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'Twas the season

For some reason assuming that I haven't already consigned it to the bin, today's Friday Five is asking about my holiday correspondence. In fact, I am an unsentimental soul who has already processed those cards and letters, but I'll take a stab at the questions anyhow.

Happy Holidays (Belated)!

1. About how many family Christmas photo-cards did you receive [in 2016]?
I'm thinking ... two. A very family-conscious first cousin has sent one each year for the last 30 years. The photo used to feature her cat; then it was her daughter (sometimes with cat); now, the subject is her adorable grandson. Also, an across-the-court neighbor always sends a photo-card of himself and his two sons (who were my sons' -- Numbers Two & Three, that is -- respective best friends growing up).

Every now and then I'll get a third photo-card, but I think it was just those two this year. Indeed, I probably got more handmade cards -- I'm talking the nice, crafty kind -- than photo-cards in 2016.

2. About how many family Christmas newsletters did you receive this year?
Also two, I think. One was from a friend I've known since high school. We became close in senior year, after which we corresponded heavily in college. She then moved out of the area, but I've usually received her Christmas letter and so consider us to have "kept in touch." The other letter came from a family we knew from church back in the 1990s. The Man and I were close-ish with both the husband and the wife (one of our few couples friendships -- I always wished we had more) for over a decade, and we've gotten a Christmas letter from them (well, now just I get a Christmas letter from them) every year since they moved away in 2000.

Both of these families have interesting lives about which I enjoy reading. My high school friend is a doctor, as is her husband, and they live on the West Coast with their two high-achieving offspring enjoying what sounds like many opportunities for travel and leisure. If I wanted to envy someone's circumstances, hers would do as well as anyone's. :-) Meanwhile, my church friend (the wife, that is) maintains the bubbly attitude she was always known for, and divides her time between good works (it's dental care for the poor, these days -- she's a hygienist) and the child (now a high-school graduate) that she and her husband surprised us all by having after years of being pretty vocally "childless by choice."

I imagine that a stranger who picked up either letter (especially if it was someone who had doubts about the whole idea of Christmas newsletters in the first place) might sneer at the apparent bragging, especially in the accounts of the children's lives. But I quite enjoy hearing that good things are happening to my friends.

3. What do you do with the Christmas photo-cards and newsletters you get each year?
I look at the photos, read the letters, copy out any new contact information ... and then recycle the paper.

4. What's a good solution for singles who want to participate in this tradition without coming across as a loser?
For a photo card, if you're the only living being in it, I'd recommend an interesting gimmick or backdrop. Or, if you have a pet, include it in the picture.

As for the Christmas letter, well, first of all, there's no reason that an account of the highlights of a single person's year would necessarily be "loser-ish"! You are sending this to people who already know and like you, not to weird strangers primed to judge you over the lack of a mate ... right? Maybe you did something out of the ordinary, like travel or move house or change jobs; your friends will find that interesting even if there's nothing particularly "braggable" in it. And you could consider (depending on what your friends are like, I guess) mentioning some great book you read and loved during the year, or a new hobby you took up. I imagine most people would enjoy that as least as much as reading about their other friends' kids getting on the honor roll again. :-)

But second, and I'd say this to anyone writing one of these letters, USE HUMOR! It shouldn't all be meta-humor, by which I mean self-deprecating comments about the fact that you have done something so cheesy as to write a Christmas letter (or that you are a single person writing such a letter) -- one or two jokes in that vein are more than enough! But funny anecdotes and humorous commentary about the year itself (even, provided that it's tasteful, about the bad things that happened) are what make all good Christmas newsletters readable.

Finally, if you're good at it, punch up the presentation with graphics and such. If the letter is entertaining, who could think the writer was a loser?

5. About how many old-school, hand-addressed Christmas cards did you receive this year?
I usually get about a dozen; certainly no more. I'd get more if I sent cards myself, but due to the fact that all my jobs peak in December (with final exams and extra church services), I long ago (mid-1990s?) excused myself from all the "obligations" associated with Christmas except for playing Santa to my kids (and that ended this year). For the past couple years, I've entertained the notion of pushing myself and sending cards again -- maybe even including a letter updating people on how my life has changed (now that enough time has passed for me to write it well) -- but so far, I have not resumed the practice.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 17th, 2017 09:19 pm (UTC)
For Some Reason
The "some reason" for the Christmas card questions is that around here, it seems a LOT of people put the cards up on a wall or door (office or home) and leave them up forever. You can actually see some kids grow up before your eyes as you scan the wall from bottom to top, or from left to right. It's weird. And as I was trying to think of questions, I saw the office door of one of my coworkers, decorated with five years' worth of family photo cards. I have multiple friends who do this. Also, I think of February as the month you really need to have Christmas stuff put away if you're going to put it away at all. :)

Your suggestions for number 4 are excellent. I've thought of doing a "Merry Christmas from the two of us" card with a photo of me and my guitar, or me and a photoshopped Emma Stone, but I think the photos just remind people that you're single, and while I am unapologetically single, I think married people wtih families still feel bad for me, like I just don't know what a blessing it is to have a spouse and kids.

I think I'm going to take your idea (great book) and modify it, combining it with something I saw a few years ago: the personal year-end report. I track my stepcounts, for example, and scrobble my music listening (on Last.FM), and keep track of the books I read (on Goodreads) and the films I see (on Letterboxd), so some kind of here's-what-I-was-into statement, I guess. Thanks for the idea.
Feb. 21st, 2017 08:12 pm (UTC)
I actually quite like receiving mass-mailed Christmas letters, whether they're from singles, families, or something in between. I reckon photos are good too, especially if this is the only chance to see how much or little the person has aged. I certainly do not keep them, however. If they're still lying around in February there's something seriously wrong!

I have to admit though, that I do suffer a little from 'success envy', and reading about how my friends' children are now successful doctors, lawyers, parents etc, does leave me a little sad at times. I wonder how happy my children are, and what part I have played in their unhappiness.

Of course, my head tells me that the apparently successful doctors, lawyers etc will quite possibly be overworked and not really happy at all. The children who've become parents and will quite possibly be divorced at 30, with drug-dependent conservative-voting children. But that will never be mentioned in the annual Christmas letter.
Feb. 22nd, 2017 12:02 am (UTC)
Wow! (That was for your second paragraph.)

And, yes, my kids could do anything, but I'd only truly feel like a failure if they voted conservative.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )