Some cards are heartfelt wishes of hope, health and happiness for the holiday and new year, while others
are vehicles of shameless self-promotion, like the ever-popular picture cards and my personal favorite, the holiday letter:
"2011 started with a bang when we flew off to some tremendously expensive and fabulous vacation that you can only dream
of--wish you were there! Then, the job promotion--too bad you lost yours two years ago. Oh, and our kid got accepted to Harvard--sorry yours flunked out of community college...blah, blah, blah...we're winners! Too bad you're not. Happy holidays!"
Holiday greetings are truly wonderful; they offer a physical presence in the homes of family and friends sending wishes of happiness and love. But have you noticed that in the last three years--the last three years where joblessness has reached
an all-time high and the American dollar, an all-time low--that holiday cards contain less cheer and more sneer???
So here are the rules of holiday-card engagement...because less really is more in the 21st century:
1) Don't send all your family and friends a group email to say, "Merry Christmas!" The only thing a group-email says is: "You don't matter enough to me to take the time, effort and energy to actually send an individual card or email."
2) It's great to wish your Facebook friends everything merry and bright in a status update, but that DOES NOT count as a holiday card. Do not pass go. You will not be collecting $200. Try again.
3) If you choose to send a holiday card--a gift in and of itself these days--be sure postmark it before December 15th. If you send it any later, say, December 24th--all it communicates is that you were compelled to send your cards out of some vague social obligation, not because you really wanted to. Thanks, but uh, no thanks.
4) You decide to send holiday cards after Thanksgiving, complete with photos of your cherubic children...to ALL 50 people on your mailing list. Listen, if you're not part of my immediate family and you send me a 3x5 of little Johnnie--it goes in my trash on December 26th. What do you imagine people do with the 50 pictures of 50 different children who aren't even related to them...every single year?
5) Writing year-end letters to close family is a great way to catch everyone up on your world. It's nice to hear about what your sister and her family did over the summer or read how Grandma surprised everyone by reliving her days as a gymnast, doing not one, but two(!) cartwheels across your lawn at the Labor Day BBQ. But if you're not my sister, brother, or close relative--please don't ask me to read about the tedium of your life...twelve whole months worth. And if you do insist on sending a letter to people who aren't part of your immediate family--skip the showing off, pare down on the ego, and especially at this time of year, have some humility. Some of the people on your holiday-card mailing list had a really terrible year...about 25%, according to recent government stats. Maybe it was the loss of a job, cancer diagnosis, loss of a family member, divorce, bankruptcy...or some combination thereof. Even if you had the best year of your life, remember that there are other people in the world besides you. I know it's hard to believe that some people couldn't care less about your two-year old's new pooping talents...but the holidays are about giving--not receiving. Give the gift of humility. Be charitable when writing and sending your holiday letters by remembering that not everyone is on top of the world at the bottom of 2011.
It's more important than ever to be sensitive and compassionate during the holidays--and no, throwing a $5 bill into the red bucket as you enter your local mall does not cover it. December has one of the highest suicide rates than almost any other month. Live in reality...even though every retailer and media-mogul out there asks you to do otherwise. Remember that not everyone's life looks like a Norman Rockwell painting, or magically becomes one, simply because most of the population throws lights on plastic pine trees. People genuinely suffer during the month of December because, though it's touted as "the most wonderful time of the year," baby, it's cold outside. Really cold. Divorce is on the rise. Bankruptcy. Joblessness. Cancer diagnoses. Get the picture? The world doesn't stop because we want it to. If it did, I'd be perpetually 35. Yup, 2006 was a good year. But it's not 2006...it's the end of 2011 as we know it and the majority of Americans do not feel fine.
This isn't a bah-hum bug a la Dickens. It's a simple request. Fulfilling it is the best gift you can give, or, receive this holiday season. What it says to people is that you truly care about them and their lives at this crucial time of year. And really, that's how the tradition of sending holiday greetings was born.
So Merry Chanukah! Happy Christmas and Kwanza! And may your holidays--whether you celebrate one or all--be filled with the warmth and light of good family and loyal friends.
From my "home" to yours, best wishes for a peaceful holiday season and a happy, healthy 2012....