I think it's from spending my formative years in the decade of Truth -- I'm an inconsistent mailer of Christmas cards. How does this follow, you ask?
We wanted to avoid hypocrisy. Is there sincerity in sending a barely personalized, mass produced greeting card to dozens I've had no other contact with all year? What meaning and worth attach to that?
So, we limited our card mailings to those we could supplement with an actual note, at least, too. The result is that we send few and receive few.
I've since thought of a few uses for impersonal Christmas cards. They serve as a yes, this address is still live handshake when they don't return. And even the very small remembrance of an unsigned card can be better than no remembrance at all.
And so it goes for many of the polite formalities called empty in that decade. Perhaps they proceeded from the lips rather than the heart, but they served their purpose in connecting people, smoothing relations, and allowing business, when the frank truth would have alienated, irritated, and generally degenerated into a focus on itself rather than some other matter at hand.
Or elevated into a focus on itself -- for the living exchange of heart truth is the most thrilling intimacy of all.