‘I’m giving the money to charity instead’ – ‘We’re not doing cards this year are we?’ – ‘Come and see the card Bill and Bev sent, I’ve got it up on the computer screen for you.’
Are you doing cards this year or have you gone totally electronic? I can’t imagine many households where not a single cardboard card is written; cards for the children’s teachers or your elderly relatives. Perhaps you are writing out cards for everyone at work and all your clubs, people you are going to see on Xmas Eve or Boxing Day…
How many have you received? The Round Robin Xmas letter that became popular with the advent of home computers and printers has now become an email attachment; as long as you can figure out how to download it, you will receive a year’s worth of news and a dozen colour pictures from your neighbour three houses ago who emigrated to New Zealand.
The electronic newsletter is not to be sneered at if it comes from family or friends you enjoy hearing from; imagine the price of postage if they sent out photo prints to the forty people on their e-mail list. But whether you are composing an upbeat letter about all six members of your family plus the dog, or scribbling a few words on the charity card, what will you write?
‘It’s been a strange year here, I’ll e-mail you in the new year.’ – ‘Annie’s moved back home again, Tom went through a rough patch earlier this year and Bill’s been back in hospital…’ – ‘Must meet up in the new year.’ – ‘Charlie graduated with honours and has landed his dream job in New York … Tim and Tilly presented us with our first grandchildren, adorable twins weighing in at seven pounds each, boy and girl; luckily they have finished renovating their Victorian villa near Hampstead Heath.’
If you are still writing your cards you will be in a dilemma how to downplay your reasonable year in reply to cryptic messages and bad news, or how to make your dull year sound brighter to the family who have everything. In many households there will be conversations such as ‘Are you going to ring your brothers/aunty before Christmas? Okay, I won’t bother writing any news in the card.’ The phone calls never happen, the brief greeting is sent and the next day you receive a card filled with handwritten news from your sister-in-law.
So what are you going to write? It’s the last posting date and if you are an author you are finding it harder to write a Christmas card to the wife deserted by your husband’s brother than to write a whole novel. Happy Christmas when ill health and family problems make that unlikely?
And then there are the cards you send out to people you are never likely to see again, or want to see… or the cards we receive every year with never a word of news, so all we know is that they are still alive. Is it all hypocrisy? Happy Christmas has the moral high ground over Merry Xmas. Being merry is very different from being happy, a condition on a higher spiritual level. Happy Christmas suggests you hope the receiver has had a good year rounded up with satisfying festivities, or a Christmas that will turn out well despite a difficult year.
Best Wishes for 2018 or Happy New Year? However little we know about how 2017 has gone for the people we’re no longer interested in, we would surely wish most people to have the next year go well, or better than the last…