WHEN people declare, rather smugly and usually on social media, that: “We’re not sending Christmas cards this year, we’re donating to charity instead” what they really mean is: “We can’t be bothered to write or send any cards so if you give us one, don’t expect one back.”

Well Yuletide Felicitations to you too! Have they not heard of charity cards?

Sending a Christmas card is such a simple goodwill gesture, it seems so mean-spirited not to be bother. But I’ve noticed over the years that fewer people do. Around half the people I’ve given cards to this year haven’t reciprocated - and yes, I do know who they are. A woman on Gogglebox this week told her husband she puts a tick or a cross next to names on her Christmas card list, according to those who’ve sent her one back. “If I give someone a card, I expect one from them,” she said. I totally agree!

Sending a handwritten card shows you’ve taken time from your busy life (or scrolling through Facebook posting GIFs of dogs in Santa hats, and telling everyone you’re not doing cards this year) to think of someone and write them a seasonal message. And I don’t count round-robin email cards, which are so lazy and joyless you might as well not bother.

Receiving a Christmas card means a lot to people - I have an elderly aunt who lives alone and looks forward to cards landing on her doormat. I send her cards and letters throughout the year.

Some friends and family I rarely see, but we always catch up with Christmas cards. I had a lovely handwritten letter in a card the other day from a friend I’ve known 30 years. I was touched that she’d made the effort to write to me, so I sent her a letter too. Remember writing letters? It’s what we did before texts and email sucked the soul out of life.

Maybe it’s because I was brought up by a mother who was a stickler for writing thank-you letters for birthday and Christmas gifts, but I’ve always been a card giver. I send cards to people if they’re going through a tough time, if I’m proud of them or appreciate something they’ve done, or just to say “Hi.” If I stay at someone’s home I often send a card to say thanks.

When my parents died, I cherished the cards we got, and the messages people wrote. Those cards brought me comfort during the darkest time of my life, and I still have them.

Sending a card is a meaningful, thoughtful gesture, but increasingly it’s regarded as old hat, like using a teapot or giving up your seat for someone on a crowded train. I can count on one hand (and three fingers) the people I know who will send thank-you cards after Christmas. Those three friends have done so for years, and I always appreciate it.

The worst offenders are newly-weds. I’ve been to many weddings - at considerable expense, when you consider the outfit, travel/hotel expenses and gift for the happy couple - and not received a card afterwards acknowledging the item I bought from their expensive wedding list, or the cash I gave towards their honeymoon. Even writing the same message in a stack of cards shows better manners than not bothering at all.

I don’t care if it’s old-fashioned; I’ll continue to send cards. And don’t play the environment card - while you’re using copious amounts of electricity to charge up your mobile/laptop/tablet. My Christmas cards are much appreciated but go in the recycling bin come January 6, and I keep the nice ones to cut up and use as gift tokens the following Christmas (a tip from my thrifty mum).

Bah, humbug to those not sending cards this year. And Happy Christmas to those who are.

* WHILE I'm on with Christmas pet peeves (see above), can we please stop calling this time of year the Holidays!

It's a horrible Americanism that means nothing to people who work over Christmas. That includes hospital staff, carers, shop workers, police, firefighters...even journalists. I've not had a Christmas break for 30 years.

Most people I know (those who aren't journalists) have at least a week off, but I think I'd get bored after a day or two. There are only so many chocolate orange segments you can scoff watching festive Tipping Point before you go stir crazy.

* RITA Tanner has been a wise and loyal friend to many residents on Coronation Street over the years but now, with Christmas coming, she finds herself very much alone.

The current Corrie storyline sees Rita neglected by friends and neighbours, highlighting the issue of loneliness among older people at a time of year that is, for many, the hardest.

Age UK says around 870,000 older people will be alone on Christmas Day, and those who are widowed feel loneliest of all.

The charity's campaign, You are Not Alone, focuses on older people who've reached out for help. One of them is Colin, 78, who says: "Nothing prepares you for losing the love of your life. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying the festivities, but it made me feel even more alone."

Visit ageuk.org.uk to help the charity combat loneliness.