Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Season's Greetings

Don't send holiday cards. Seriously. Don't.

Unless there is
money in that envelope, or a heartfelt and handwritten message in that
card, don't bother sending it. Nobody is fooled when you mail a
preprinted card that wishes "All the best," to someone who hasn't heard
from you in a year. 

Instead of "Season's greetings," the card
might as well read, "I hope you haven't moved since last year" because
everyone knows that mailing holiday cards is less about whom you
cherish and more about who's in your address book.

"We got a holiday card from the Satterfields," I told Hubby. 

"Who are the Satterfields?" he asked.

"I don't know. They live in Alabama. Who do we know in Alabama?" 

"No one."

"Oh, wait," I said, searching my contact list. "They're your cousins. Did you know they moved to Alabama?" 

"Which cousins?"

This is why we stopped sending holiday cards.

used to relish making and sending holiday cards as a form of creative
expression. Usually, we'd make cards featuring photos of Monkey, our
stuffed animal gorilla, posing at various historic landmarks. One year,
we downloaded a picture of a random ugly family and used that as our
greetings. After Zev was born, everyone naturally expected he'd become
the star of our new holiday stationery line.

Not so.

think the thing that sent me over the bah-humbug edge was that
metastasizing trend of sending personal essays inside of greeting
cards. You know what I'm talking about: Those two- or three-page
(single-spaced) letters crisply folded inside a blank, bland greeting
card that tell you (and probably 100 other people the writer hasn't
thought about in a year) what he or she has been doing for the past 365
days. Some are funny. Some are spoofs on the form. But all of them are
unsettling in how impersonal they are.

Last year, I learned
that someone I used to have brunch with every week spent several months
recovering from a back injury. I had no idea. I felt like a jerk for
being so out of touch that a major trauma could come and go without me
knowing about it. After reading that, I thought, "Are we even
acquaintances anymore?"

I tried making that argument to Yvette
last week. Yvette has had a momentous year, culminating in brain
surgery. She figured not everyone was up to speed on her life, and
writing it all down was a good way to get the word out.

"But if
they're someone you really wanted to tell this to, wouldn't you have
told them, like, before they cut into your skull and removed a chunk of
your brain?"

"Well, a lot of people are busy," Yvette said,
citing a friend of hers who was finishing up a PhD while having
relationship issues and, if I'm remembering this correctly, going to
clown school or something like that.

There is busy, and then
there is too-busy-to-be-in-your-life busy. Can an annual essay really
maintain bonds that are so obviously fraying?

And then there is
the weirdness of getting one of those letters from someone you see all
the time. You feel like calling them and saying, "Hi. Yeah, it's me. I
just got a letter detailing everything you've done in the last year,
and – having been party to most of it – I have to say, it wasn't as
boring as you made it out to be."

So, how about saving the
postage and picking up the phone instead? It's, like, 143 times better
to hear someone's voice than to read his words. For one, you can be
sure the words shared will be unique to the two of you. Unless you're a
freak and you write out a script before you call people. In that case,
I can't help you.

Otherwise, stop typing and start dialing.
After all, there is no reason to wish a "Happy New Year" to someone you
didn't talk to during the old one.


  1. I get so much useful information from reading this column. We really missed monkey last year, and I suppose we'll be missing him again this year. Anyway, I'm not that attached to personal greetings, but I really like displaying the photos, so I can at least see a representation of those friends whom I don't get to see in the flesh very often. Which reminds me, preprinted photos of my kids with a completely impersonal "happy holidays" note is on its way to you!

  2. oh this is so true! i've been sending them out and i find myself writing the oddest notes. and add to that my handwriting, which is illegible, and my fear that the envelopes all smell like nicotine from my licking them shut. i'd be better of driving around in a sleigh just egging friends' houses and singing dradel songs. yeah, i'm going to start that tradition.

  3. Mayrav,
    I did send out my cards this year. I had my mind set on doing it last week.It was difficult because I had all my supplies(cards, stamps, tape) laid out on the bed and my boyfriend decided he'd be a lunatic and play video games. Yep, I had to leave because he went bonkers and was jumping on the bed, as if that would help his game any. The part that drives me nuts is the writing part and you know I love to write. I don't like handwriting a different personal note to everyone on my list. That cramps the hand and leaves you a tad drained. This year I came up with an original holiday poem and stuck that inside everyones card. It was so much easier for me to do that since I will see most of these people on the actual holiday. If they want to know how I am, they can ask me then. I do have to say we enjoy getting the yearly letter from my aunt. She has a husband and 7 year old son, but it always seems to be about her, go figure. She writes about all the thoughtful things my cousin says about her. When reading it you say to yourself "He did not say that, really. Come on." Part of you wonders if he will turn into Norman Bates later on. It cracks us up every year. I hope you and the family have a great holiday season.
    Love the column. I always keep checking for new articles all the time. You are so in tune to what a lot of people are thinking, but not saying out loud.

  4. Thank you for reminding me about my great uncle, by marriage, Ed Satterfield. The man is still with us in his mid-eighties. He was a P.O.W. in WWII and has a steel plate in his head from that experience. He drives a souped up Mustang and loves to gamble. To the best of my knowlege he has never been to Alabama.