In The Act 2 Column last week, Fred Bruning shared his dislike for holiday newsletters that he called "brag-o-grams" and for mass-produced photo cards. We asked readers to share their thoughts about them and, from the responses, it seems Bruning has company.
I have mixed emotions about this attempt to stay up-to-date with far-flung friends and family. The writers mean well, but the letters are always self-serving. Of course, people wouldn't write to tell us ugly things about themselves or their offspring, but I have found even the senior generation can turn these missives into a chance to swagger through their hugely successful year. "Sally broke her leg in three places but went on to win the skiing championship for the over 65s."
I have a friend in another state who is president or chairwoman or chief bottle-washer for six or seven organizations. I began to doubt if there were enough hours in the day to accomplish all that she claimed.
The worst I can say is that holiday newsletters don't ring true. The people who send me these catch-up letters are very nice in person, but get a keyboard in front of them, and they morph into Superwoman/man, along with their kids, grandkids and the dog.
I always read them to the end. I am nosy enough to want to know the latest, but I'd rather not get them at all.
P.S. Equally off-putting are the folks who, instead of a card, send pictures of their "kids" who are now 35 years old!
WHAT DO I EVEN DO WITH THEM?
I must say that I do read them and always remark to myself, "get a life." It's the endless barrage of pictures of other people's grandkids, pets and children -- you can throw out the letter, but what do you do with the pictures? Sometimes, I'm asked, "What did you think of the picture I sent?" I have never been asked, "What did you think of the letter I sent?"
TOSSED OFF THE CHRISTMAS LIST
I have been a home subscriber to Newsday for 38 years. Not once have I ever sent in a letter or comment. But the opinion piece by Fred Bruning hit a chord.
I don't get many newsletters anymore. One reason may be that I immediately take "those people" off my Christmas card list and, eventually, they get the hint and take me off theirs. For the more insufferable letter writers, there are usually grammatical and spelling errors. So I pull out my red pen, circle and correct it. Then I mail it back. Usually that will get me off their mailing list.
But the best part of the article was the last paragraph. I am so happy to see that I am not alone. I HATE THOSE EGOTISTICAL, UNBEARABLY LAZY PHOTO CARDS. Christmas isn't all about your kid. I don't mind getting a picture in a card. Sure, it's nice to see the growth of friends' kids, especially the ones who are far away and you don't see that often. But, to me, those photo cards are the utmost of arrogance. How insulting to receive a mass-marketed, unsolicited photo that has neither a salutation nor personal signature. They usually come with an envelope that has a slapped-on label and no personal signature. Why bother? Save your postage.
For my entire adult life, I have taped the Christmas cards I receive on the wall in my kitchen. During the Christmas season, it's a nice reminder of the holiday spirit and wishes of friends and family. However, I have lately taken to taping those photo cards backward on my wall as a reminder of how impersonal some sentiments are.
After two years of receiving those things, I take them off my Christmas card list -- but they still send them. It's understandable that first-time parents send these types of "Christmas cards," and I do give them a pass. It's nice to see their new baby (or addition to the family), and I realize that new parents are overwhelmed enough that first year and don't have a lot of free time.
Ah, I feel so much better venting this after all these years. It's nice to know that Bruning feels the same way.
PHOTO CARDS NEED TO GO, TOO
Enjoyed the column regarding holiday newsletters as well as the preprinted Season's Greetings photo cards. Though I should know better, they only serve to make me feel we're the only ones with underperforming, freeloader do-nothings, not worthy of exotic photo shoots. No grandkids yet, which is a good thing because we'd probably have to hide them under a rock.
Thanks, Fred. Feels a little better knowing we're not alone!
YOUR FORGOT YOUR THIRD CHILD . . .
Every year, we receive a card with a Christmas letter that is two pages long. It is written by a female relative, and it starts with January, and we get a blow-by-blow description of each month. The print is very small, so it all fits on two pages. The unfunny thing is that they have three children, but the oldest has not lived up to her expectations and is never included in the letter. I usually give it a glance and then toss it.
One year, I wrote one of our own. The next year, we got more letters -- I guess some of our other relatives thought they had to one-up us (and they are still sending them). But now, I just send cards and, if I have a nice photo of our family (not at a fabulous location), I enclose it. I am tempted to photocopy your article and send it in September to everyone we receive a letter from. I doubt they will take the hint. Maybe I will copy Fred Bruning's friend George this year and make a good one; you know, "we bailed junior out of jail," etc. Thanks for a very funny article. It's nice to know we are not the only ones who wish the letters would stop.
'DISTANT' RELATIVES FOR A REASON
Those long holiday newsletters or impersonal, preprinted glossy photos of someone's exotic cruise to the Galapagos are somewhat annoying, but tolerable. I prefer to maintain contact with friends through phone calls, emails and social networks. I know all about their ups and downs. I celebrate their triumphs and sympathize when they're troubled. As far as distant relatives go, they're distant for a reason! I read those endearing Christmas letters and appreciate the fact that someone wants to narrate (and print) every marvelous aspect of their family's past year. I've often wondered what my less-than-exciting holiday novellas would look like, or if anyone cared to read them.
I'LL KEEP HAND WRITING, THANK YOU
I am delighted when a brief, handwritten family update is included in the Christmas/holiday cards I receive. Though not a fan, I am not completely averse to the family newsletter as long as it doesn't turn into a brag-a-thon.
About the glossy, preprinted photo cards, I do enjoy the pictures. It's fun to see how the kids have grown -- especially when the families are across the miles, and we don't get to see them enough. However, with the preprinted return address labels, the computer-generated address labels and preprinted greeting, it makes the tradition impersonal. I have conceded to the mailing labels, but I still hand write more than 80 Christmas and holiday cards to dear ones near and far.
Nancy Macri Kennedy,
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