We Wish You a Merry Holiday
By Thomas P. Farley, What Manners Most
The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s supply bountiful opportunities for expressing joy. We entertain. We cook. We worship. We decorate. And we exchange gifts. What’s not to love? Well, a few things, I suppose. There’s the stress of finding a parking spot at the mall, the unwelcome advances from your boss at the annual office party and—lest we forget—those interminable waits at airport security. Perhaps most stressful of all (particularly for procrastinators) are the endless cards to be written, the annual touch-bases with friends near and far.
The tradition of sending a pre-printed greeting to loved ones can be traced to England, where Sir Henry Cole produced the first commercial Christmas cards in 1843. It took about three decades for the idea to catch on in the United States, but heads of household around the world have been sweating the task ever since. And though the number of cards mailed each year is on the decline in the U.S. (thanks largely to the use of electronic greetings as an alternative), according to the Census Bureau, as recently as 2005, 1.9 billion holiday cards were dropped into the mail stream.
The envelopes that fill your mailbox and inbox will come in all shapes and sizes, but there are a few guidelines to keep in mind if you want your own greetings to be meaningful and memorable. And if that’s not your goal, ask yourself: “Why am I spending so much time on this?”
Six Tips for Season’s Greetings
•Make it personal. Share a bit of news and pose a relevant question or comment. (“How was the week in Bimini?” “Gretchen must be getting so tall!”) This will prove definitively that your cards were not produced by an android. This goes for picture cards, too. It’s lovely to share the rare moment that you got everyone to sit still in the same room for five minutes and smile for the camera, but don’t forget to include news of how those happy family members are doing, too.
•Be inclusive, but not generic. “Happy Holidays” is a safe greeting for friends who celebrate the December holidays as a secular occasion only, but don’t be afraid to send Hanukah cards to your friends of the Jewish faith and Christmas cards to ones who are Christian. Being attentive to the specific traditions of your friends demonstrates an extra level of regard for them.
•Sign your first and last name. Don’t presume that your confreres will know “Bob” is you. Include your return address, too. That will make it easier for recipients to send cards in kind.
•Pare down. If you’ve got agida over the fact that you have 500 cards to write and two weeks in which to do so, chances are your list is bigger than it should be. Don’t feel obligated to send so many cards—unless you actually receive that many. Quality is the goal here. Not quantity.
•A letter isn’t necessarily better. Holiday manifestoes, the ones that spell out in painstaking detail the events of your family’s year, will be appreciated by some, but don’t delude yourself that time spent crafting prose at your keyboard gets you off the hook for putting a little originality into each one you send. Include a unique note to the recipient so she doesn’t feel as though she’s received a form letter from the aforementioned android. (And whatever you do, don’t use your missive as a chance to grandstand.)
•Get them out early. Don’t wait till the last minute. This will give your friends ample opportunity to send return cards your way. Two to three weeks before the holiday is ideal.
•Prepare for a second batch. You’ll invariably receive cards from friends who were not on your initial list. Plan to reciprocate these greetings through a second round of card-sending. You can answer each one as it arrives or handle them all in one fell swoop. Be certain, though, to keep tabs on what you send so you don’t accidentally mail duplicates.
Now go out and share some greetings. And don’t forget to check your mailing list twice!
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