It was a simple choice: write Christmas cards or write a blog. Guess which one won out tonight? Like many of you, I've faithfully sent holiday cards for years. This year I thought I might resort to the impersonal, Scrooge-inspired e-card but somehow, an electronic greeting seemed as though I'd actually be cheating myself.
This is that one time of the year to reconnect with friends and loved ones beyond a quick email or Facebook post. No time? Make the time. The rest of the year, we can find reason to live our on lives on a frantic pace of schedules and to-do lists. During the holidays, it's time to take a deep breath, look back, and think about all of the people who make life worth living.
Years ago, we started out with the typical boxed holiday card. Soon we began sending the now common photo card. First, we selected photos featuring our dogs. One year, I actually got my husband to pose as we smiled in our matching Christmas sweaters (never again!). Then we became parents. Every year, my friends were able to see our family of four as our kids grew up. Why do so many people send cards that only show their kids? Sure, they're cute, but I want to see my friends. I don't care if you've gained weight or have a few more wrinkles. You are the ones who I created memories with ... camping out with at a concert, being crazy with in college, sharing the evolution of growing up before we became responsible adults.
My friends tell me that they love our Christmas cards and some have even saved them over the years. So, I keep sending them. The collection includes our family in Hawaii and Puerto Vallarta, riding motocross bikes, at Lake Tahoe. This year, when debating whether to send cards, fate stepped in. Coming home from Tahoe after Thanksgiving, we were caught in slow traffic due to an early winter storm. We took an exit off Interstate 80 for a bathroom break. Along one of the frontage roads, we found ourselves in a white, winter wonderland. Quick! Get the camera! We managed to capture a spontaneous family photo with two kids and two dogs against a magnificent background of pine trees and snow. Getting the photo was the prize for a six-hour drive home (usually three hours) and once again, I knew I'd be sending cards this year.
Apparently, despite the economic downturn and rising postage costs, I am not alone in continuing the holiday card tradition. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "Americans still send 1.9 billion cards annually, according to Hallmark research." The trend, however, is moving upscale. Forget the photo cards that you can order at any drug store or Costco. These days, more and more people are sending custom cards with elegant printing on quality paper stock. Minted.com says its customers now use the traditional Christmas card as a way to send a "part card, part gift." No longer are recipients simply treated to the holiday letter bragging about little Susie's soccer tournament or Johnny's first prize award at the science fair. If you're lucky, you could receive a "mini book" complete with a page, or two, devoted to each of your friends' kids. Others include recipes or some other boastful deed or accomplishment. Narcissism is alive and well.
Maybe it's the second baby boom, but professional photographers are also seeing an increase in holiday sittings. We tried that one year. We ended up with a classic, handsome black-and-white photograph, but we looked like we like we belonged in a Gap ad. I'll stick with the side-of-the-road pit-stop photo.
So what's the message in all of this? Holiday cards are a tradition that folks, including myself, are reluctant to let go of. This year I down-scaled from 125 cards to 100. I must admit, I love opening up the mailbox and seeing we received a new stack of cards. Who remembered us? What does Joe look like now? I always hand write a message on each of our cards. There's nothing worst than opening a card with no personal message. Even a "hey, let's get together soon" message -- even though you know it's unlikely -- warms the heart.
We don't receive as many cards as we send. I understand. People are busy. People may not enjoy the process of sending cards like I do. (I still send handwritten letters on real stationery!) My daughter used to be my little elf, helping me address the envelopes. She's away at school now but I refuse to use printed address labels from the computer. I'm no Martha Stewart, I just believe some traditions warrant preserving.
This year, I will once again prepare my holiday cards. I will put a holiday stamp on each of them even if no one notices. I will walk to the mailbox and as always, when I drop them in, I will smile.
Just do it. The United States Postal Service needs your support ... but most of all, your friends need to hear from you. Season's Greetings!