Nothing says Christmas like a form letter

I started sending Christmas cards in November of 1991 which I now realize, with shock and awe, was twenty years ago.  My university graduation photos were barely dry, but I was proud to be living in a shared apartment and supporting myself (more or less) on the modest salary of my first, entry level job in marketing.  My roommate and I had discarded the standard, starving-student milk crate shelving system in favour of an IKEA model.  We had dressed our living room window with a cheap, cotton valence stuffed with tissue paper and invested in colour co-ordinated towels for our bathroom; all in an effort to start living like grown-ups.  Sending a batch of Christmas cards was just one more grown-up thing to do.

But it wasn’t until 1998 that my Christmas card list exploded.  Fresh off our August wedding, Craig and I had complete addresses for 162 of our closest friends and family, and I was still filled with gratitude for the generous good wishes that they had showered upon us.  At the time we lived in a condo.  There was no snow shovelling to be done, little space to decorate and Moms on both sides that would take care of the holiday cooking.  I had time on my hands and so I was up for the challenge of tackling our huge list.  I simply put on some Christmas music, poured myself a brown cow and revelled in the holiday spirit as the pile of heartfelt cards grew beside me.

Since then, I’ve tried to keep up my tradition of Christmas cards.  In some cases it would be our only contact that year with far away friends and family, and so I was eager to keep the connection going.  But as our family grew, so did the number of traditions we accumulated.  One Christmas tree to decorate grew to three; one container of outdoor holiday greens grew to nine; and one batch of favourite cookies grew to six different varieties.

I did my best to maintain my tradition of inscribing holiday cards with personal notes on the dim hope that my friends and family would take this as a signal of how deeply I cared about them.  However I had a sneaking suspicion that the deeper meaning might have been missed by the recipients.  After all, while the first ten or so were full of detail and witty remarks, the next twenty were more general.  As time went on, the notes became increasingly brief and littered with plagiarism from my previous missives.  By card #56 I was down to: “All is well with us.”  I’ve always felt guilty about those last few.

So this year I decided to join the ranks of the standard holiday update letter.   Call it a throwback to my years of training in corporate efficiency but standardization seems like a sensible approach to ensuring high quality communications across the board.  And as an added bonus, my elderly relatives will no longer be challenged to decipher my sloppy handwriting.

I’ll admit that it has crossed my mind before to take the leap, but my Mother had strong negative feelings about this practice.  In her mind, these letters were all about bragging.  Little Susie won a prize, Thomas Junior graduated with honours and big Joe lost 40 pounds.  None of this went over particularly well in my immediate family where applause was sporadic and always tempered by a healthy dose of: “Don’t get too full of yourself.”

But personally, I have always loved receiving these updates.  Especially for families that I see infrequently, it makes me feel closer to them to know what they’ve been up to over the past year.  A friend the other day said that she once received an update letter that gave a blow by blow of the many traumas experienced by a particular family over the past year: divorce, sickness, loss.  What kind of a holiday greeting is that!?  In my humble opinion, if there’s ever a time to sugar coat, Christmas is it!

So if you’re someone who sends me a holiday update letter, keep ‘em coming!   And if you’re one of those update letter haters out there, please accept my sincere apologies for the sunny picture painted in my holiday greeting.  Would it help if I told you I had a wicked case of hemorrhoids last spring?

Happy holidays everyone!


4 thoughts on “Nothing says Christmas like a form letter

  1. Hi Diane,
    I, too, look forward to the newsletters in the Christmas cards but find fewer arrive each year. I have wondered about this and conclude that e-mail has kept us in touch more often and there is less to “update” in the annual newsletter. Have the different forms of social networking made the Christmas letter redundant? Perhaps, although it may be the only method of communication we have with some that we think of at this time of the year. We have to hold onto our traditions or risk Christmas becoming like every other day of the year.


  2. I read an article recently that charged Facebook with ‘ruining class reunions’, meaning that Facebook takes the element of surprise and anticipation away from ‘new news’ since we all know what everyone is up to (assuming we’ve been ‘friended’). I suspect that this may hold true for Christmas as well. However, I say keep up with your letter writing and picture sharing! I’ve loved everyone of them, just as much as I love our little visits, here and then, now and then. Your latest post made me laugh so hard and out loud all alone in my house (and by the way, I only saw you a few weeks ago, yet somehow I missed getting the update on your hemorrhoids, who knew?!). Haha. There’s always something to learn and laugh about with you! Bah humbug to haters, Merry Christmas to you!

  3. If my 20 year class reunion was any indication … you’re right! There was hardly anyone there. All that studying of the year book so that we could be prepared with names for faces was to waste. However, it was still a great excuse to ‘organize’ a bunch of people to go.

  4. I think you’re right Winnie! In fact, don’t be offended but I might not have put the update letter in your Christmas card…. thinking that you already knew everything I wrote about. The fact is that some people are really good at keeping in touch and writing about the interesting details of day to day life (like you!) while others… not so much. I do notice that I get fewer and fewer cards each year. But I just don’t think that posting something on your Facebook wall, visible to all 200 of your ‘friends’ is an adequate replacement. There’s something about the amount of effort that it takes to do something that creates a sense of greater meaning, and the exclusivity of the traditional Christmas card list adds to that. Remember the phrase… “you’re off my Christmas card list!”?

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