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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Behind the Christmas card 8-ball

 •  More about women articles

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Staff Writer

Through the ages, women have largely assumed responsibility for sending out Christmas cards — even to his side of the family.

I don't mind, really. There is something deeply satisfying about addressing by hand a stack of brightly colored envelopes, placing holiday-themed stamps precisely in the upper right-hand corner and dropping the bundle in the mail slot.

If only it were so simple.

In recent years, I've gotten about as far as addressing the envelopes. I must have five seasons' worth of Christmas cards piled up in one of my desk drawers, victims of good intentions and procrastination. (Here's a tip: Don't put stamps on the envelopes until you're absolutely ready to send them. Otherwise, postage rates might go up by the time you actually mail them.)

One year, I picked out cards with only a New Year's greeting, thinking that would buy me more time. And if I still got too far behind, I could always use Chinese New Year as a fallback.

In the days before e-mail and cheap long-distance calls, Christmas cards were as much a holiday tradition as mistletoe and overeating. When I was a child, fancy envelopes of all sizes would start arriving at our home soon after Thanksgiving. My mother would artfully arrange them in a basket or attach them to hanging ribbons for display.

Our family used to make fun of a clan of overachieving relatives who enclosed a form letter in their card, because detailing the many accomplishments of Aunt Peg, Uncle Bill and their five children apparently would be too exhausting to report otherwise.

At the time, it seemed tacky and boastful, but maybe we were just disgruntled because they made our family seem so inadequate and dysfunctional by comparison.

I was determined never to stoop to such cheap and impersonal tactics, and vowed to extend our holiday greetings only in handwritten form. Hence, the cards sat in my desk drawer until I could find the time to make good on my principles. Unfortunately, that usually turned out to be never.

But technology has come a long way from those days of Aunt Peg and Uncle Bill's crude mimeographed form letters.

Thanks to the miracle of home computers, you can now fake it.

Working off a boilerplate letter containing all the usual glad tidings of family vacations, honor rolls, sport triumphs, golf scores and news from the office, you can — with a few clicks — personalize the greeting and delete or add paragraphs to fit the recipient.

Throw in a well-placed, handwritten "Ha-ha!" or two, and nobody's the wiser.

Or you can write a newspaper column and simply say, "From my family to yours, Merry Christmas and heartfelt wishes for a Happy, Healthy New Year."


Reach Christie Wilson at cwilson@honoluluadvertiser.com.