It's this time of year that I look longingly at my list of thank you letters still waiting to be written. I say longingly because I'm always longing for someone else to magic them up for me, fill them with something other than 'thanks so much for...' and source correctly spelt names, addresses and stamps. It's an undertaking and a half you know.
A couple of weeks ago, I was having dinner with a group of friends when the thank you letter chat cropped up. Two of us were reminding ourselves to get going on the Christmas round, debating how long you could leave it before it was considered rude. This prompted another friend to ask why we were writing thank you letters at all. Turns out, she's never written one, and has no intention of starting now.
The camp became quite divided. To write, or not to write? The non-writing half didn't consider not writing to be rude, they were more than happy thanking people either verbally or, at most by text or e-mail. The writing half however, had the thank you letter so ingrained into our psyche that the thought of not writing was positively filling us with fear.
One of the non-writers took it a step further, and the following day did a 'company wide' survey on whether or not one should write. Well this opened a can of worms she wasn't expecting. Not only were people fiercely split on whether to write, but how to write was also a major factor. Apparently cards that say 'thank you' were considered totally naff, over enthusiasm for the subject to which you're thanking was considered false, and even saying the words 'thank you' was considered bad form to some, who would rather you just implied your gratitude without actually directly expressing it. I assume she did thank people for their feedback, but presumably not by writing to them.
For some, time is the clincher in saying thanks. Writing a letter by return of post is a little too keen, whereas over a month after is bordering the too late. An ex friend of mine used to count the thank yous that came in after parties and would be more offended by a late sender than by someone who didn't send at all. Hence why she's an ex.
One thing is for sure - saying thank you is a nice thing to do. It makes you feel good, and makes the receiver feel valued. We may not subscribe to the hand written parchments of old, with ruler straight lines and wafty words of gratitude penned from inky quills, but we do still subscribe to basics of liking to give and liking to be thanked.
You've still got just enough time to get in those Christmas thank you's before even the most hardy of receivers would consider you too late. So however you want to say it, get going and say thanks.
Also on HuffPost:
Once upon a time (1989), a little girl named Amy sent a bottle of colored water, oil and glitter to Roald Dahl, who knew right away that this was a dream in a bottle inspired by his book, 'The BFG'. In response, the author penned this short note to his 7-year-old fan. Dear Amy, I must write a special letter and thank you for the dream in the bottle. You are the first person in the world who has sent me one of these and it intrigued me very much. I also liked the dream. Tonight I shall go down to the village and blow it through the bedroom window of some sleeping child and see if it works. With love from, (Signed) Roald Dahl This gallery was originally published on The Huffington Post
When your job involves leaving the planet to walk on the nearest rocky body, it's important that the people who build your equipment do things the right way. The enormity of the Extravehicular Mobility Unit engineering team's task - that is, building a spacesuit that kept a man safe and alive on the moon - was not lost on Neil Armstrong, who wrote this letter for the 25th anniversary of the lunar landing. To the EMU gang: I remember noting a quarter century or so ago that an emu was a 6 foot Australian flightless bird. I thought that got most of it right. It turned out to be one of the most widely photographed spacecraft in history. That was no doubt due to the fact that it was so photogenic. Equally responsible for its success was its characteristic of hiding from view its ugly occupant. Its true beauty, however, was that it worked. It was tough, reliable and almost cuddly. To all of you who made it all that it was, I send a quarter century's worth of thanks and congratulations. Sincerely, (Signed) Neil A. Armstrong This gallery was originally published on The Huffington Post
Once upon another time (1974), John Lennon showed up drunk to LA's Troubadour club and proceeded to heckle the Smothers Brothers during their act. A fight ensued which involved just about everyone, including actress Pam Grier. The next day, she got this letter from Lennon: Dear Pam, I apologize for being so rude and thank you for not hitting me. John Lennon P.S. Harry Nilsson feels the same way. This gallery was originally published on The Huffington Post
Sometimes less is more. Dear Mr. von Fuehlsdorff: Thank you for your champagne. It arrived, I drank it and I was gayer. Thanks again. My best, Marilyn Monroe This gallery was originally published on The Huffington Post
After reading Yann Martel's book Life of Pi with his daughter, a fan sat down to write this short note of thanks. Mr. Martel -- My daughter and I just finished reading 'Life of Pi' together. Both of us agreed we prefer the story with animals. It is a lovely book -- an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling. Thank you. (Signed, 'Barack Obama') This gallery was originally published on The Huffington Post
Andy Warhol first printed his Liz series in 1963, but it wasn't until 1977 that Elizabeth Taylor got her own version of the iconic painting. She didn't wait 14 years to send Warhol a thank-you: Dearest Andy I'm so proud I finally have your "Liz" and thank you for signing it so sweetly to me. I do love you. Elizabeth or Liz (of A.W.'s fame) This gallery was originally published on The Huffington Post
This is just a little note from an actress to the man who composed the score for her recent film. That's all. Dear Henry, I have just seen our picture - BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S - this time with your score. A movie without music is a little bit like an aeroplane without fuel. However beautifully the job is done, we are still on the ground and in a world of reality. Your music has lifted us all up and sent us soaring. Everything we cannot say with words or show with action you have expressed for us. You have done this with so much imagination, fun and beauty. You are the hippest of cats - and the most sensitive of composers! Thank you, dear Hank. Lots of love Audrey [Hepburn] This gallery was originally published on The Huffington Post
Follow James Emtage on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JamesEmtage