On Friday my spouse and I received, hopefully, the last of the Christmas letters. I have found a few reasons why Christmas letters come late. Some come from people who cannot seem to get their act together before Christmas, and those notes generally come with apologies. Others try to save on postage and wait to pass it on until they see you. Still others try to play off the lateness by calling it an Epiphany letter or an MLK letter. Wouldn’t Dr. King be proud? This whole Christmas letter thing is a new phenomenon for us. It seems there are unwritten rules for Christmas letters, and one is that once two people are married and have a semi-permanent address, those two people become worthy recipients. This year we were graced with thirty seven Christmas letters that found their way to our mantle for the season and then proceeded to the recycling bin.
Let me state my bias very clearly: I am not a big fan of the Christmas letter. It seems odd to me. I know that many love the tradition, but I do not. My spouse thinks that Facebook has replaced the Christmas letter, but I refrain from Facebook for the same reason. My argument is this: I believe both Facebook and the Christmas letter perpetuate our meritocracy that pressures us to become human doings instead of human beings. Look at my cute kids! Read about my accomplishments this year! My life is on track! I am moving swiftly toward the 2.4 children, a SVU and a white picket fence. And gosh darn it, while we are at it, let’s make this super convenient for me. If I send out a yearly update proving to you that I have earned the honor of living until next Christmas, I do not have to stay in touch with you for twelve months.
This year in letters we learned of houses bought, marathons ran, committees sat on, children brought into the world, dogs welcomed into homes, vacations taken, promotions and engagements. These are all lovely things. But when they are sent in a laundry list form, it just strikes me as bragging, and behind it a need to matter, to be impressive, to be living the American dream.
My friends have started to ask the question, “When is my life worthy of sending out the card? When I get married? When we start having kids? What big life change is impressive enough to earn me Christmas card sending status?”
My deep hope is that anyone in my life who I truly love and care for already knows what I look like and has some sense of how I spend my days. And they have found this out by doing things like sharing a meal or picking up the phone. I think we are obbsessed as a society with proving our worth by what we do not who we are. We are preoccupied with spreading ourselves thinly and superficially instead of toiling with a few meaningful relationships. And to what end? So we can say we have 100 friends on Facebook? How many of our Christmas card recipients really know how our hearts are doing? And how do you write that in a Christmas card?