Those Despicable Year-End Letters (2020 version)

Here I go again. If you have been following the FrogBlog for a few years, you will know that this topic inevitably pops up, because some people never learn. So, my dear readers, join me in my annual pre-Christmas rant and coast along with my greatest holiday season pet peeve.

The year is about to end and sadly, I continue to receive these much hated year-end letters that summarise every blasted detail the family / couple / person has done since January. Each year these letters get more sophisticated, laid out with desktop publishing software or power point attachments. Are you trying to sell me something or get a promotion? Sorry honey, but if you didn’t bother to write me a personal line the entire year, or even drop me a short message to and out whether I am still alive or mentally stable, don’t burden me with your family achievements to make up for your absence in my life, most especially this year.

These despicable year-end letters / emails are those anonymous newsletters you get once a year from people you haven’t heard a peep from the last 12 months. They are under the misguided notion that a generic news bulletin containing the executive summary of the family’s travels, parties, birthdays, purchases, and accomplishments is going to make up for the loss of personal communication. The mere fact that the letter is not addressed to me personally makes it seem like I’m reading a report or travelogue. They don’t even bother to ask how your day/week/year was or whether things are all right on your side. Such coldness can never make up for lost time nor do they have the inherent ability to bridge the communication abyss created over the other 364 days of radio silence.

Frankly, there is so much going on at the same time during Christmas that nobody really has the time (or the inclination) to read these letters to begin with. You can smell them 100km away based on subject line of the email. I instinctively reach for an invisible grenade the moment I am confronted with “Dear friends and family” as an opening line. It degrades what might have been a carefully nurtured friendship once upon a time to an anonymous mass of faceless people.

Try as you might, it is impossible to come up with the perfect neutral newsletter, because not all your acquaintances, friends and relatives are interested in the same thing. You ordinarily wouldn’t share with your colleagues what you would with your family or inner circle of friends, who are all probably already uptodate with your activities through social media, so why do so during the most important holiday of the year when everyone is scrambling for their last vestiges of sanity? It’s almost as bad as my other pet peeve – being invited as an afterthought. Whenever I get such emails I dump it to the bottom of my “read-when-you-have-nothing-else-to-do-with-your-free-time (ha!)” pile, i.e. absolutely not a priority.

True friendships stand the test of time, space, distance, jobs, stress, and motherhood. There is certainly no need to ruin all this with such a horribly impersonal generic letter. Nowadays of course there is also the added component of doing a facebook “shout-out” and not even bothering to write personal emails anymore, just post it on fb or change the status on your IM. Don’t even get me started on that one. Have you been tweeted or TikToked for Christmas already? Yes, I will admit, I get excited about a personal email or even a private message through any of the known platforms, even if it is a one-liner, because I know that the person actually thought of me, took a minute to write me, wants to touch base, and is genuinely interested. That is the gift of time and that’s really all I crave for.

I am clearly not ashamed to bitch about this so bluntly because the older I get the more I dislike such letters. They have no impact on my life, especially this year when every word and breath counts, when we are challenged to celebrate life in the face of a pandemic and be grateful that we are still healthy and fighting for life. Christmas 2020 leaves absolutely no room for insignificant anonymity.

Back in the (19)70s and 80s (for your youngsters out there, yes, this was the horrible pre-historic era before e-mails, blogs, and facebook) such year-end letters came in type-written and photocopied form! My mother would go ballistic and use them to fire up the stove or the barbecue pit once she dutifully read them aloud to us. At some point my dad began complaining about them and asked to skip to the very end if there was a personal note. I always thought it was always a bit of an over-kill on their part but over the years I found out why. The presentation may have evolved into the digital versions, but they still fail to impress me, especially if they come as an attachment – the ultimate insult.  

Christmas is the worst excuse to get in touch with friends and loved ones you have neglected all year round! Show you care, and drop a line when it really matters the other days of the year.

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