“We got our first Christmas card!” My son was ecstatic after a recent trip to the post office and tore open the card to read it out loud to the family. As happy as I was to get the card, and see his excitement, I had a slight panicky feeling. It happens every year, and so begins my ongoing debate. Should I or shouldn’t I? Will I or won’t I? Does it really matter? Does anyone care? It’s my perpetual Christmas card dilemma.
My problem is that I’m a person who likes sending cards with hand-written notes. The whole process takes me back to being a kid and sitting at the dining room table with my mother’s stack of cards, seeing her beautiful handwriting as I peeked at the messages while I addressed the envelopes for her. I imagined all those letters reaching their destination and would visualize them being opened and read, bringing smiles to the people who received them.
But, every year, just before December 1st, the little lazybones on my shoulder starts at me. Pestering me to avoid the process altogether. Because, over the years, my Christmas card list has grown quite long. Though I certainly don’t see all the people I send cards too, I always feel like it’s important to let them know they are being thought of.
“Maybe, maybe not,” Mr.Lazybones argued.
So I find myself contemplating my options. I think of the Christmas letter and marvel at the people who can detail their amazing adventures and thoughts about the year. My year never seems quite interesting enough to go this route, so I usually pass on this idea, but I hope that once in my life I’ll have a year I consider worthy of a Christmas letter.
Then there’s the picture card. This seems to be a popular option. I receive beautiful pictures of the families I know, with their name and a printed Christmas greeting. I tried this one year, but quickly folded at the envelope stuffing stage. Lucky for me the pictures weren’t sealed in the envelope, because I proceeded to pull them all out and write notes on the back of the picture. Of course you could see the ink of my message through the other side of the picture, so this option is not my top choice.
Of course there’s always the traditional card. I remember the one year I spent an inordinate amount of time doing my inordinate amount of Christmas cards, all personalized, only to be asked by a few people why there wasn’t a picture inside the card. And I understand this. There’s something poignant and heartwarming to see a picture of the kids or family, year after year, tracking their growth and changes; especially when I don’t see most of the people on my Christmas card list.
“Then why send them?” pipes up Mr. Lazybones lounging on my shoulder.
Which leads me to my current situation and how I do Christmas cards: Not able to decide between picture cards or traditional, over the years I have chosen to do both. Way more work, but it’s the least guilt ridden option for me. I feel I am appeasing myself by writing a short note and satisfying the recipient by providing a picture tracking my family’s development and changes.
One year, the only thing that propelled me through my indecisiveness towards the Christmas card experience was that I had two awesome pictures of my boys. To me, the pictures summed up who they are and how much they enjoyed themselves. I printed the pictures up and proceeded to write my notes in all the cards. After they were all sealed, addressed and stamped, I felt a sense of satisfaction that I had finished the task.
Then the calls started coming.
“Why aren’t you guys in the picture?”
“I like seeing all of you.”
“Nice to see the kids, but it would have been nice to see a picture of you too.”
I promised people that we would be in next year’s picture, but I felt like a popped bubble. All the satisfaction I had felt from accomplishing my cards dissipated in a flash. That day I opened my email and received an e-card and thought I might try that route next. No arm cramp from writing. No hours spent trying to find just the right picture. No running to Costco to pick up the photos. No envelope taste in my mouth. No cost of stamps. It’s a technological, busy, age and people didn’t have time to read a handwritten card anyway. I was convinced. My plan for the following year was going to be email cards. What a relief!
As Christmas approached last year, I looked for email cards to send. I was slightly uneasy choosing such a simple option but I kept reminding myself that it was the wave of the future. I happened to speak to my friend and stockbroker and I asked him if he was around the office so I could drop by with my yearly chocolate delivery. “Great! I’m looking forward to the Christmas card too. I just love getting yours.”
What?! I didn’t see that coming. And suddenly I had a surge of energy. With only two weeks to spare, I pulled together a picture and started writing cards. The last of them were sent out on December 23rd. Seeing as it was so late, I emailed my cousin in the Bahamas to tell her I had mailed her card super late and it would never reach her on time so I was sending a quick greeting, but the card was en route. She replied, “Good. I’m glad. Every year, I love receiving it, even late, and knowing you are thinking of me.”
As I sit here with December 1st looming, as it does for me every year, I need to get my Christmas card efforts organized. There Mr. Lazybones sits, trying to sway me from doing the cards. But, this year I know I’ll do them, having just organized a whole pile of cards my Dad has given me through the year towards my Christmas card project. He accumulated a pile for me from various charitable organizations he supports. When I got the last pile from him he assured me, “Now you won’t have to buy any cards.” Hate to break it to him, but I still need more. The list keeps growing, which adds to the stress I inflict on myself, and part of me dreads Christmas card season.
“Then why do it?” asks Lazybones again.
As I watched my son find a spot for the treasured “first” Christmas card, I realized that, for me, it’s all about feeling connected. I love the tradition of Christmas cards; handwritten, picture, letter, or email. I love knowing that someone out there, across the miles, and sometimes with no contact through the year, has taken a few minutes thinking of me, even with a phone call or text. And now that my son is reading and writing, maybe I’ll have a helper this year and start our own Christmas card tradition.
With a deep breath and a surge of energy I announced, “We’d better start our Christmas cards, boys.” And with that, my eldest son ran to the table to start. My youngest was quick to scream, “It’s not a competition!” Since mine are never on time, I chuckled and agreed with him. But, it’s true. First or last, it doesn’t matter how you let people know you are thinking of them…just so long as you do.
Feeling crafty and want to create a Christmas card tradition with your kids? Check out these great ideas at Kids Craft Weekly. But, if the idea of a handmade card stresses you out (me!), visit Care2 for some email card options.