This is not our family Christmas letter. This is a rant about our family Christmas letter. The actual letter will (hopefully) come along a bit later, and I leave it to my reader (you know who you are) to decide which is more entertaining. And therein lies the heart of the problem, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I don’t know who decided that sending an annual update inside a Christmas card was a good idea, but I’m pretty sure that whoever it was doesn’t have a fan club. “Hey,” they must’ve exclaimed at the moment of inspiration, “I’m already sending cards to all my friends. What a great opportunity to write a summary of the events of the past year to include with the card because having to send cards, purchase thoughtful gifts for everyone, decorate the house and do all the baking isn’t giving me enough holiday stress! Yay!” It is clear to me that this person was alone because if anyone else had been in the room at that particular moment they would have smacked the discoverer upside the head and we’d all have been better off.
But no, they were alone, reason lost out, and we have a tradition of holiday letters. Furthermore, we have a tradition of holiday letters that is… I dunno, decades old, at least, and by this time everyone has pretty much written everything that can be written about the events of a year. It’s just… all been done. Now, I can hear you saying, “But Feingarden, what if I went into space or won an Academy Award? You have to admit, that would make for one humdinger of a holiday letter, don’t you think?” No, actually, I don’t, and here’s why. If you went into space / won an Oscar, the odds are very good that you are an astronaut / actor. If you are an astronaut / actor, then the odds are pretty high that many of your friends are astronauts / actors, too. If most of your friends are astronauts / actors then your Christmas card with its scintillating tale of space travel / tearful acceptance speeches will cross paths in the mail with somewhere between 50 and 100 incoming Christmas cards with tales of last-minute jury-rigged equipment / overcoming the demands of an impossible director and all 51 to 101 of you will all end up yawning together at the same time, though you’ll probably never know about the coincidental timing.
So over the past few years I’ve tried to get inventive, to spice things up a bit, to break the mold. I’ve written holiday letters in the form of movie scripts, I’ve written them from the point of view of alien observers watching us from orbit, I’ve written them to look like annual reports (successfully enough that one reader didn’t understand why they’d gotten it and thought I was soliciting investments). I’ve written one that looked like a transcript for a TV interview and I’ve even written one that looked like a tax form. All of this results in two things. First, they were still tossed unread into the holiday fire and second, the pressure to outdo myself has become intense. It’s like I’m in some twisted competition with myself that no one else is watching.
My usual process is to procrastinate until the muse strikes me with an idea and then just go with it and see what turns out. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Personally, I don’t think it’s going to work out too well this year because I’m having problems with my muse. For example, I sat down tonight to start a rough outline of our Christmas letter, but all my muse gave me was this stupid blog post. Oh, well, I was coming up on deadline for that, too, I guess. As for the actual holiday letter, you’ll just have to check your mailboxes in late December (or early- to mid-January) to see how that turns out, because right now I’ve got no damn idea what the hell it’s going to look like.