The other morning, I was looking at TV. I had the sound off. I saw an attractive group of singers doing what appeared to be a holiday song. Since I am a sucker for Christmas music, I grabbed the remote and turned it up.
What I heard was this:
Text me Merry Christmas
Let me know you care
Just a word or two
of text from you
Will remind me you’re still there
The song went on that way. At one point the male and female lead singers turned from each other and mock-texted on devices, as they sang:
Miss u too
Xmas sucks without you
I know lol
Irving Berlin just rolled over.
Now, I’m sure the group, Straight No Chaser, meant no harm, nor did the songwriters of “Text Me Merry Christmas.” They were all just — like yuletide carols or chestnuts roasting — reflecting the times.
Which is what bothers me. A texted Christmas message between loved ones is one step from no message at all.
The real meaning of greetings
Think about it. The first Christmas card was 171 years ago. Before that, people exchanged greetings the old-fashioned way: They visited each other. Or, if they couldn’t, they wrote long, personal letters. There was no such thing as a mass e-mail list. No such thing as a printout, an e-card or a preproduced notice that “a donation has been made in your name.”
And, of course, Christmas songs were all about doing things together, dashing through the snow, harking with herald angels. Even songs about being apart, usually inspired by wartime, contained sentiments like “I’ll be home for Christmas.”
Today, I’m not so sure. Yes, there are still people who put great effort into Christmas greetings. But there’s a growing trend toward, like everything else, making the whole thing easier, faster and more efficient, presumably to give us more time to do really important stuff, like check out Kim Kardashian’s behind.
For example: There’s the digitally animated Christmas card, which downloads a waving snowman, a singing frog or a naughty elf. There’s the digital photo Christmas card, in which families pick the perfect shot of themselves frolicking in the snow or dressing the golden retriever like Santa. Many of these so-called cards seem designed to send the best-looking version of the family possible, as if to say, “Look at how great we’re doing.”
That’s not really a season’s greeting, is it? Isn’t the idea to tell the recipient you are thinking about them, not the other way around?
Which, of course, brings us to the infamous Christmas “newsletter,” a personal and usually overlong update on every development in the senders’ lives over the past 12 months.
I won’t pull punches. These things drive me nuts. It’s not that people mean any harm. But telling everyone about your vacation, new car, school play or doctor’s visit — in printed form — isn’t a greeting, it’s an assault.
Besides, if you don’t know the other person well enough to be telling them these things as they happen, what makes you think they want to read them for an hour?
A song for our digital age
But at least the Christmas newsletter requires some effort. You could be getting the Christmas Facebook post. Or worst of all, the Christmas tweet.
I feel pretty lucky, being able to remember a time before digital greetings, when holiday songs were about sleigh rides and winter wonderlands and the blue Christmas we’re gonna have without you.
Today, being without you is no big deal. Not as long as you have a device. As the new hit song says:
Text me Merry Christmas
Send a selfie, too
If you do I’ll go
‘neath the mistletoe
And pretend my screen is you …
OK. Now it’s just getting weird.
Contact Mitch Albom: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at MitchAlbom.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom.