On the Lighter Side

Traditions that Need to Go Out of Style: Thank You Notes

Thank you notes. Were they foisted upon us by greeting card companies, or is there someone else I should blame?

I have nothing against thank you notes themselves, just the social compunction to write them. Most of the time, I still dutifully snail mail my “thank you” when somebody gives me a gift. I guess it’s one of the die-hard remnants of my Very Traditional Upbringing. But if this point of etiquette were to join those that have already fallen by the wayside in modern times, you won’t hear a word of complaint from me.

The thank you note tradition is old and tired and suffers fatally from lack of originality, unless you’re willing to invest serious time and brain power in creative artsy-craftiness. Many of us are not. After you’ve said the obligatory “Dear (Their Name), thank you for the _______. It was so thoughtful of you”, there just isn’t that much left to say. This goes double if you don’t know the person very well (Hello, wedding thank you notes!)

There’s been somewhat of a trend in recent years toward digital thank you’s — ecards and whatnot — but lots of people are still of the opinion that if you don’t fold up your expression of gratitude in an envelope andĀ mailĀ it, then it doesn’t count. I don’t know. In my humble opinion, it’s not worth the time and postage to write and mail something that’s just going to get glanced at (maybe) and then tossed out immediately. It’s not like the other person is going to keep it in their scrapbook forever or something. Well, maybe they will; who knows. Stranger things have happened.

A better alternative to the thank you note, I think, is to actually let the giver see you using and enjoying your gift, if possible. (Of course, if they live far away and they send you something by mail, a quick email or text to let them know of its safe arrival is probably courteous.) Even better, make them something. I personally have painted pictures for people who have given me paints and paintbrushes, or made desserts for people who have given me baking supplies. Stuff like that. But only if you have the time and you’re so inclined. I think what makes an expression of gratitude “mean something” is when it comes from the heart — not whether or not it goes through the Post Office!

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