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Next Christmas Will be Different
Kristi Siegel

I was recently the test subject of a social experiment, only I didn't realize it until just a few days after this past Christmas.
Call it a sign of the times we live in, or chalk it up to indifference. Or maybe I'm just plain loony. But I sent out about twenty Christmas cards, and only received four in return.

That isn't really what bothers me. I hand-delivered some of those cards to people I work closely with -- and only two of then acknowledged the card with a 'thank you.' And one of those two in turn honored me with a card.

Now, I may be old-school, but when I was a kid, holiday cards were a 'project'. Mom sat down promptly the day after Thanksgiving, and with her best pen and in her exuberant script, wished well to about forty different families scattered throughout the country, "best greetings from the Siegel household." And, inevitably, it seemed those same forty families would return the favor with cards that were vibrantly displayed as a badge of honor on the grand piano in our family room. This living proof that someone considered us worthy of their attention during the hectic holidays was somewhat of a comfort, and the razzle-dazzle paper parade would remain on display until New Year's Day.

Thirty or so years later, habits die hard with me. I still follow the same traditions my mom did, but am seriously beginning to wonder if it's worth my time and effort. By my nature, I like to show people that I care, but it appears people everywhere are taking less and less time today to reach out and connect. My family is far from huge, but I still didn't receive a single card from anyone on my side, although I sent greetings to the rest of those relatives still among the living. I got more consideration from my friend Greg, a guy who lives 1,000 miles away in Baltimore; a guy who I befriended over the Internet seven years ago and have never met in person. A thoughtful person who sends me a card faithfully every year. Seven cards I have from Greg; one for every year I have known him. Zilch from anyone in my clan. How odd is that?

Oh, they could make excuses -- the economy, the rising cost of postage, lack of time – they could even go so far as to drag out well-worn the 9-11 anthrax excuses – but who really listens to that anymore? Or am I that forgettable a person? Did no one in my circle find a card design that they liked? Doesn't anyone have my address? But it will be difficult for me next Christmas to wean myself of the habit, should I choose to decline to give holiday cards. I actually find it a relaxing, enjoyable ritual, poring over my list, although small, of people that I am thinking of. It reminds me that even in hectic times I care, and am capable of exhibiting goodwill. If small societal niceties like this fall by the wayside, it will be sad. But perhaps it will allow me to focus on more important things that need my attention. And the money that I save on postage and cards might be able to be put toward a toy or two for a disadvantaged child who truly understands the meaning of peace, and grace, and thanks.

© Kristi Siegel March 2003
kristilsiegel@yahoo.com

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