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Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Christmas letter...

By now many of you will have received our Christmas letter. This is a pseudo-annual tradition that we have employed most of the years that we have been married. While we are living overseas it seems like a good thing to do since our lives aren't quite as boring as usual and there are actually things to write about.

Like everyone who sends out Christmas cards, the list of recipients changes from year to year as you weigh whether a friend has drifted so far away from your life that they are no longer worth the expenditure to cover a card and a stamp. Then you get a card from them and they are automatically returned to the list - that's the deal. You get a card and you have to send one to them. The caveat is that if you send one to them for three years without reciprocation, then off the list they go. Of course, new friends get added, but it seems that it is much harder to make new friends as you get older. It's easier with a child in school, and even easier still living as an expat where we all hunger for interaction with others from our own country (or failing that, at least others with a passing knowledge of English). Still, three Christmases after we leave Prague most will be dropped from the Christmas letter distribution.

James Lileks had some musings on the Christmas Letter the other day at his blog, The Bleat (which is also linked at the left side of this blog. I love the way he writes.

After I’d completed the letter, reread it, winced, and sighed the annual sigh, I had to fit it on one page and accommodate the non-specific Holiday Graphics on the paper. It worked, if I used six point type. My wife gave it a look-over, and indicated a spot where I should put a nice “Best Wishes” or “Happy Holidays from All of Us” closing line, whatever that’s called. The opposite of a salutation. She wrote “warm feelings” to indicate where I should put something that suggested warm feelings. I put “warm feelings.” This did not go over. I suppose she’s right, but who takes those remarks as anything but a placeholder that says “letter’s over, signature’s next”? I’ve read enough aggressive legal warnings that ended “Regards” or “Yours” or “Sincerely” to suspect that these are just pro forma phonemes. If the bulk of a letter teems with insincere sentiments, after all, the assertion of sincerity at the end only stands as a mocking rejoinder to the claptrap that preceded it. But make this argument to someone who’s just trying to get the dang letters out before Arbor Day and you get the Perry Mason Stare.

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