Christmas letters have a bad reputation. Miss Manners does not like them, many readers of the old Ann Landers and Dear Abby advice columns of years past wrote in to say how much they despise them, and one year MSNBC even had their readers share their most notorious ones. One wonders from which dregs of humanity those folks who actually send those letters are recruited, since everyone professes not to like them. So it is with much trepidation I confess, I like Christmas letters.
I have liked Christmas letters since I first started receiving them 40 something years ago, and only started sending out my own six years years ago, so I don’t think I’m being self-serving when I say I like them. My Christmas letter started out as for my siblings only, one year when I was facing surgery shortly after Christmas and needed to spread the news. In the past two years I have added one other person to the list, my godmother, the only surviving member of my older generation of relatives.
The MSNBC feature described Christmas letters as “a litany of bombastic bragging disguised as holiday cheer.” To which I say, “Yeah, so?” If you write me to say you bought your husband a new Lexus for Christmas, it doesn’t take anything away from me unless you stole it out of my driveway. (Which you couldn’t have, since I don’t own one.) If you have a new job, a promotion, or the world’s cutest puppy, I will raise my glass in a toast and then drool over the puppy pictures. What exactly is wrong with getting other people’s good news?
It is precisely when I am feeling my lowest and most depressed that I seek out other people’s good news. I used to say that if I could be the good fairy at a child’s christening, I would give that child the gift of being able to rejoice in other people’s good fortune, because then she would always have something to be happy about.
So while we are on the subject of bombastic bragging disguised as holiday cheer, I will share a story about my son, although it didn’t happen at Christmas. He was in the computer club in his high school, and the club was chosen to participate in a contest in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, they couldn’t take everybody, and my son, a lowly freshman, was left behind. “They’re even going to get pocket money,” he grumped. “A concept with which you are totally unfamiliar”, I added dryly. He actually was chosen as an alternate, but since everyone else remained hale and hearty, he didn’t get to go.
His buddies won second place, however, as he came home to tell me excitedly when they got back to school. “They even got a trophy!” he added. “They kicked butt.”
I used to say that if I could be the good fairy at a child’s christening, I would give that child the gift of being able to rejoice in other people’s good fortune. Then one day, I realized that’s exactly what I had done.
How’s that for bombastic bragging?