Another Christmas letter, oh dear….

Once again it is that time of year, the time when the dreaded Christmas letters arrive in the mailbox. How strange to receive two full pages of the minutiae of the lives of people whom, for the most part, we never see, but who “catch us up” on what has been going on in their lives through these elaborate writings each Christmas.

It is interesting that the humble Christmas card is usually framed with the notion of someone thinking about you and wishing you well, whilst the Christmas letter, on the other hand, hardly acknowledges your relationship to the writer and is usually first and foremost all about them to the exclusion of all else. I never cease to be surprised at the level of inconsequential detail that fills the Christmas letter: a blow by blow detail of the floor renovation; the new washing powder and its wondorous features; what happened to little Sally’s school shoes at the end of twelve years of use; details of the lives of people they frequent that you don’t even know, to name just a few. There is always some clanger hidden in there and it is just like finding the sixpence in the plum pudding by cracking a tooth!

Our family has discovered a good way to celebrate the Christmas letter and that is to have it read out loud to the whole family by the eldest son. It is fast becoming a family tradition. This inevitably makes for humorous listening and somehow seems to underscore the bizare nature and sometimes the pomposity of this lately discovered fashion.

I understand that a mail merge will save a lot of time and some actually include a card with the letter,( a slightly more meritorious concession), however it would be nice to have an opening for a reply like “how are things going with you?” or “how is uncle Joe doing these days”. Perhaps it would be nice to mention family members we actually know and would be interested in hearing about. I file them under “form Christmas letters” and I have an urge to one day have them bound into a book and send them off as an enlightening Christmas present to the writer. It could be the source of some revelation like re-reading old journals.

More and more I have come to appreciate my elderly uncle’s approach to the Christmas season and that is, to phone all the people he wants to wish well. At least there is something personal and heartwarming in that.

Don’t get me wrong, we do anticipate the laughter as we open the letter, but I’m sure this is not the effect the writer would imagine that the letter would evoke. Oh well, here’s another one in the mailbox with that tantilising familiar handwriting and address on the envelope. More merry making to come! Perhaps they’re not so useless after all but I’ll be sticking to more conventional forms of greeting.

P.S. Here’s a gem from Victoria Brown on the ABC’s Radio National, Bush telegraph of 21/12/07. I recommend listening to the audio stream as well

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~ by abstraktbiblos on Friday, 21 December, 2007.

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