What kind of evil spirit am I to feel so at ease criticizing the lovely tradition of holiday cards? Let me clarify. I actually don’t hate receiving them…opening up my mailbox and retrieving something other than oversized fliers and credit card offers is a massive bonus. Truly, sliding my thumb under the flap of those colorful envelopes to discover the smiling faces of my family and friends is enough to turn a bad day into something tolerable, and each card gracefully adorns my kitchen window sill throughout the season. These are actually the pieces that brighten my holiday, similar to my waxy chocolate advent calendar did when I was a child.
Who doesn’t love this?
No one, really, but here is the nitty gritty on where my dissatisfaction sits. First, let’s remember that I’m in the business of relationships. My job and my passion is to constantly evaluate how my actions – and the actions of others – create a ripple; a pleasant, ongoing flow of reciprocal energy and attention.
Back in the ‘olden times,’ waaaayyyy before the internet and super convenient flight options, holiday cards were meant to reconnect with friends and family. Cards with long, hand-written letters and meaningful stories of the year gone by were the norm. Senders sincerely wanted to share intimate thoughts and memories. They communicated in a thoughtful way to their favorite people so they’d know the state of their well-being. And on the flip side, receivers genuinely wanted to read those updates; to trust all was well.
By the way, have you ever read an historic letter? It’s fascinating. Often short, you might read something like ‘Your mother died 2 months ago,’ or ‘Please come visit us. Your grandmother has something special she would like to give you.’
Writing these holiday cards was excruciatingly time consuming, creating finger cramps and weary eyes. But I loved that tradition, even as a young child. I loved feeling ‘thought of’ and reading about experiences for which I had zero, or very little awareness.
Here’s the rub.
Ok, I understand that the advent of social media means that many people are connected more consistently, if not daily. We generally know when someone is traveling, if they’ve transitioned to a new job, or lost a relative. But to me, holiday cards have become a ‘To-Do’ list item to be checked off at the earliest possible date.
‘DONE!’ is what I imagine the sender saying when I peel open the flap of the single card-stock holiday photo. It feels obligatory. Get’r done, as they say, and even better, be the first to land in the mailbox this season! Yay! You get a gold fucking star for beating everyone else and looking like the asshole who couldn’t even fake caring about the receiver on the other end. Well, just look at who is most efficient THIS season.
The smiling kids, the shadowed beach photo from a back-lit sunset, and snaps of international destinations to subtly boast about the year’s glory to the rest of us ho-hum suckers who ‘stay-cationed.’ Oh, and then there are some who try a little harder with a hand-written, but standard ‘The [perfect] Peterson family wishes you a warm and fuzzy holiday season! Love, The Petersons’ Well, no shit. We all want the warm and fuzzies, don’t we? I’m glad you’re working on manifesting that for me.
Year to year, I just might be a little more excited if I were to open cards that displayed some of the raw, ugly shit that happened. A photo of Joey with a cast and a black eye…the dog sneaking a turd out of the cat box…Grandma sleeping in the lounger with a lit cigarette and an inch-long ash. Even further, comments back to me like “I hope your dandruff has gotten better,” or “Do you still hate your job?,” or “Hope Clint makes it through 7th grade!” would provide a welcome laugh.
Wouldn’t that be fun? When did our lives get so super-sunny and easy that they actually became boring and exclusionary in their fake-ness? I know we’re all more interesting and creative than the standard, run-of-the-mill ‘Happy Snap.’ Right?
Also, even if when I pretend that I’m receiving a card because people truly do care, but they just don’t have the time for something more, I’m smacked back to reality when I STOP receiving a card because you guessed it…they haven’t received one from me. Oh, I see…apparently my relationship isn’t worth the 55-cent stamp and 00.32 seconds it takes to seal that sucker up and drop it in the box.
Is that friendship? Does it add up to holiday cheer? I suppose I’m just not convinced. But then again, you might just see a photo card from me next year.