Why not send cards which benefit the less fortunate as well as greeting your friends? Joanna Moorhead looks at what's on offer from the charities this year.
One hundred and forty five years ago Sir Henry Cole, founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum, decided he was just too busy to get round to writing to all his friends and benefactors as Christmas tradition demanded. He couldn't let the season go by without sending any sort of greeting, though, so he commissioned a picture to mail them instead. The result, an illustration of a feasting family designed by artist John Calcott Horsley, was the first Christmas card, forerunner of the millions which will be dropping through letterboxes around the world this December.
It is interesting, though, that Horsley's card showed, besides the feast, two smaller pictures of hungry people being fed and a destitute person being helped. Christmas, while it has for many years now been associated in the West with excess, has always been, equally, about sharing that excess, albeit sometimes to a pitiful extent and aiding the suffering.
In Sir Henry's time, of course, helping the poor meant attending to the waifs and strays who turned up on the doorstep requesting help. Today, thankfully, poverty in our own country is less rife or, at any rate, less evident. But there are still many millions of people, both at home and abroad, who are in need. They don't knock at the door any more, but with just a bit of thought we can share some of our wealth with them by buying cards, and even presents, which benefit charities.
Charity Christmas cards have taken off in a big way in recent years, of course, and most of the major stores now stock packs of cards, the profits from which benefit several good causes. As is often the case, though, the types of charities which are involved in this kind of venture are often the large, well known concerns. Many people like to use their money to help local organisations or ones they have a particular interest in.
For full details of which charities sell cards, write to the Charity Christmas Card Council at 49 Lambs Conduit Street, London WC1, or phone their Charity Christmas Card hotline on 01-242 0546 to find out where to buy cards near you.
The following list, though by no means exhaustive, gives
details of some of the charity cards Catholic Herald readers might be interested in buying by post.
Carmelite Monastery, Darlington The Sisters have cards for sale with designs including an Old Master, icon, crib scene and Hail Mary text cards, priced between 5p and 20p each. Also a calender with Beatitudes text. For samples and catalogue write to: Orders Office, Carmelite Convent, Nunnery Lane, Darlington DL3 9PN.
Carmelite Monastery, Quidenham Biblical and liturgical text cards, priced £1.35 for a pack of four and £2.55 for a pack of 12. Send orders to Sr Susan at the Card Office, Carmelite Monastery, Quidenham, Norwich, Norfolk NR16 2PH. She will bill you with your order.
Catholic Children's Society, Bristol Simple line drawings showing Bethlehem and Father Christmas, designed by Edward Wells and available from the society at 58 Alma Road, Clifton, Bristol BS8 2DQ. Telephone 0272 734253.
Catholic Children's Society, Arundel and Brighton, Portsmouth and Southwark Nativity paintings and popular selection cards sold in packs of 10 for between 95p and £2.75, or bumper selection of 40 cards, 10 different designs, at £4.65. Available from the sociey at 49 Russell Hill Road, Purley, Surrey CR2 2XB or phone 01-668 2181.
Catholic Children's Society, Westminster Old Masters, simple pastelcoloured drawings of the Holy Family and a desolate Mary outside the Bethlehem inn are among the seven cards on offer. Available in packs of 10 at between £1.00 and £1.30. For a pamphlet write to the society at 73 St Charles Square, London WIO 6EJ, or telephone 01-969 5305. CAFOD Six designs including the dove of hope from El Salvador, a Taize icon card and Sri Lankan batik design of a sleeping child. Also, with Welsh or English greeting, Three Wise Women by Hilda Bernstein. Priced £1 for a pack of 10. For pamphlet, which includes details of calendars and stocking fillers, write to CAFOD at 2 Romero Close, Stockwell Road, London SW9 9TY, or phone the resources department on 01-733 7900.
Christian Ecology Group Three cards, entitled "Planet", "Nativity" and "Angel", all printed in colour on recycled paper and blank inside. Available with or without envelopes (some people prefer to re-use the old ones) at between 90p and £3.15 for different sized packs. Leaflet from the group at 58 Quest Hills Road, Malvern, Worcs WRI4 1RW.
Handicapped Children's Pilgrimage Trust and Hosanna House Trust Adoration of the Shepherds by Mengs, a simple drawing of mother and child, and a rainbowcoloured dove are amongst the six cards on offer from the HCPT this year. At prices from £1.00 for ten to £2.50 for a bumper pack, the cards are available from the Trust at 100A High Street, Banstead, Surrey SM7 2RB, telephone 0737 353311.
Peace on Earth, the Holy Family and Sheltering Friends are the themes of the three cards available, at between £1.10 and £1.60 for packs of 10. Cards from the head office at La Casa de San Jose, Ince Road, Thornton, Liverpool, Merseyside L23 4UE or telephone 051-924 3812.
Mouth and Foot Painting Artists
A colourful array of cards., including two gold-blocked designs painted by mouth and foot painting artists. Available at £2.65 for six cards, six gift tags and two cardboard angels. Details from the MFPA at 9 Inverness Place, London W2 3JG.