Q. Okay, what is really wrong with mimeographed Christmas letters? I know a lot of people make disparaging remarks about them, but suppose you have a lot of friends and can't possibly sit down and write each one a separate letter? Isn't the newsletter once a year actually a good way of informing people about your activities? I would find it helpful if, instead of looking down on this, you set some rules about how to write them. Our Christmas list has more than 100 names on it, and I don't know any other practical way of letting our friends know what has happened to us -- about our month at the beach house, Junior's new braces, my husband's promotion, and so on.
A. Far be it from Miss Manners to look down on anyone so fortunate as to have more than 100 friends so close as to be awaiting the news about your son's teeth. But you will forgive her if she suggests that so high a degree of intimacy is not often maintained on the basis of a mass mailing once a year.
In other words, the trouble with mimeographed letters is that they are almost inevitably inconsistent with the relationship between writer and recipient, Friends and relatives who have a genuine interest in the details of your family life deserve some personal attention. If they can get through the year without wondering where you spent the summer, the chances are they are not burning to know now. And to bombard casual acquaintances with full accounts of your lives is to satisfy curiosity they may not feel.
So much for why Miss Manners dislikes the idea. Now to answer your question about how to do it.
First, make the thing legible. Most of them are smudgy.
Next, refrain from bragging. You wouldn't stand up at a party and shourt "Lauren made cheerleading captain!" or "We bought a boat!" or "We went to Maine last summer!" or "I got a raise!" Confine your "news" to more or less public matters -- "We've moved to Colorado," "I've finally finished law school," "Annabelle has joined the Army," and state them neutrally. The exception is that births, engagements and marriages include mention of the family's pleasure in them -- although, come to think of it, why haven't these close friends of yours been notified of such important events at the time that they occurred?
Another rule is to refrain from offering your philosophy, policis or general wisdom learned from life. If the urge overwhelms you, it is better to write leaflets and hand them out to strangers on the street, than to offend your friends by giving them unsolicited advice.
Finally, sign the letters with your own sweet little hands. Surely you can manage that much for close friends. Better yet, write a few words, even if they are only "Have a Merry Christmas." Better still, put those words on a blank card and put them in the mail, just to show your friends that you think enough of them to take a minute for each alone.
Q. I do not wish to send Christmas cards. What is the procedure of handling this? Should I tell relatives and friends before they send them to me and make me feel guilty?
A. Of the three activities you mention -- sending Christmas cards, notifying everone that you are not sending cards, and feeling guilty -- sending cards seems to Miss Manners to be the least trouble. However, there is nothing wrong with doing none of these activities.