"Dear family, friends, former colleagues, passing acquaintances, folk who can't even remember what we look like, never mind when we last saw each other..."
It's that time of the year again. With a heavy thump, Postie deposits another bundle of seasonal round-robins onto your doormat and moves on, a little less encumbered than before.
And as if there wasn't enough to do at this particular time, you do feel yourself obliged to skim through them.
"It has been a mixed year."
(Not a good start. But with a heavy heart, you press on.)
"You may have read in the papers that Roger was arrested for fraud so, of course, Marjorie's long-awaited operation had to be postponed and his mother (bless her) insisted on getting the bus down from Shetland (minus the donkey!) to look after Jem and Nick who have just passed Grade Five piano and Grade Seven crumhorn respectively and who toured Japan last March with the county ice hockey team before joining up with their Uncle Bill for a couple of weeks on the Australian sheep station where he lives with Miriam whom some of our older friends may remember from that wonderful school production of ..."
Too. Much. Domestic. Detail.
Not. Enough. Full. Stops.
Who are these people of whom she writes? You may once have chatted idly to the soon-to-be-banged-up Roger over a pint in the college bar, but what excuse is that for his wife - assuming it is his wife, you thought he was divorced - to lumber you with more information than you ever wanted to know about his unfortunate family circumstances?
You've never exchanged a word with his unnaturally talented and much-travelled children in your life, although you have a vague suspicion that you might be Jem's godfather.
And Roger's mother sounds like the sort of woman with whom it would be best to avoid even the briefest period of eye contact.
So don't feel too guilty about the ripple of schadenfreude you feel at Roger's imminent incarceration; he probably had it coming all along.
What's really annoying about this kind of letter, though, isn't that the sender and their extended family always seem to have done much more than you have over the past year.
It's their unshakeable belief that you might in some way be interested.
These days, of course, you're just as likely to get your festive overdose as an email, or even as three separate emails from the same person.
The first will come with an attachment created on a word processor so rare and ancient that only those few people still bumbling along on Windows '93 will be able to open it.
Unfortunately for you, some smart Alec on the original mailing list will fancy himself (it's always a him) as a computer expert and will reply to the original sender telling them in helpful but sanctimonious tones what they've done wrong.
So a couple of hours later you get a second version, this time consisting of a single line of 6-point Times New Roman stretching off the right-hand edge of your screen and a whole load of white boxes where the pictures ought to be.
Smart Alec will, of course, see his chance of renewed glory and swing back into action.
Third time lucky, you get a readable message along with a festive note from your broadband provider telling you that because your mailbox has exceeded its size limit you will have to pay another £5 this month if you want to get any more Christmas greetings.
For people who don't know what to say, there's always the option of elfyourself.com.
It's simple: just upload a few headshots of your family and they will be converted by the electrical magic of the internet into animated elves, who will jive and cavort endlessly for the pleasure of all on your Christmas list.
Funny once, perhaps, but the originality wears off pretty quickly. And who's keeping those pictures after the tinsel comes down?
No, stick to cards this festive season, and if you're sending one to your boss then make sure your signature is legible.
Because the true message of Christmas is: keep it short, keep it sweet and keep to the point - there's only so much good humour to go around.
Have a good one!
This column was first published on thisisbath.co.uk and is copyright 2007 Bath News & Media.