How to cut holiday mailing lists

I'm making a list, and checking it twice. And what I'm about to do next is not very nice.

'Tis the season to decide who stays on my Christmas card list and who is cut. Actually, being cut can sometimes bring a sense of relief. But other times, it can feel like a rejection.

Every holiday season, some acquaintances I thought I'd always stay in touch with stop writing.

Did they move? Did they die? Did they decide that too many years have gone by since we last saw each other? Did they ever like me in the first place?

Of course, some people will never stop writing. Like that former neighbor who sends graphic details of his latest ailments. The problem is that neither he nor I have any etiquette guidelines to follow on this matter. Emily Post never ordained, "If it's been five years since you last saw each other, drop them from your Christmas card list." It's more like a game of chicken.

For those on my possible-cut list, I wait to see if I receive a card from them. If I don't, the problem is solved. If I do, I plop one in the return mail.

There are certain people who have a "no-cut" clause, such as relatives. But other cases are as complicated as the protocol for a White House dinner.

Should I keep in touch with my cousin's former husband? What about longtime friends of my parents, now that my parents are no longer living? I keep them on the no-cut list, as a last link to the older generation.

I also hate to let go of my ties to those I knew 35 years ago in my sophomore year of high school, when my family and I lived in Malaysia. That unique experience created lasting bonds.

In fact, that year abroad later helped ease my Christmas card dilemma, by inspiring me to spend four years working in Hong Kong. During those years, if I was considering cutting someone from the list, I'd have an extra month to decide. If I received a Christmas card from them, I'd just send a Chinese New Year's card instead.

It may seem a bit extreme to move halfway around the world just to solve the Christmas card problem. But, until someone comes up with a better solution, I wouldn't rule it out.

Mike Revzin is an Atlanta journalist.

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