Every year I wait with anticipation for the first one to arrive. December is the best mail month! I adore the thought and love each card contains. I love that the sender thinks enough of my little family to place us on a list of people important enough to send holiday greetings. I love the photos, the letters… It may be silly, but no matter your message, I’m happy to display it. I’ve read the gamut of blogged opinions on these small paper wishes, from Jewish laments that these lovely end-of-the-year bits of joy are not for “us,” those who hate them and think they are simply another joy-sucking, stress-ridden task, to those who rail against perceived political correctness with the message on their cards. My approach to cards, and the magic that December brings, is based in hygge and sprinkled with shalom.
Our family, like every existing family, is weird. At my house the holiday season starts in September, as summer gives way to crisp cool mornings. The Jewish calendar is lunar, holidays ebb and flow like the tide. Our anniversary and a million birthdays tucked gently into the rush of the new school year and the solemn joy of High Holidays. Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) rolls gently into Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Winter Solstice, Christmas and New Year’s. I love to celebrate, to bring the wonder and magnitude of it all into my home. I love holidays. I love watching my boys’ hearts grow as they experience and understand someone else’s joy and celebration.
I also know that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, our card will likely be the last one to arrive.
I send them every year, and every year I have every intention of getting them in the mail on time so that they make their appearance within a pile of similar greetings. Yet, every year I find myself staring at them lying passively unaddressed with a spattering of dust after the last bit of wrapping has fallen.
It begins innocently enough. We generally gather for a picture in the fall, three stinky boys — one with a cheese-face worthy of a contortionist, and two smaller boys vying for the title of “picture hater extraordinaire.” Generally, my husband and I fight valiantly, and a usable photo is obtained — you know, the one where everyone is *almost* looking at the camera, the faces are mostly pleasant and if someone is crying, it’s a child and not you.
The next stage begins with the crush of the holidays, generally around Thanksgiving, when the cards are discounted and the exhaustion of cooking 5 billion uneaten dishes for 5 billion people in a single day has just peaked. During this peak crush for those of us who never consider holiday shopping until after Thanksgiving (it’s like premature decorating, right?) the cards, like the stuff, come with discounts, usually 20 percent. Alternatively, this step, the creating and ordering of greetings, might happen in December when New Year’s Eve looms on the horizon and cards are 40 percent off and the cards are already “late.” This step requires the sender to take the least offensive family photo and choose a “frame” — for us, the frame might say “Happy Everything,” something about family being awesome, “Merry Christmas,” or any number of other greetings. I usually lean toward wintery motifs, despite the brazen fall colors in our photos. (I think next year I want a pine tree photo!)
The final step is languishing. My cards arrive, bright and shiny and excited, I place each one in an envelope where they sit unaddressed for days to weeks. It’s the best part of the process: I will look at them and mentally catalog their location and the imminence with which they need to be addressed, momentarily raising my already bursting stress levels, then set the task aside as non-essential. Lather, rinse, repeat… until January… or February, that one year.
The funniest thing is that the lateness of my cards has become such a tradition, that the stress I feel about needing to address them and send them has morphed into guilt. I mean, do I send them and disappoint the fans that love receiving one last bit of holiday sparkle well into the New Year? Do I leave them languishing, unloved, despite that they have arrived in plenty of time to arrive before the “deadline”? I’ll tell you this year, the stack gathers dust as I type.