Christmas card routines

I was in such a bah–humbug mode during last year’s holiday season that I didn’t send any cards to my list of “friends,” which got me to really think about the tradition of sending greeting cards every year at Christmas. I’ve always been a big fan of Santa, but I’m not into formal religion and consider myself a kind of “deist” of the Benjamin Franklin variety. The majority of the people on my annual card list are religious, belonging to one Christian denomination or another, and even those who are Jewish or Buddhistic appreciate the idea of Santa and the card tradition. After the turn of the year, I sent the list the following note and several Resist Trump stickers along with an apology/explanation and an essay on the social media aspects of traditional Christmas cards.

Jan. 2, 2017


I did not send Season’s Greetings cards to anyone on “my” side of last year’s card list as I’ve had a severe case of PESD, Post-Election-Stress-Disorder. In lieu of a card with a ho-ho-ho-ho from Santa, here are some stickers to help you keep your spirits up as the trumpies prepare to take the reins and try to drive us back to the Dark Ages.

I apologize to those of you who sent a card but didn’t get one in return. If you’re like me, you’ve been confused over the decades about what to do about cards that weren’t reciprocated. If you don’t get a reciprocal card one year, do you send one out the next year anyway? The year after that? Is there a cutoff? What does Miss Manners say? It’s a question I don’t want to deal with any more.

I first started sending cards after my 20th high school reunion (last summer was the 50th). Back then, I was surprised to discover that hardly anybody kept in touch, with me or with each other. I was determined not to lose track, as I have an embarrassing nostalgic streak, and annual Christmas cards seemed to be the socially accepted way to do it. By that time (mid-Eighties) just about everybody I knew from high school and college and my semi-hippie years was married except me, and most lived at a distance. I made a list of all known “friends” and sent cards nearly every year, but most of the time it’s the wife who is in charge of the cards, so whenever I got a card I always assumed it was the wife who put the card in the envelope and, more often than not, signed for both of them (guys just aren’t on top of that sort of thing).

The list grew, the list shrank. Sometimes an exchange went on for years, then…nothing. Why? Who knew? In those pre-internet years people were moving around, having kids, getting divorced, promoted, fired etc. Some cards came intermittently, a card one year, then skip one, then cards for two, then skip…. I’ve never been hip on all the social proprieties, and for a single guy it was very confusing. It still is.

Last spring I took a course at the local JC, Introduction to Social Media, to learn how to deal with FaceBook, Twitter and the rest, and it seems to me that the exchanging of Christmas cards is a kind of pre-internet form of social media. The annual card ritual lets you know that people are still alive and tells them that you are too, but what does it mean when the cards stop coming? Did you forget to send a card last year, and they think you’ve dumped them? Have you been dumped? Ghosted? Unfriended? Shined-on? Did you piss off a spouse? Have they divorced? Remarried? Moved? Died?

And if you do send a card, do you just sign your name, or do you write a note? After I finally got married, I typed an annual summary for a few years, but after the fire at my mom’s house I hadn’t been in the mood.

Now, at the age of sixty-eight, it seems to me we’re on the brink of…what? Autocracy? Fascism? Post-truth Trumpian Nirvana? Given what I fear is coming and the time the actuarial tables say I have left, I’m not in the mood. Do I send a card? Do I not send a card? Screw it.

To those who did not send a card with whom I’ve been in contact otherwise, and to those who have been incommunicado out of pique or laziness as well as for philosophical, marital or medical reasons, you are not being unfriended or dumped, only “delisted.” I still like/love/respect/admire/despise you same as ever. I have a new website/blog for anybody interested in keeping up:, and you can always email or call or even tweet, just like the Donald (though I’m still avoiding Facebook as if it were an STD).

For those of you who would prefer that I disappear into the sunset, after this I will no longer guilt-trip you with perfunctory holiday cards just to make you feel small and petty, as you deserve. No, not me.

All the best,


PS–The Rose Bowl between Penn State and USC was one of the best football games I’ve ever seen even though we lost, 52-49, on a last second field goal. Can’t wait till next year.