Welcome to the aftermath. You survived Christmas for another year.
Take a day off. You’ve earned it. Eat a pastry. Watch a game. Order what you really wanted for Christmas with the Amazon gift card you got from the person who last year gave you what they thought was a back massager, which quickly became a part of family lore that they will never live down.
But then you pick up a pen.
Writing thank-you notes is an essential and non-negotiable responsibility that fulfills a fundamental social-contract obligation: it completes the gift-gratitude circle.
Why Should I Write Thank-You Notes?
Because if you don’t, you’re a selfish, lazy jerk.
The people who gave you stuff shopped for you, wrapped for you, and delivered for you. Even if the gift was just some kitsch tchotchke, effort was made for your benefit. You can sacrifice the hundred seconds or so it takes to pen a note, slide it into an envelope, scrawl an address on the front, and slap a stamp on it.
No, Seriously. What’s the Real Point of Thank-You Notes?
For folks who require a tangible benefit to themselves before doing anything for others, let me offer some motivation:
People who don’t send thank-you notes get fewer gifts. I cut from my Christmas list—and know of many others who do the same—people to whom the gifts I send vanish into a black hole. These are frequently the same people who don’t send me anything, either. (Maybe you don’t really want me in your life? No problem. Off you go.)
And I once received a beautiful antique vanity table (which I still have and will pass on to one of my daughters—whichever one writes the best thank-you notes, probably) from a distant relative with whom I never had a lot of contact. Why did I receive it instead of someone who had closer kin-ties to the giver? “Because you always send thank-you notes.”
Okay, You’ve Convinced Me. But How Do I Write a Thank-You Note?
I’m glad you asked! It’s super easy.
Pick up notecards at Target or Hallmark or the grocery store. Michael’s and A. C. Moore have pretty decent ones in their $1.00 bins. But if going out of the house is a bridge too far, just use a sheet torn off one of those free notepads that charities send you to try to guilt you into sending them money.
But don’t use the return envelope that came with it. It’s really bad form to scratch out the Little Sisters of Charity address and write in your grandparents’ over top of it. Pony up for a box of #10’s, slacker.
And here’s a sample Thank-You Note script to get you started:
Dear Aunt Beulah,
Thank you so much for the thoughtful/useful/interesting (but NOT weird/cheap/crappy) gift you sent.
I’ve always wanted/I never knew I needed/I’ve never before seen a [GIFT] (but NOT What made you buy this?/What were you thinking?/Did I do something to offend you?).
I can’t wait to try it out/show it off/research it (but NOT throw it out/re-gift it/light a firecracker under it).
I’m sure it will give me years of pleasure/entertainment/joy (but NOT embarrassment/firewood/fodder for mocking you).
Have a Happy New Year, and I hope to see you soon!
Your adoring/appreciative/only, (but NOT disappointed/P.O.’d/vengeful) nephew,
But I Still Have Some Questions About Thank-You Notes.
Do I have to write a thank-you note if the person was present when I opened the gift?
No. Unless you exhibited disgust for the person and/or their gift. If so, write to explain that because others who were present demonstrated such extreme jealousy over the present, you were afraid for your life and did not properly convey the actual depth of your gratitude.
What if I don’t receive thank-you notes for the gifts I gave other people?
Until now you have had little recourse against such detestable, gift-grubbing ingrates. But you can thank Wasting My Education for helping you out with this problem! Just send the offenders the link to this blog post. (You’re welcome.)
My grammer and speling aren’t so good. What if I make a mistakes?
If you are younger than twelve, you will be fully forgiven by the recipient of your thank-you, who will be so charmed by the note that criticism will only cross his/her mind if he/she is a real cretin.
If you are a grown-up, get a dictionary. Ask a more able writer to proof it for you. Type it into the computer for grammar- and spell-check, then rewrite it by hand.
Can’t I just write my note on the computer? Or send it by email?
A handwritten note is better than a typed note (unless you have a physical disability which precludes writing by hand), which is better than an email. But an email is better than no letter at all. Here’s a handy key to decoding thank-you notes written in various media:
This sender is gently-bred, well-mannered, and possessed of a bright future.
Barring a writing disability, this sender is more time-conscious and goal-oriented than etiquette- or people-focused. Believes that the end justifies the means. May be a politician or investment banker.
This sender is probably a Millennial or younger. Appreciative, but not possessed of higher-order social graces. And doesn’t care.
No Note At All
Badly reared, egoistic scumbag. Blames others for all his/her problems. Likely jail-bound.
My children aren’t old enough to write yet. Aren’t they exempt from thank-you notes?
Are they exempt from eating? From going to the bathroom? From wearing unsoiled clothing? No, they are not! You are the surrogate who feeds them and changes their diapers and does their laundry until they can manage these tasks themselves.
For babies and toddlers, you are responsible for writing the thank-you note. A delightful adaptation is to take a picture of the child with the gift, and write on the back of that.
If the child is old enough to wield a crayon, have him draw a picture of the gift received. Then you, parent, write a thank-you note next to it.
Older kids do the whole shebang themselves. If necessary take the Wi-Fi hostage until the thank-you notes are written.
But What If I Still Don’t Want to Write Thank-You Notes?
That is, of course, your right. Just like you can choose to not pay your utility bills. You may elect to ignore a court summons. You might also opt to shoot yourself in the foot, or any other body part.
This is America the-land-of-the-free, after all. No one here will ever force you to become a respectable and upright human being. Just ask the president-elect.
So do what you feel is right. Don’t let me pressure you.
Though my children do say I’m really good at that.
“You are, Mom.”
Sit your little round butt back down and finish writing that note!
(They’ll thank me one day.)