attitudes (and in the Christmas cards we choose to send). He is giving us his little sermon that we can absorb as we sit and listen to our maroon plastic Zenith AM/FM radio with the big simulated gold dial: Don’t just sit with your ear and psyche and soul wired to a radio–especially on Christmas Eve. It is Christmas Eve and we are receiving the Word from our unordained but Truth-giving Teacher. Remember, reflect, understand, appreciate all there is in your life, your world–go out, look up toward the stars, even if they are now clouded over and the world is gray and tumbling.


shep. leigh christmas card

Jean Shepherd and Leigh Brown Christmas card

with mouse drawing by Shepherd.

(Courtesy of Laurie and Herb Squire)




  1. mygingerpig says:

    I think the biggest difference between the cards Shep referred to from his youth and the ones from the 60’s is the loss of sentimentality and the absence of some kind of idealistic image. The images of family farms, sleighs, Rockwellesque people around the fire express a kind of fantasy of how we would like it to be. The harsh reality of the 60s seems to have destroyed that idealism, making it something that seemed naive and perhaps too much of a stretch. In a way reality destroyed nostalgia. I think we are retuning to an appreciation of that kind of fantasy, if only for what it represents rather than a depiction of what was. The images of Christmas portrayed in the movie are much truer to reality, but they resonate with people my age because the look like the Christmas I knew.

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