Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Reflections on Holiday Cards

Do you regard your collection of mailed holiday greetings as some kind of popularity gauge? “Hey, looky here! This many people like me!”

Yeah, me either. I realize it’s only a subset of the people to whom I sent a card last year. But I can’t help feeling my stack of cards and pictures is a representation of the people I care about, and it makes me happy. So if you sent me a holiday card this year, I am properly greeted and feel festive as a result of your missive. Thank you.

The Perfect Holiday Card
(as I imagine it is envisioned by my favorite convicted felon):

A short, handwritten letter, perhaps a page or two long, written on engraved stationery of the proper weight. Because we correspond frequently, this letter only needs to detail our holiday plans and reflect on the wonder of the season. Perhaps a card features a photo of precious ones (kids, pets, the new boat) dressed in holiday finery.

My Perfect Holiday Card:

The greeting comes in the mail, because that’s quaint. You use a postage stamp and everything.

Because we haven’t actually seen each other in years, you include a photo. I sigh over how big Brianna has gotten or remark how much little Tristan looks like his dad.

Because we haven’t actually corresponded since last December, you also include a newsy note. You tell me about your latest adventures, describe your life in general, and maybe include an anecdote about the kids or a description of their personalities.

What I LOVE Getting:

1. Pictures. Of you.

I think the photos of your kids or cat or latest remodeling project are great, but how about including your own mug? I admit Bump and I feel narcissistic including a picture of ourselves, but since we love receiving pictures that include the grownups as well as the kids (and I can’t really complain unless I put out myself) we're in our holiday card picture. I see it as a chance to allow your friends to ask “Who’s this Doofus?” when they’re browsing through your cards.

Frankly, unless Ingris starts sending us holiday greetings (and she just might, I wouldn't put it past her) I don’t really know your kids, I know you. I want a picture of you. And don’t worry that you’re too fat/balding/otherwise unsightly to be in a photo, because that’s the damn point. I want to see how fat/balding/otherwise unsightly you’re become. Or more likely, I’ll marvel that you still look great and then hate you for it. Merry Christmas, now pass the damn pie.

2. Holiday cards for holidays I don’t celebrate, but you do.

Yeah, yeah, Christmas blah blah. Wish me a Happy Hannakuh or Kwanzaa or Pagan Winter Celebration or New Year, and don’t worry about the “holidays” or “peace” or “season” bullshit. If you celebrate it, include me in the celebration and I’ll be honored. It doesn’t matter if it’s not my holiday.

Plus, it makes me feel all multi-cultural and shit to have non-Christmas cards in my stack. As an added bonus, this policy makes it perfectly acceptable to have holiday cards arrive long after December 25. Because, damn, who can get all their shit in one bucket by that deadline?

3. A card that includes your handwriting.

It just makes the card for me. Whether it’s at the bottom of a fold-over card or at the end of a computer-generated letter, I just love seeing it. Since I can’t analyze the DNA on the envelope to see if you licked it, this is the only way I can tell you actually sent the card yourself, instead of instructing your staff to do so. If you include a sentence or two of personal message, differentiating my card from the other 80 you sent, I’m totally over the moon.

Because I love to see your handwriting, I can’t bring myself to use labels on our holiday cards. The direct victim of this neurosis is Bump: he ends up hand writing most of our friends’ and families’ addresses, while I do a token few. At least I’ve capitulated to letting him use labels for our return address.

What I’m Less Enchanted About Receiving:

1. "Good Lord"
The three-page, single-spaced letter. You know what I mean, you all get these. I always read them - in their entirety - but I usually need a drink afterward. I report the Cliff Notes version to Bump when I’m done, and I editorialize. Oh, do I editorialize.

2. "Precious Lord"
A letter sprinkled liberally with references to Baby Jesus and the magic of God’s creation and prayers for the evil baby-killing Democrats in Washington. Do we even know each other? Why are you sending me a card?

3. “Who the fuck are the Van Blankens?”
Do you get these? I’m left wondering if they’re some sort of ransom demand. It’s a photo card featuring anonymous babies (“Merry Christmas from the Van Blanken Family, Alex 2 and Crystal 6 mos.”) with no note. After ruling out Bump’s friends, I wrack my brain and imagine I knew the anonymous babies’ mother years ago, before she changed her name. Or I find out later it’s from the family of my dad’s second cousin, who asked about me while visiting last summer. (This is another plug for putting your damn self in the photo, even though in the case of dad’s second cousin, it wouldn’t help.)

