Forty years ago while we were still in graduate school, Gabe and I started the tradition of “manufacturing” a Christmas letter to: 1) save our hands the pain of hand-writing each one; 2) of repeating or not repeating our message to each person we sent it to; and 3) to make sure that we recounted our year as best as we could.

We thought that 40 years of doing this made us trend-setters until this year friends wrote that they were on the 49th chapter of their Christmas letter, which burst our bubble.

Anyway, through the years we have seen changes in this yearly ritual not only on our end but on those of others.

We used to produce it on the green, lined computer paper that came out of the huge machines we used for our school work in the computer center.

Then we graduated to spooled cream paper still in sprockets produced by better printers still in the computer center.

Then came personal computers and printers where you can feed nice individual and designed Christmas stationery, which we did for a few years until Gabe came up with the idea of designing his own with themes from our year such as flags of the countries we visited; onesies for the grandchildren; the kinds of cars we have owned; Filipino foods we learned to cook, among others.

In return, we received a wide variety of responses. There were those who, like us, wrote Christmas letters with details of how their year went. There were those who sent cards with some greeting and inkling of how their year went.

But as the years went by, the influence of social media can be seen reflected in the types of greetings we received from family and friends. During the past few years, the written word became less and less and more pictures were sent instead, some thinking that a picture was worth a thousand words.

And like The Wall Street Journal article of Dec, 24 entitled “The Holiday Card that Reveals Big Life Changes” by Anne Marie Chaker implied, those pictures were supposed to tell us what happened to their year — some with no explanation, others with a few words explaining the pictures. Some were sent through the post office, others via email.

What this phenomenon has done is allowed me this year to continue the pruning of my mailing list.

Whenever someone provides an email in their snail mail, I recorded that and took them out of the physical mailing list.

If we have not heard back from someone for about 10 years, we delete them from the list. If we just get a card with just a name and nothing else, we delete them from the list.

Thus the six pages of 30 labels each (180 in all) has gone down to three pages (90). But sometimes people surprise us by sending a card again once we delete them or we do not have the heart to get rid of someone who sends a card every year with just their name and no news at all.

Mailing list trimming is difficult to do, especially when you occasionally meet up with those who tell you that they missed your Christmas letter this year. (And the usual excuse is it must have gotten lost in the mail — and back in the mailing list they go!)

We are happy to write ours and happy to receive yours no matter what the form.

Gabe and Cecilia Manrique are retired university professors who live in Winona and enjoy receiving Christmas mail in whatever form.


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