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A conspiracy of greetings

Once upon a time, I dutifully remembered family birthdays and sent Christmas cards, secure in the knowledge that I had fulfilled all my obligations. But my satisfaction in giving is quickly being crushed by all the new holidays and special occasions that seem to pop up like mushrooms, calling for still more cards. I am convinced these new holidays are nothing but a plot to test my failing memory, create guilt, and separate me from my cash.

According to the Greeting Card Association, North Americans bought nearly 6 billion cards last year. This number is sure to increase as yet more "holidays" dot the calendar. These new occasions include Earth Day, Boss's Day, and National Recycling Day, not to mention New Zealand Independence Day and Jerry Garcia's birthday.

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Even with more "traditional" holidays, the flow of cards never seems to cease. Valentine's Day cards appear immediately after New Year's Day and sell out just in time for St. Patrick's Day. Easter cards make way for Mother's Day and Father's Day cards, which lead us to the Fourth of July....

Yet despite wanting to ignore the special-occasion treadmill, these cards, as corny as they are, sometimes come to our rescue. Who could even think of neglecting to send Mom a card on Mother's Day?

But I'm drawing the line. I've developed my own panic-free strategy. At the beginning of each year, I'll buy a dozen blank cards. In these all-purpose cards I can write any message I wish, from "Bon Voyage" to nothing at all. And in my new-found free time, I'm going to dream up a few holidays of my own – card free, of course.

• Diane Barnet is a freelance writer.