We aren’t proper friends – so do I really owe you a Christmas card?

Sending rushed missives to distant acquaintances says nothing about friendship

Share

Dear Once-a-Year Friend, I am writing to tell you of a change to our normal Christmas arrangements. This year, we (as I like to call myself on occasions like this) shall not be sending out Christmas cards to you or our other once-a-year friends.

Instead, I am sending you this column with my warmest wishes of the season to you and, if applicable, your family.

I appreciate that sending a column instead of a card is not normal festive etiquette, even by today’s lax standards. Traditionally, those who are giving up the Christmas card habit at least have the grace to come up with some kind of excuse. They say that they prefer giving to charity, or express an urgent new concern for Planet Earth and the terrible waste of cardboard. For the very highest of motives, they are sending out a group email instead, perhaps with a link to a funny video.

You will agree, I am sure, that these irritating messages, which manage to be simultaneously idle and smug, can shatter the Christmas mood for a whole day. For this reason, I shall not be telling you that the fee for this Christmas column will be donated to a Ugandan village which I like to support. Even you know me well enough not be convinced by that.

What I am proposing is simple. Sending a card once a year does not constitute true friendship. Rather as on Facebook you can be defriended, or Twitter unfollowed. So, in a Christmas sense, you should be able to be discarded without any sense of personal hurt or insult.

It is unfortunate that the great Christmas-card panic happens at the time of the year when none of us has time to think because, if we did, we would recognise that communicating in a hurried postal way with distant figures from the past is saying many things, but none of them is about friendship.

There was a time long ago, Once-a-Year Friend, when the rhythm of everyday existence brought our lives together. We may have shared things – childhood, university, a school run, or work, perhaps even a bed – but the years have passed since then and we are different people, living different lives.

What we once had has changed from friendship into something else. It has become a form of weary, dutiful social contact, like attending a dinner party held by bores, or turning out for the leaving do of a colleague you have never particularly liked. Far from being an expression of affection, our cards have gradually become acts of passive aggression. The only question has been which of us can make the other feel guilty first.

Friendship has already been devalued by the fake box-ticking version available on social media websites. For some, Christmas cards serve the same purpose – a ratings game by which people can reassure themselves of their popularity with a glance at the mantelpiece.

Let us go for a spot of unseasonal honesty. We can quietly admit that we only think of one another at this moment in the calendar, and even then without too much curiosity or warmth. Our cards to one another have been a life-support mechanism attached to something which died some time ago.

It is not a need to give to charity, a love of Planet Earth, or the soaring price of postage which has brought us to our senses but an awareness that there is more to a relationship than a card with a robin on the front.

Let us be grown-up and not wish each other a Happy Christmas this year.

So we’re good at sport. But what next?

If you read a newspaper, own a television, or talk to other people, you may well have noticed that it has been rather a good year for British sport.

Not only did we hold successful and well-run Olympic and Paralympic Games, but our sporting heroes won an unusually large number of major events.

Yet the media, and in particular the BBC, seem to be unable to let go of the euphoria of last summer. There were moments during the broadcast of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show on Sunday night, for example, when the voice of propaganda became too loud, too naggingly intrusive.

By now, we have discovered that the British can be friendly, and that everyone feels better as a result. The importance of young people becoming involved in sport has also been pretty well established, as has the inspiring dedication, courage, decency and so on of our medallists.

Time to move on?

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Support Engineer

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Support Engi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband hasn’t ‘suddenly’ become a robust leader. He always was

Steve Richards
 

Costa Rica’s wildlife makes me mourn our paradise lost

Michael McCarthy
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence