mailboxesIt’s that time of year again. As fall moves into winter, the days grow shorter, darkness comes early, the weather turns gloomy and our mailboxes are filled to capacity, thanks to a series of cyclical events.

First, election season mail begins as early as August and generally ends the first week of November. Campaign flyers and brochures, endorsement cards and newsletters pile up quickly. Smiling candidates, often posed with adorable children, become familiar faces. The closer and more heated the race, the more likely it is that the direct mail pieces will multiply and take on a darker tone as election day draws near, thanks to the proliferation of independent expenditure committees.

Vying for second place in the mailbox but quickly overtaking election mail are the catalogs, which also begin to arrive in late summer, and keep on coming right into the new year. Clearly, these tomes are a profitable marketing tool, given their ubiquitous nature. A few of them offer unique and interesting enticements. The majority of the catalogs, however, are annoying in their repetition. Periodically, I return mailing labels to the senders and request to be taken off their lists.

Solicitations for various non-profits and charities also show a dramatic increase in the fall, pulling on one’s heartstrings for a variety of worthy causes. These solicitations also have a way of growing, either with multiple pleas from the same charity, or new ones from similar or related charities. While serving as interim Executive Director for a nonprofit a couple of years ago, I learned a handy trick from one of the donors about limiting solicitations: if it is a charity you wish to support, include a note or letter with the donation requesting that funding requests be made no more than once a year. For the most part, this is effective, reducing both paper and redundancy.

Holiday letters and cards are, for me, the most welcome of these cyclical mailings, an opportunity to exchange news, views and photos with friends and relatives, near and far. Though these missives are dwindling in scope, this is the one time of year that I can look forward to receiving personal mail on a regular basis.

An entirely different point of view, however, is reflected at The Christmas Letter Swap. “Every December,” the (presumably tongue-in-cheek) site notes, “a plague befalls the mailboxes of America. On a daily basis, envelopes chock full of humble bragging, over sharing, awful pictures, and convenient omissions find their way into our homes, causing frustration, disgust, and rage. There may be nothing more obnoxious than the Family Christmas Letter.

The Christmas Letter Swap encourages participants to write a creative but fictional family letter, to send to five anonymous participants. Forty such imaginative letters from 2013 are posted on the site, ranging from amusing to snide, downright curmudgeonly to laugh-out-loud funny. Sound like fun? It’s not too late to join the Swap!

A few years ago, a friend told me that before she wrote her annual letter, she took the time to look over the past 30 years of such correspondence. One of the rewards of the holiday letter, she found, was that it served as a nice diary of her own family life.

I have come a long way in my opinion of the holiday letter. Once, I considered it de rigueur that each of my letters be individual, distinct and hand written. Year after year, I stayed up late each night formalizing this correspondence. But, as the years went by, the responsibilities of career and family became greater, and the notes became shorter and less newsy. It was impossible to keep up the standard.

Although my own efforts at the holiday letter have been somewhat hit or miss over the years, I am a big fan of these missives. And though I have never received a letter that involved “over sharing” or “humble bragging,” even such a letter would beat the alternative – an empty mailbox. So, thanks for writing, and please keep them coming!





This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. I agree! I now love the annual letters holiday letters (especially those with photos!) that I receive from several friends!

  2. When I was young, and my parents received a pile of Christmas cards, I’d look though them. Most were from people I’d never heard of, and asked my mother who these people were. Generally they were people they known long ago, from earlier jobs. I asked why she bothered to exchange cards with these folks, since she never saw them, wrote to them, or talked to them on the phone. To me, cards from people we knew made more sense. She said, no, the most important cards were from those people you didn’t see all the time – the yearly cards were the only way to know that they were still around, still interested in hearing from you. Now that I’m older I understand that….friends from college who
    I only see in person every few years – if at all – but still cherish in my thoughts. Just a few handwritten words, or pictures of children, pets, or grandchildren. Those are the cards I save year after year.
    But I grew up in the era where long-distance telephone calls were expensive, and reserved for
    important events, like birthdays, or deaths. And for just $.03 (.05 for airmail), you could keep in
    touch – and find something welcome in the mailbox from time to time. That era is long gone;
    people expect instant gratification (the cartoonist who drew Calvin and Hobbes had a great take
    on that).
    I expect that the USPS will soon be nothing more than a deliverer of ads, catalogues, and official notices from the DMV and the IRS.

  3. I would rather receive a holiday letter than not. I have not sent one out yet but do enjoy catching up – especially when youngsters and pictures are involved.

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