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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Phone and data laws to be passed in haste

Andrew Grice
The first lesson of today is... don't treat women unequally?  

Yvette Cooper is right: The classroom is the best place to start teaching men about feminism

Chris Maume
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice