By Suzanne Sparrow Watson
I love everything about Christmas – the decorations, the tree, the festive spirit that seems to permeate the air. Of course, all that egg nog and hot buttered rum helps. The only Grinch to my Christmas spirit is the dreaded Christmas cards. Don’t get me wrong, I love to receive them, I just hate sending them. So while our house is now ready for Christmas (my husband has opined that it looks like an elf vomited in here), I have put off my decision on cards until this week – do I send some out or just forget the whole thing? Christmas cards just seem so 80’s to me – the 1880’s, which is when Christmas cards became popular in America. The sending of cards is reminiscent of a time before the internet, when you didn’t hear from people except for the annual Christmas card. Social media and email have completely changed that; today I can tell you what my friend down in Texas had for breakfast because she posted it on Facebook. I know of every birth, death, marriage, divorce and trip to the mall. So I don’t really need to get a Christmas card or worse yet, a Christmas letter, to know what my friends have been up to. I know what my friends are doing right down to their scrambled eggs.
My Christmas cards seems to fall into four major categories. First are the corporate cards. You know, the ones from the banker or insurance agent. The first card we received this year was from our attorney, which seems only fitting since we bared our souls to him a few months ago while drawing up new life and death documents. I don’t know whether he’s sending genuine greetings or he’s just checking to see whether the card gets returned and he needs to start filing paperwork. The second category are from distant friends – people that we don’t see all year long but somehow the need arises to wish each other the very best for the holiday season. Mostly they are old neighbors or workmates I couldn’t pick out in a crowd. Am I morally obligated to continue this exchange of well-wishes? The third group are the true friends – some of whom we see or keep in touch with all year long. Heck, some of us are golf partners or good friends with whom we socialize every week. We will be wishing holiday greetings in person, some of them several times. Do we really need to send cards too?
The last category is the Christmas letter. There are some that are really well done. Some. But most seem to have turned the Christmas tradition of wishing others a happy season to one giant “let’s talk about me” exercise. Generally, people just don’t know where to stop. Johnny got into Harvard? Great. Snookie was elected president of her third grade class? Good for her! But too often it goes into such minutia that it borders on the ridiculous. My parents used to receive one that was so full of trivia and self-aggrandizement that our mom used to wait until we were all gathered on Christmas Eve so that one of us kids (by this time adults and full of “cheer”) could read it in dramatic fashion, everyone breaking into gales of laughter. Each year my husband and I receive one from one of his former co-workers that last year had me going from the start. In addition to a litany of the various trips taken, there was a review of golf handicaps (they went down, of course), a tabulation of their granddaughter’s Girl Scout cookie sales and the net worth of the company that their son-in-law went to work for, along with its employee count and various office locations. Seriously. As they’re writing this tome do they really think anyone cares about the headcount in Poughkeepsie?
Perhaps the best take on Christmas cards was from a friend of our parents back in the 60’s. They kept every card they received the previous year. Then they re-addressed it to the sender inserting a note that read “We liked your Christmas card so much last year that we have decided to give you the pleasure of seeing it again this year. So, we’re sending it back to you.” Now that is clever. And it beats using old cards to make ornaments. As for all the Christmas letters? They could be shredded into bird cage liner and the circle would be closed.
So, here I sit in mid-December still trying to weigh the pros and cons of sending cards. Mailing cards has become exponentially easier with the advent of computer-generated mailing labels so I don’t have that arthritic wrist to provide an excuse anymore. And since I do like to see photos of people’s kids, grandkids and dogs I feel like I need to somehow reciprocate. After all, who am I to deny the world of one more cute picture of Dash the Wonder Dog at Christmas?