One last question: Does anyone have ingenious display ideas for holiday cards? My current system is Untidy Stack of Crap. I’d love to hear of a simple, elegant way to show off those beautiful photos you send before I throw them in the trash a month later.

Who am I kidding? I don’t throw them away. I stick them in a box, intending to look at them later or at least haul them out next year around card time to update our list. Then I totally forget where I stashed them.


Anonymous said...

I hate those generic photo cards with no written message. We even got one this year with a picture of some kids with nothing more than "Merry Christmas" printed at the bottom by whichever company created the monstrosity. It's really like saying "we don't give enough of a shit about you to send you a real message, but here's one just for protocol." Ugh.

Anonymous said...

I must apologize for this year's printed labels, but since I picked "stardream" evelopes, aka "paper you can't write on no matter what sort of pen you try," we were stuck with the choice of labels or a bunch of cards that went nowhere. Next year, I intend to plan our cards better and shop before Paper Source is out of what I really want. Sounds like a resolution waiting to be broken, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

auntly h, i think you get a pass for not handwriting your envelopes if you make your cards and line the envelopes yourself.

as for lhm, if i have to include a picture of myself and husband along with the kids, that will exponentially increase the stress of getting a picture of the kids. but i get your drift. maybe next year i will send you your very own snappy of me and cary.

i display my cards on one of those stands with bendable arms and at the end of the arms are paper clip like things that can hold multiple cards.

Lumpyheadsmom said...

I almost didn't publish this post because I worried people who sent me cards would get offended. So let me be clear: if you sent me a card, I LOVED it.

I didn't point out that while I don't let Bump use labels, I honestly don't pay attention to whether the cards I receive use labels or not. Hence the word "neurosis."

Auntly H, there was handwriting inside your card, so I still got my fix. In addition, the handmade card clears you from any suspicion that your minions are sending me holiday greetings, not you.

Em actually writes her cards - rising to the Martha-Stewart-Perfect standard of holiday card. She even gets them out on time. But I'm totally holding her to the picture of herself next year.

Daddy L said...

I'll send you a card next year!

Anonymous said...

Hang them on festive gardland with clothes pins dyed red. Love and Kisses Martha Wanna-Be

PS Your picture did NOT count. I wanted to see a wicked fat lady and instead you looked suave.

Anonymous said...

That is so funny about pictures of grownups because just this season, I said to my husband, "There are two kinds of people in this world. People who send pictures of their kids and people who send pictures of themselves and their kids. Who wants to see the grownups?"

Ah, well. Different strokes...

Anonymous said...

That is so funny about pictures of adult friends because just this season, I said to my husband, "Look at our Christmas cards. There are two kinds of people in this world. People who send pictures of their kids and people who send pictures of themselves and their kids. Who wants to see the grownups? Those people are narcissists."

Ah, well. Different strokes...

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding, I LOVE those three page letters with liberal references to Jesus. There is no better humor than that. We once sat down and counted the times Jesus was named in a card we got from my husband's cousin. 14. Fourteen!

I'm going straight to hell now, but that card made my day.

Anonymous said...

You should have written this in December, I would have sent you a card. It doesn't have a photo of Chris and me, but it was a Happy New Year card (how I get around not being christian but liking to send and get cards in december).

We got more photo cards of adults than of kids this year. Well, maybe more adults total in the cards. Chris's uncle's family - two parents, three grown kids (plus two of their wives) and three children. Plus a photo card featuring a pic from a friend's wedding, a photo card from another of Chris's uncles and one from a friend with her newish guy. Very appealing. Next year, I promise.

Violet said...

My mother used to get a Christmas card from a guy in another part of the country, every year. And to this day no-one in the family know who the hell he is (although I'd guess he must be a distant relative)

Bump said...

Violet's comment makes me wish I had the nerve/committment/evil streak to send cards every year to 5 or 10 random people I don't know, just to mess with them. Would they send cards back, thinking that there must be some connection they can't remember?

Admittedly, this would be a much better prank if you could actually see their reactions.

Becky said...

Just getting the five of us in one picture and then getting the pictures in envelopes? Before the end of the year? If I had to write on them too, nobody would ever hear from us.

I did something different this year. Sent a "letter" via e-mail and pictures via post. Hey, I haven't written an update in a couple of years, so I was proud of myself.

Maybe you'll get a mystery unwritten-upon Christmas-card picture next year.

stefanierj said...

Another tour de force post. In fact, I think I am going to print it on festive paper and include it as my newsletter in next year's card.

Engraved Stationery said...

Well, at least those "dreaded letter" people care enough to send one, hmm?