Greeting card retailers and the mail rooms of Post Offices across the country were described as "eerily quiet" in early December, as the usual rush to send Christmas cards failed to materialise and the entire population of the UK decided to "wait and see who sends us one first" instead.
The stand-off -- blamed on the the ongoing economic gloom and a growing suspicion among the public that cards arriving on December 28th weren't actually just "lost in the busy Christmas post" afterall -- is entering its second week. Royal Mail management are now dealing with strike threats over reduced overtime, and questioning "why we even bothered putting time and effort into doing those nice Gruffalo Xmas stamps in the first place".
Other industries are also suffering from the crisis -- the absence of cards with casual invites to pop around for a festive tipple has meant incidences of people dropping in unexpectedly with a card and a box of chocolates has plummeted. This has had knock-on effects on the market for bottle gift bags, which are kept in drawers to slip a bottle of M&S Shiraz into, when the hosts realise they haven't got their guests anything. The informal re-gifting market for unwanted presents is also expected to see stockpiling that won't be cleared for years, prompting fears that many will have to resort to actually eating the plum pudding out of 2007's gift hamper as the nation's great aunts refuse to visit and best before dates get perilously close.
The government finally stepped in to address the crisis by injecting millions of Christmas cards into the postal system in the hope of stimulating the exchange. Joan and David Anderson of Lewes were among the first to receive the government-backed card; Mrs Anderson's query of "whether we're sending one to David and Nick this year?" was met by a hollow laugh from Mr Anderson, which echoed around the country.