37 Cents of Guilt


It’s confession time once again, and this one’s a doozy for a self-proclaimed Christmas Extremist like me. Get ready for it:

I don’t send Christmas cards.

There. I said it. Wow. It feels so good to finally get that out in the open, even knowing that not sending Christmas cards constitutes a guaranteed, one-way trip to Santa’s Naughty List. I just couldn’t take it any more, going through the motions of hall-decking, goody-baking, carol-singing holiday perfection, all the while masking the shameful truth–that I have given up on yuletide greetings.

That’s not to say that I don’t love receiving Christmas cards. I adore hearing from friends far away and seeing photos of babies turning into children turning into teenagers as the Christmases pile up. I open each card as it arrives, perusing the letter for news of promotions and graduations, chuckling at yet another (no doubt heavily-sedated) dog dressed up like a reindeer, and placing it in our tabletop Christmas card basket to warm and entertain other members of the family. And yet, with each card I find in the mailbox comes a little twinge of guilt that tugs at my conscience with the knowledge that the sender will not be finding an answering missive among his own mail.

Why? Why would someone who so obviously adores the Christmas season and all its trappings, who admits to feeling uplifted and encouraged by the heartfelt holiday wishes of family and friends, neglect to spread the same joy to others by the relatively simple act of addressing and mailing Christmas cards?

The reason is so silly, I’m embarrassed to even write it. No, it’s not the cost of cards or stamps. It’s not the tedium of addressing the envelopes. It’s not even the mental labor of coming up with a line or two to write inside each one.

The reason I don’t send Christmas cards is that…I’m afraid of leaving someone out.

See, I told you it was silly. But once I sit down to write out a Christmas card list, I just keep going and going and going, like an eggnog-enhanced Energizer Bunny. It starts out fine, with family members–brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins. Then I move on to my closest friends–my Harding roommate, the married college professors that “adopted” me when I was a student, my best girlfriends. So far, so good.

But then I remember that my cousin Alison lives just across the street from one of the bridesmaids from my wedding. What if they’re both out checking the mail at the same time and they happen to strike up a conversation, wherein Alison mentions that she just received my Christmas card? Why, my former bridesmaid will wonder, doesn’t Katrina keep in touch with me anymore? I mean, doesn’t she miss me? Aren’t I good enough to warrant a lousy 37-cent stamp and a scrawled “Love, Katrina” on the inside of a dime-store Christmas card? She’ll trudge forlornly back into her house, suddenly besieged by bitterness and self-doubt, all because I had to keep a holiday tradition alive. Obviously, I have to add her name to the list, if only to save her money on therapy bills. Of course, that means I have to send cards to all my bridesmaids, and the groomsmen, and the cake decorator, who went to college with my parents and will definitely feel slighted if the photographer, who I only met the month before the wedding, receives a card and she doesn’t. Oh, and the wife of one of the groomsmen is also a member of my ladies Bible study group, and I don’t want the other women to think I’m being cliquish, so they all have to go on the list, too. And now that I think about it, the Bible study leader belongs to my gym, so I’d better not forget my personal trainer, either…

Et cetera.

In my imagination, all the recipients on my Christmas card list are out parading around town with their cards clasped proudly in their hands, comparing my scribbled greetings line by line (Wait–she wrote three sentences in your card! I just got a “Merry Christmas!”) and weighing and measuring my love on Hallmark scales. I just can’t handle that kind of pressure! Curse my people-pleasing ways!

And that’s why I don’t send Christmas cards.

This way, I disappoint everyone equally. It works for me.

Just don’t be mad, okay?


10 responses »

  1. I think there is a type of therapy for this…!!! At least you don’t go through my thought process: “I am going to hand make the christmas card, send it with a photo and a christmas letter.” That has dwindled down to a pack of Zeller’s Christmas cards that I MIGHT sign before sending, if I send them at all!!

  2. LOL! I love it 🙂 I’ve gotten carried away with the “who to send to” list as well. I’ve whittled the list down each year (filled with guilt of course). This year I’ve got it down to family members… but I just got a card from a friend and that pile of extra cards is calling… sigh.

  3. wow, someone really did a number on you. and by the way, why wasn’t MY name on that list of people you might forget to send cards to? sheesh, you miss one lousy thanksgiving dinner with someone and you’re off their list of who they would send christmas cards to IF they sent them…

  4. Well, my friends & family are always shocked if I manage to send out cards – any cards – birthday, valentines, father’s day, grandparent’s day, etc. I’m just not the ‘card sender’ type, I guess. Every year I plan to send out a card, and then go out in quest of the perfect family picture to enclose. Alas, you’ve seen the products of my picture-taking quests so far this year, so, the reason nothing went out this year is because I have no picture to include. “Then just send the card” you say? Well, inevitably, I get a response from someone complaining that they wanted to see how the kids were growing up, and how disappointed they were to NOT get a picture. So, in order to avoid the griper, I just don’t send anything.

    That’ll teach ’em 🙂

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