Chain Letters

July 26, 2009 at 9:58 pm (Fun) (, , , , , , )

I hate Chain letters.



They never work well for me!

For those of you who don’t know…a chain letter consists of a message that attempts to induce the receiver of the letter to make a number of copies of that letter and then pass them on to as many friends as possible.

When I was much younger, chain letters were hand written on paper. They could be exchanged hand-to-hand but were usually mailed. For some reason, they are frowned upon by the Post Office.

So if I hate them so much why do I bother answering chain letters? What’s the appeal? Most chain letters I get promise luck or something more tangible, like a new recipe or a pretty postcard. I like getting mail. I get very little outside of bills. 😦


Recipe chain letters have been around since the 1930’s  and after a quick google search, one of the oldest examples of a chain like game that I was able to find is called “How Far is Near“. I also found an comprehensive academic study on the evolution of chain letters written by  Daniel W. VanArsdale. He states that chain letters have circulated in some form or other for over a thousand years. Wow. It was the twentieth century letter writers who added the making of copies and the giving of deadlines. Which sounds very much like what are business minded forefathers would have thought important. Copies! Deadlines! Efficiency!

Go look at “How Far is Near“. Notice the conditions and deadlines. “Give it to 7 friends in 5 days.” Why? Because if you do you  will find love and if you do not, if you break the chain, you will have bad luck in love. Scary, to those of us who believe in Karma or are superstitious.

The latest twist on this trend are chain letters that are essentially forwarded emails. My latest email of this type compelled me to forward it to at least 8 people. Honestly, I don’t have that many contacts in any of my email lists. My emails are for business and family. Since, this particular email came from a family member, they’d had already forwarded it to everyone I knew. So, there went any promises of good karma for me!

I will say that I am not particularly superstitious though my ancestors were. However, my grandparents left their beliefs and superstitions behind once they left the Old Country; once here in Canada their main goal was total assimilation into the customs of their new home place.

I do believe in Karma. I believe that what we do, what we put out into the world, affects what happens to us. So, I try to keep mostly positive actions in my life. I try to help others out as long as the helping comes at little cost to me. And mailing out a chain letter or postcard or two costs me little.

This simple task reminds me a little of my youth. Exchange chain letters, those asking for something in exchange for getting something, were first mostly popular during the second world war and prewar period (around 1935 – 1945) when my mother was young and had a surge in the 1970s when I was a teenager.

They are, it seems, popular once again in certain circles. At the beginning of the summer, my sister, a reader like me, sent me a book chain letter. My mission was to send one book to the person at the top of the list, copy and send the letter to six people and by the end of the summer I would have 36 new books (new to me) to read.

Book ClubThat’s what was supposed to happen in theory. Yeah, right. I did what I was supposed to do.  I sent off a book and six letters. Within the month, I got four of the letters back as not willing to participate and the other two are lost in the ether. No new books for me.

But then again, I didn’t really expect it to work. What I learnt today, trolling the web, was that most of these chains are mathematically impossible to complete. Which is a bit of a comfort. It means it’s not just me not getting surprises in the mail.

I don’t have good luck with chain letters which is why I usually choose not to participate. So I can’t fault my friends for their choices here. But it makes me sad that I have nothing to look forward to in my mail box. The one that is usually empty except for bills.

It also feels like this action, the not getting of books, it just another reminder that I have no friends. No friends who are willing, or not too busy, to cheer me up with a small surprise through the mail. I want a cool aunt (or friend) who will send me something just because (and it doesn’t even have to be something new or big).

I need more of a social life. I need more friends. I feel like Wall-E hiding under a rock, quaking in fear, wondering if these new creatures just outside my reach will be my friend.


Hello, my darling. Hello, my baby. Hello, my ragtime gal.”

Michigan J. Frog

One Froggy Evening.


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