By Suzanne Sparrow Watson
Last week, as I was playing golf and talking (mostly talking) I mentioned that I might not send out Christmas cards this year. My partners shook their heads and told me they stopped sending holiday greetings years ago. I guess I’m just late to the party – again. But as I thought about the annual tradition of keeping up with old friends, it dawned on me that I do that all year long. Social media and email have completely changed how we keep track of and communicate with each other. Now, through the miracle of Facebook, I can tell you that my friend down in Atlanta had scrambled eggs for breakfast because she posted a photo of it. I regularly email with friends throughout the year, so 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.
I have some general observations about holiday cards, and I admit, I’ve been guilty of doing some of the very things I dislike about the custom. I see Christmas cards as falling 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 estate attorney. I don’t know whether he’s sending genuine greetings or he’s waiting for his card to be returned so he can start filing paperwork. The second category are from distant friends – people that we haven’t seen or spoken with in years, 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? In the past few years there has been a trend toward having their cards printed with their signatures printed on the inside, with a return address sticker on the outside. Our name and address are printed on an address label and stuck on the envelope. It has all the warmth and personal touch of our utility bill. I admit that I have done this on some cards in the past few years, which is what started me questioning why I’m sending a card at all. The third group are the true friends – the ones we see or keep in touch with all year long. Heck, some of them 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. Some of them are really well done. Some. But most seem to have turned the holiday tradition of wishing others well into one giant “let’s talk about me” exercise. In general, the problem is that 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 we couldn’t 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. There is nothing like reading bowling scores to bring out the holiday spirit. Each year my husband and I receive a Christmas letter from one of his former co-workers that always includes a litany of the various trips taken, a review of golf handicaps (they always go down, of course), and an update on the career achievements of their four adult children (and spouses!). Last year they even included the employee count and various office locations of their son’s latest employer. Seriously. Do they take a moment as they’re writing this to consider whether anyone cares about the headcount in Poughkeepsie? I’m more prone to wonder why the son keeps changing jobs. I think there’s a story there.
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.
I have to say, I do like to see photos of people’s kids, grandkids and dogs. Especially if they are related to me. Those I treasure and file in a collection in my “family files”. But while I won’t be sending out cards this year, I reserve the right to change my mind and resume sending them next year. Especially if I win the Nobel prize or discover the cure for cancer.
One tradition I will always maintain is providing you with Pop’s Christmas Ice Cream Fizz recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as our family has over the years. There is nothing like a little gin to make the holidays just the slightest bit more fun!
POP’S CHRISTMAS ICE CREAM FIZZ
Fill a blender 1/4 full of ice cubes
Add 6 jiggers of gin
Add 4 scoops of French Vanilla ice cream
Add 1 small bottle of soda water (the size you get in a 6-pack)
My brother Bob adds an egg, so the white adds some froth, brother Jack doesn’t add an egg. Personally, I’d add it just because you can then claim it’s a protein drink.
Just blend it well and – voila – you have a concoction sure to put a positive spin on everyone and everything!
Our mom served them in a wine glass with a dash of nutmeg. As we got older, we would conspire with Pop and ditch the wine glass for a chilled beer mug from the freezer. Saved having to go back for seconds…or thirds.