You've bagged and dumped the last crinkled piles of wrapping paper. Your new power vacuum has sucked up that stray foam peanut from under the sofa. The cardboard boxes are folded neatly in the basement. But the holidays aren't over until everyone is properly thanked.
Contrary to popular belief, traditional, handwritten thank-you notes are not a relic of centuries past, says Judith Martin, who writes a syndicated newspaper column about etiquette under the name Miss Manners. "As long as kindness is performed, showing gratitude will be necessary," Martin says. People who send gifts want to know not only that their presents were received, but also that they made you happy. Showing some warmth in return is the least you could do. Besides, says Martin, "no etiquette violation seems to upset people as much as the missing thank-you note."
So before things get truly frosty, why not warm up in front of a fire with a stack of stationery and stamps, and let your friends, family, and acquaintances know how much you appreciate their generosity? As Martin says, writing thank-you notes is good for the writer, too. You may not enjoy the task, "but being forced to focus on someone else's kindness is good for the soul," she says.
Here are some guidelines that will steer you through the thank-you process for the holidays and every other gift-giving occasion.
Continued on page 2: Short But Sweet