DEAR MISS MANNERS: After the start of each new year, I look over the holiday cards we have just received. Every once in a while I notice that someone has not, for the second year in a row, returned our Christmas greeting, and I come to the realization that we have obviously been removed from their card list. I graciously accept (is there another alternative?) this fact and allow the yearly card swap to cease.
But this year I was confronted with a brand-new scenario. Two families with whom we exchange Christmas greetings did not send us Christmas cards. Instead, a full week after New Year's Day, they each sent a "Happy New Year" card. I am quite positive it is not because they do not celebrate Christmas.
I am not terribly surprised that they would choose not to exchange cards. There are some people, like these two families, who we do not see during the course of the year, and I can understand if they see no reason to continue any kind of communication. Despite that our respective lives have taken us in different directions, I still enjoy sending out a greeting once a year. But I respect that others may not share my feelings, and that my card may become a bother and a burden rather than being seen as a friendly greeting.
So, is this the new etiquette rule -- if you don't get a Christmas card, but get a New Year's card instead, it means you weren't on their Christmas card list to begin with, and they are trying to tell you (hint, hint) to stop sending unwanted cards?
GENTLE READER: For someone so heavily invested in an act of friendship, you have a rather unfriendly attitude. Why does it matter whether your friends greet you on one holiday or week than another?
Oh, yes, you explained. They only appear to be greeting you. Actually, they were caught trying to get rid of you.
Well, maybe not. Maybe they decided that the New Year, rather than a religious holiday, was a more suitable time to greet their friends. Maybe they were just late getting out cards. Maybe they had lost your address until your card arrived.
Another Gentle Reader wrote Miss Manners: "Our family has found the tradition of a twelve-day Christmas can solve many holiday problems. Sitting down with a cup of tea or eggnog a day or two after the event to write thanks and catch up with friends in a newsy letter can be very relaxing after the pre-Christmas bustle.
"Writing a greeting for the New Year can solve the problem of friends and colleagues who do not celebrate Christmas. Inviting family who can't arrange for a Christmas Day visit to have another holiday meal (perhaps serving three French hens) is wonderful. And finish with an evening at the theater with friends whose schedule is too busy for you to get together sooner. (Mr. Shakespeare wrote a lovely play for just this occasion: 'Twelfth Night.')"
Miss Manners hopes these people are not on your list of people to ignore next year.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)