When was the last time you sent or received a piece of personal mail? I mean real mail, via the U.S. Postal Service. Something in a stamped envelope that wasn’t a bill, an ad, or a credit card solicitation?
I know I sound like an old coot saying this, but there was a time when letter writing and card sending was a regular activity in order to stay in touch with loved ones. One of my BFFs and I wrote lengthy novelettes to each other all through college. In hindsight, I’m not sure how we managed to find the time or avoid carpal tunnel, but rarely a week went by without something in each other’s mailboxes. I wonder now if our kids have any idea how to write, address, and mail a letter. They likely would not see the purpose in doing so… why should they bother, when they can call, text, email or Skype?
Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but I still get a little boost of excitement on those rare days when I find an envelope with a hand-written address, sent from a friend or family member, hiding among the piles of junk we otherwise receive in the mail box. It is like a little promise of fun, a warm and fuzzy hello.
Enter Christmas to save the day. Many of us take advantage of this time of year to settle in with pen in hand and reach out via mail with our holiday greetings. True, as we all get busier and busier, this is one holiday activity that some of us cross off the to-do list with little harm done. But for those others of us who want to keep this tradition going, we have a wide variety of options available – which means we end up giving ourselves just a bit of extra stress as we try to decide what to send, and how to be more creative than the previous year.
Should the card be traditional? Spiritual? Serious?
Or should it be funny and edgy?
Is the message appropriate?
Do you include a family photo?
Or, how about a photo card? The format options for photo cards are unlimited and even mind-boggling. I can personally attest to spending far too many hours agonizing over the layout and the selection of images to include. Should we use one single great shot, or a collage of many? And are the photos just of the kids, or of the whole family? Does the dog get in there too?
Ok, so you’ve decided on the card. But wait, you aren’t done yet. Do you leave it be with a nice holiday salutation, or do you include a note? Since many of the folks who will be receiving this correspondence are probably not people you are in touch with on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis, it seems appropriate to include a letter of some sort. Oh boy. What’s the best option? A quick hand-written personal note “all is well, we miss you”? Or do they deserve a lengthier update?
This part of the process has evolved as well, and most of us now are fine with receiving a “form letter.” It saves so much time to type up an update and send it to everyone on your list. Maybe that takes a bit of the personal touch out of the gesture, but it was at least written and created personally to begin with, right? However, again you are faced with similar issues as the card selection process.
Should the letter be traditional and serious?
Is it all upbeat and joyous, talking about how wonderful your life is? We’ve all received letters before that seem to proclaim the fabulousness of the sender’s life, how they climbed Mount Everest or how their miraculous children are graduating with honors from Harvard. Those letters tend to make the recipient feel either under-achieving or just plain nauseous.
So what is the next best option? Do you go the opposite direction and get completely realistic, and tell it how it really is? Yikes, not sure anyone wants to see that.
How much detail do you include?
Do you stick to the same rule of thumb as a resume, and keep it to two pages or less?
And finally… the actual addressing, stamping and mailing. Do you hand write each address in pen? Or does the techy “I don’t have time for that” you run off labels from your computer database? And how about the stamps? You’ve gone through such effort to pick out pretty cards, you certainly can’t just slap any ol’ ugly stamp on there. Next thing you know, you’ve got the post office clerk spreading all holiday options out on the counter to choose from. And there you are, faced with the final decision…
Do you go traditional and serious and select the Virgin Mary and baby?
Or go cute and fun with Santa and the elves?
Or play it safe with the poinsettia?
Thankfully they are all self-adhesive…. Licking the envelopes was bad enough.
And so, triumphantly, you drop your stack of personal salutations into the mail, sending your best wishes across the miles. Then you wait to see what lovely greetings you will receive in return, happily displaying them in a place of honor among the other holiday décor in your home.
But don’t put those extras too far away. Sure enough, you are going to receive at least one from someone to whom you had not included on your list. In true Real Woman style, you will do anything to avoid a holiday faux pas, so you will rush to get one right back out to them.
Ah yes, leave it to us R.W’s to take such a simple gesture as sending holiday cards and turn it into the most complex process as possible. I suppose it can’t be avoided… we send letters and cards so rarely, we get out of practice. Good thing we’ve got Christmas to remind us how to channel our inner Emily Post.