June Cleaver, I am not. I don’t (can’t) cook. I have no eye for home décor. I can barely pick out matching outfits for myself. Heck, I don’t even celebrate Christmas. But tis the season indeed, and there is one holiday tradition that gets me every year. Holiday cards. There is just something about getting real (not junk) mail in your mailbox every single day for 3 weeks straight, from people you know (not bill collectors). They all get prominent placement on our kitchen cabinets, and my kids love trying (and failing) to identify my colleagues’ children year after year. But have you ever looked- I mean, really looked- a little closer at all those season’s greetings? Did you ever notice you can boil down your friends/family/neighbors into several categories when it comes to sending the very best? I have, and I did. Here are the most common holiday card variables, and what they might say about you (but no judging of course)!
Holiday cards- just for the kids?
One picture, multiple pictures, the more the merrier when it comes to Christmas. But in the age of the selfie, it’s surprising that only a minority of senders include themselves in the mix. Some get dragged into the family photo against their will. Some are beaming, front and center. Some simply opt out. Maybe including the parents is just 2 more people to have to get smiling and looking at the camera at the same time, but there’s something nice about seeing the whole gang year after year. It’s no secret the kids aren’t the only ones getting older.
He said/she said- whose name comes first?
I’ve researched this (i.e. “googled” how to sign a holiday card) multiple times and there really is no ground rule on how to sign a greeting card. Husband or wife first? What does each option imply? In the post-feminist era, there are still remnants of sticking it to tradition, and about half of the cards I have on display have the wife’s name first. After all, isn’t it fair to assume that the person who most likely slaved over the pictures, the layout, the mailing list, should get top billing? Oddly enough, whether it’s simply a matter of preference or not, I’ve noticed that some of my most accomplished, impressive female friends were more than happy to list their husbands first. Then there’s the clever way to avoid this entirely by just signing with the family name. As long as you don’t include an apostrophe when turning your family into a plural noun (self-proclaimed grammarphile), I’m cool with that too.
How much effort are you willing to put into this endeavor? Did you use professional photos taken over the summer, or just for this purpose in foliage season? How curated are the wardrobes for said shoot? Believe me, making outfits look coordinated while still looking effortless is a massive challenge. Did you instead opt for high grade photos you took yourself? Or just some random iphone pics that should never have even made it to Facebook? As a control freak and the family chronicler, I always marvel at the idea of not having holiday card-worthy photos at one’s disposal.
Size matters, postage is pricey!
I once made the mistake of getting birthday invitations in that cute, neat little 5×5 square size. Then I went to the post office and realized there is a 40%postage premium to pay for odd shaped envelopes. I’d hardly call something odd when it has 4 equal sides, but this is where the USPS and I agree to disagree. Never again. I always admire (while simultaneously shaking my head at) those bold enough to not only pay for the professionally printed holiday card itself, but additionally cough up the extra $0.21/per loved one to get them safely delivered. Not to mention other high expense, low return frills like glitter writing or curved edges on the card stock. I am pretty proud of my end results, but man- some people go all out!
Just when I’m feeling that insecurity creep in from the show offs with the glitz and glam and square paper, I tear open what I call the confidence booster. We all learned how to proofread in high school. We’ve been around the block with spell check before sending emails. Then how and why did your two year old’s head get cut off in the editing process? Why is your family barely visible due to underexposure and crouching in the upper left corner of the photo, with nothing to speak of in the forefront? I just can’t figure out how this happens, and even if these faux pas sneak through to the finish line, why not just dip into the petty cash for a reprint? If that’s not an option, just scrap the whole thing and shoot out a mea culpa mass email with a better end product and a promise to do better next year! Maybe I’m a perfectionist, but I’d rather streak my front lawn than send out a “less than” type of product.
There are no real hard steadfast rules for holiday cards. It’s a symbol of who you are as a family, a snapshot of you and your peeps in this particular moment of time. Some cards bear very little semblance of personality and are all rainbows and butterflies (guilty as charged). Some include outtakes on the back, or a funny catch phrase to sum up the year. Some include an attempt at a poem that would have poor Dr. Seuss die again reading it. And some just strike the perfect balance between unique and funny- enough that actually makes you stifle a giggle alone standing at the island in your kitchen. It’s an art that remains the gift of only a select few, but it’s possible. And to those, I say “Bravo”. And thank you. And happy holidays.
Until next year.