IS THERE anything more uncharitable at this time of the year than handing over a Christmas card to be told: "Um, Penelope and I are not sending Christmas cards this year. We've decided to give the money to charity.”

Did I mishear? Does the song say: “Tis the season to be sanctimonious.”

Yes. There will always be causes which would better benefit from your cash than card shops.

But it’s Christmas, it’s only once a year. Shouldn’t we British be preserving our noble traditions of meaningless, hollow gestures?

And if it’s the environment you’re concerned about, you’d better hand back that 8ft Norway Spruce, start wrapping your presents in brown paper and learn to juggle bags (for life), because you won’t be needing your gas-guzzling Chelsea Tractor on the Christmas supermarket run this year.

I say this, because it is possible to still give Christmas cards and give to charity.

Kendal Library has the answer – charity Christmas cards – St John’s Hospice, Parkinsons UK, the NSPCC and the 1959 Group of Charities.

Any close family member who tells me: “We’re giving the money to charity,” is guaranteed to suffer.

“Your birthday card? Oh I've given the money to charity along with the £10 I put inside. I know how giving you are, see, and through your self-sacrifice, we are making a better world, together.”

Simply saying: “We’re giving the money to charity,” doesn’t mean they are, either.

It sounds like the sort of lie you might deploy if caught in that awkward Christmas card faux pas.

That]s where they’ve got you one but you haven’t got them one, and they turn up. So one of you has to keep them talking while the other pretends to go to the loo on the pretext of finding a working pen.

At this time of year, my brain also involuntarily manages to remember Christmas cards given but not reciprocated when the other half is writing them out. “What we giving them one for? Oh I see. As a subtle but pointed reminder of their own lack of generosity.”