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Response to "Card Etiquette"

Posted by Robin Abrahams  November 28, 2010 04:24 PM

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I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving week! I did. The ConductMom and I had a wonderful visit, and I found out Monday night that the professor I work for at Harvard Business School got tenure! This made for a very celebratory, relaxing time.

Monday's question about holiday-card etiquette certainly got a lot of comments! The LW wanted to know how personal a card has to be: "Should I not send cards if I can't write a personal note on each one? Is a photo card, where one carefully chooses a photo, a background design, and a message, really so impersonal?" she asked.

As far as I'm concerned, it is. If there is one thing I hate, it's the family photo Christmas card that arrives without even a signature. "This is our attractive family who is too busy to write their names on a card! Don't you think we're pretty?" I don't get the "but isn't it fun to see how the kids have grown" response?if you're close enough to actually care that a friend's child does change appearance over time, you probably either see them in person during the year or at least get the occasional photo over e-mail or Facebook. There's not a lot that gets me into curmudgeonly "Everybody these days thinks they're some kind of celebrity and I should be honored to know what they ate for breakfast" kind of mood, but those sorts of cards do. Don't send me a commercial glossy like I'm the secretary of your fan club. Just don't send anything at all.

Of course, I don't celebrate Christmas. And even when I did, cards were, for me, one of the more pointless and annoying aspects of the holiday. So I've never been in the "any card is better than none" camp.

Most of you were more laid-back than Miss Conduct, however, and felt glad to get whatever cards came your way. Which, I think, is at the heart of the whole thing: card-sending is fundamentally about how the sender likes to celebrate the holiday season. It's not really about the recipient. And so, hey, if it means a lot to you to look over your list of friends every year, and dress the kids up and put a Santa hat on the cat and get a photo, then knock yourself out.

cosmogirl gave some excellent advice:

Dear LW: You do whatever works for you and makes you happy. Send out as many or as few as you want. I am, well, WAS, very much like you. HAD to include a personal note, etc. I ended up with perfection paralysis and it caused me to not send any at all some years! What's worked for me is to eliminate the people I see frequently and only send to relatives, elders, and those I don't see so often. That way, I do have time to dash off a "Hope you have a great 2011, Love, Cosmo and Bud".

I send them to whoever I want, regardless of who I get them from. Was never into the "I'll send you one if you send me one" - talk about the anti-spirit! I love photo cards. I have a door in my hallway where I have pinned every one I ever received. Some of those toddlers are college graduates now....what a way of remembering the years with love! Happy holidays to you! And remember, the way to "survive" the holidays is to do what works for you, do things that you like with the holiday spirit in your heart, never do stuff out of guilt, and, finally, Christmas shopping is a lot more fun if you have a cosmo first!

There is not a lot to disagree with in that analysis.
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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