I never make it through my Christmas card list. Every year I try, every year I fail. If I start too early, I feel like a department store putting Santa out before Halloween. The news in the cards becomes outdated. Then I don’t want to send them. If I start too late, they never make it to the mailbox.
I’m old-fashioned about the idea of a Christmas card–they remind me of a time when people used actual correspondence and had certain levels of etiquette about such things. I wax nostalgic about a tangible piece of mail that does not contain a bill or coupons for products I don’t use. I still get junk mail dating back to the time when we thought it was a very funny practical joke to sign each other up for mailing lists just to be obnoxious. I bet the rainforest thought that was pretty obnoxious. Someone signed me up under the name “Jon Shankenheimer.” He gets a lot of college offers at my address.
Anyway, every year, I sit down with Card Number 1, and write an amazing letter, then put it in a pile. For reasons unknown to me, I can’t mail Card #1 until all the cards are done and since they are never done, they never get mailed. Sometime around the Fourth of July I find the stack and toss it. Or I’ll pick one or two finished cards from the pile and mail them like the winning entry of the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes to people who truly get the essence of my mind. They can enjoy my card in time for the summer solstice. Two days later, that person will call me because they can’t read my writing anyway. So much for Dickensian calligraphy.
On a good year, I can make it to the D’s in my address book. Some years I try to be fair and start at the Z’s and go backwards thinking of the kids who never got to be line leader due to the cruelty of alphabetization. In such years, I can almost always make it to the Y’s or even W or V, but not much further. M and N are always left out.
This year, I have a very different strategy, which I will begin this week. I’m going to do my cards in order of religion, starting with all the non-Christians first. This, I think, makes the most sense, because I want everyone to feel included in the holiday season, taking part in “American Christmas,” which was created by Macy and enjoyed by us all. Consumerism transcends religion, after all, because if the holidays were really about God, we’d forgo the Black Friday sales and spend more time serving our fellow man. So, why not include non-Christians and secular Americans in the fun, too?
The order of operations for cards:
I’m starting with all my Jewish and Hindu friends. Why? Well, because Jews have been oppressed for thousands of years, and so they always get my respect and admiration. They deserve a card, even if it has Jesus or Santa on it. Hindus come in close second because they get to be born again, so if I don’t finish, I always get a second chance with them.
Buddhists will be third–not because I love them less, and it’s true, they also get a second crack at life which helps me better deal with my procrastination, but they also spend such a great deal of time getting rid of desire for material things. I fear a Christmas card might just be clutter. Still, I think my Buddhist friends will appreciate the sentiment behind the cards, even if it messes with their inner zen.
Muslims come next. They have lots of cool holidays so they may not need ours, but since most of their holidays require superhuman feats of sacrifice, like 40 days of fasting and prayer while watching other people eat, they are on my most-respected list. That’s hard-core prayer and contemplation. They definitely get a card. Maybe two.
I have a few Jehovah’s witnesses on the list. They’re a tough group, because a Christmas card would actually offend them. They don’t technically celebrate the holiday, though, because they feel such commercialism aggrandizes people above God (true), and we don’t even know when the historical Jesus was born–it was most likely in spring, astronomers tell us–so why have a party to give ourselves presents during the time of the winter solstace-based Roman-conquest holiday of Festivus? It doesn’t make sense to them. And as such, they do not get cards commemorating holidays of Roman conquest, presents, trees given to us by German pagans and awesome yule log cakes made by French bakers. But I found a loophole. You can give a Jehovah’s present a gift out of friendship and appreciation, if it does not lift the individual above the Lord. So, this is the spirit of my cards. “Hey, you’re a great friend.”
Then, if I make it that far, I’ll tackle the list of cards to my Christian and secular friends. They’ll be really busy shopping and wrapping, so they won’t have time to read the cards right away anyway. But if I don’t get that far, as usual, I’ll consider stealing a screen shot of an Ansel Adams photo and posting a card on Facebook. It’ll be that or mailing out the summer solstice cards once again. I still have three weeks–I’m doing the best I can. We’ll see how it goes.