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:
Its inside comment is:
HOPE YOUR HOLIDAYS ARE A BLAST
Somehow it does not convey the joy of seeing Jesus in a manger
or even a nice Currier and Ives winter scene.
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:
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.
Jean Shepherd and Leigh Brown Christmas card
with mouse drawing by Shepherd.
(Courtesy of Laurie and Herb Squire)