On the one hand, they’re an ecological disaster area – trees cut down to produce them, gasoline used to deliver them, only to have them go into the recycling after a couple of weeks.
On the other hand, we sent out an electronic holiday card one year, and I missed personalizing each one with a note. Not to mention that the older I get, the more my handwriting deteriorates. I could have been a doctor if bad handwriting had more weight than understanding chemistry.
And half the fun of holiday cards is displaying them. It’s not the same displaying an 8-1/2 x 11 sheet of paper.
The other thing that frustrates me about holiday cards is that I’d really like to winnow my list down, but if you’re like me, you’re not sure how.
For instance, you have long-time friends whom you talk to on the phone every week. What do they need a holiday card for? They know everything that’s going on.
At the other end of the scale are the long-time friends with whom your only communication is holiday cards. How do you encapsulate a year’s troubles and tickles in a few paragraphs? It’s time to draw the line, but that seems so heartless, especially at a time of the year when you’re supposed to have good will toward everyone.
How long are you supposed to keep old neighbors on the list? You’re never moving back, right? And sometimes they move on too, so whatever connection there was is slowly fading away.
There are the colleagues that first became friends and then became strangers. If you don’t know who I mean, check your wedding album. You’ll recognize them immediately. But what if they become colleagues again? Tough call.
Then there are friends who used to be close but have now become strangers. Those are the saddest ones of all. Suddenly you realize that your lives and your values have diverged and you can’t figure when they became gun-toting Libertarians, anti-capitalist radicals, or worse, started shopping at Wal-Mart.
There are also the friends you wish would become strangers. You know who I mean: the ones whose holiday letters are composed solely of Ivy League acceptances, promotions, new cars, beach houses, and the like, and so devoid of challenge and consternation that you check the postmark to see if they moved to Stepford without telling you.
But there are others whom I wonder about sending cards to. What about close relatives? Do you really have to send a holiday card to your parents if they live in the next town?
There are the relatives whom you haven’t seen for years, and probably won’t ever see again simply because they live too far away or they’re too aggravating to be around or both. But if they hear that some other relative got a card from you and they didn’t, be prepared with a good cover story (“My computer crashed and sent my contacts list to the hospital”).
And what about relatives’ kids when they become adults? If you’ve sent one to a cousin’s family for years, you’d really prefer not to get into the habit of sending cards to the once-removeds.
Then there are pseudo-relatives, relatives of relatives that you meet at weddings and christenings and graduations, who start sending you cards because they’re either nicer than you are, have more time on their hands, or haven’t discovered Facebook yet. Here’s some advice – just don’t get started with them.
Even though you may be unsure about how to winnow the aforementioned folks from your list, it is possible to keep your list from growing. First, send your cards as close to the holiday as possible, then wait to see whose cards among that group show up about a week later. Chances are you got whacked off of their list and they only sent you a card – probably from the Habitat for Humanity samples they kept just in case – out of guilt. You don’t have to send cards to these people next year.
Second, never add new friends to your holiday card list. If they add you to theirs, apologize and say that your environmental inclinations forbid you from sending holiday cards.
Eventually, you will not have to send any holiday cards at all. Of course, you won’t receive any either. Like I said, it’s a conundrum.