Christmas Greetings

Yesterday our mailman did not deliver anything. On Friday he brought 2 Christmas cards and 7 advertising flyers. It was a far cry from the olden days.

When I was a child, admittedly a long time ago, mail was delivered twice a day during December. Twice a Day! Plus Saturdays. My mother spent a couple of weeks writing and addressing some 200 cards every year, and we got a similar number in return. The cards were displayed on every flat surface – on mantels, ledges, plate rails and coffee tables. It was a feast of greeting cards.

Peter has a different Christmas card memory. One year, when he was a teenager looking for money, he was hired as a mailman’s assistant for the month of December. He enjoyed being active and outside. But he was especially happy when he started getting gifts in some of the mailboxes: chocolates, home-made cookies, even money. Sadly his windfall was short-lived – soon the regular mail man noticed what was happening and confiscated the gifts, explaining that they were Not intended for the lowly part-time assistant!

In honour of this year’s Christmas mailing season, Peter and I recently visited Toronto’s very first Post Office, opened in 1837. In those days the centre of the city of 9,000 people was in the east end, 10 blocks square: Queen St to the north, Front Street and Lake Ontario to the south, Parliament on the east, and Yonge St on the west side. The Post Office was, and still is, situated on Adelaide St, the heart of the financial district in the 1800’s.


The original Post Office is still open to the public, as a working post office and as a museum. When we walked in, we were greeted by the clerk who was busy selling stamps and weighing packages, just like at any other Toronto postal station. Behind her, arranged in neat rows, were the mailboxes of local residents. And on the opposite wall were postal items for sale – unusual stamps and coins, writing paper, sealing wax, and replica quill pens.


In another room visitors are drawn to a topographical scale model of Toronto as it was in 1837. The Post Office can be seen in the centre and, if you look closely, you can pick out the north building of the St. Lawrence Market. But the south building is not there; that land was still beneath the waters of Lake Ontario. On the western boundary of the small city, the flatiron building is standing alone in a field of grass.

Scale Model of Toronto in 1837

The Reading Room is at the back of the Post Office/ Museum. This cozy place had chairs and tables, and a fireplace to keep the room warm while locals sat to read their mail or write return letters. They needed the Postmaster’s help with this, as many of them were illiterate. The cost of mailing a letter was steep too. For a piece of mail to go by stage coach to Niagara Falls, the postage would be 4 pence or more. But people were more than willing to pay in order to stay connected with friends and family living far away.

These days there is a different attitude towards mail in general, and Christmas cards in particular. People have other options, like email messages, or online card companies such as Jacqui Lawson or America Greetings. If you choose to be more creative, you can use the services of COSTCO for example and have cards designed with family photos and a printed message. Then all you have to do is shove the card into an envelope, add an address label printed at Staples, and a “family letter” highlighting all the achievements of your exceptional grandchildren. Voila! your card is ready to go.

Then take the subway downtown, walk over to 260 Adelaide St E, and mail your Christmas greetings!

My signature, using a quill pen

5 thoughts on “Christmas Greetings

  1. What a find, Sue! That is somewhere I have never been. What a fascinating place to visit. LOL a quill is not easy to use is it…I have made the odd one from wild turkey feathers here.


  2. Thank you again for such wonderful articles. Love reading your post every Tuesday. I too used to stay up till 2 or 3 in the morning and write over 100 cards. Now I have reduced them to only a handful. I have been keeping all the cards sent to me, but now I have to start thinking what to do with them. Maybe resending them back to the the person who sent it to me with a note: “Lovely memory. Thank you, hope it brought back memories and made you smile too.”


  3. I’m always amazed at all the interesting places you find to visit, many of which I’ve never heard of. The main post office sounds fascinating. I’ve noticed that we don’t get many Christmas cards either but we also just send a few. Email or an in person Merry Christmas is so much easier. Merry Christmas to you and Peter.


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