I can remember making an all-night affair of it: Boxes of Christmas cards laid out before me, carols playing, lights twinkling, metallic pens ready to write a few meaningful lines. My words renewed relationships and ushered friends and family into the next year with warmth and good cheer.
Fast forward to early years of marriage and parenthood, and my cards carried pictures of the happy couple, babies and growing children in holiday outfits, and family portraits. I liked writing and sending the cards, although it became harder to share meaningful pieces of myself through words. There just wasn’t enough time, I suppose I just didn’t make the time, and got lost in the logistics and mechanics of it all.
One year I made cards – I took a wonderful class with a friend, and loved the experience. That year, though, the mechanics involved drying my stamped cards separately without smudging them, and employing defensive postures against the cat and the toddlers who were equal parts curious about and oblivious to my efforts. I felt some pride and accomplishment after wiping the sweat from my brow, but I’m sure the recipients would have been just as pleased with Hallmark’s work.
This year, I find myself somewhere in between the two experiences. The card-writing was quick and simple, but not rushed or lackluster. The pictures are not our best, and I wrote nothing flowery inside. I think my enjoyment in the moment came from truly wanting each card to go. Most who will receive them have already received a holiday visit or gift in the mail, or a phone call. They would not miss the card – or miss me, forget me – if I did not send it. My experience this year taught me some things.
1.) I feel best about writing cards to people when I’ve really kept in touch and engaged with them throughout the year. I spent more time doing that in 2012 than in some previous years, and that’s what made this year feel good.
2.) I’m pretty sure no one cares or will even notice that I’ve used a ball point pen instead of a metallic one. If anyone does, it will be people who haven’t heard from me since last Christmas. Wait – I didn’t send cards then, so nevermind.
3.) You may be tempted to include your child’s school picture in your cards instead of a holiday picture. Do yourself a favor: Don’t order a multitude of wallet-sized photos for this purpose until you’ve seen the proofs. Further, if you did order a boatload of photos and they’re not the best pictures, the people who are really your friends and loving family either won’t care or will laugh with you.
4.) Taking the time to write “Merry Christmas and a wonderful new year!” in a card that already says, “Merry Christmas & Happy New Year” is probably a waste of my writing time, and a waste of the recipient’s reading time.
5.) When St. Jude sends you really cute return-address labels that are perfect for your holiday cards, you should probably just write them a check right then and there. Don’t rationalize not writing it because you’ve given a dollar at every cash register and restaurant you’ve eaten in for the past year. That may be true, but you will feel guilty when you’re using the labels, and you’ll have to interrupt yourself to donate…or maybe it’s just me. Do what you can live with.
6.) I’m a sucker for Christmas trees and gold on holiday cards. As a matter of fact, the year I made my own cards? That’s right – gold trees.
7.) I like Caspari Christmas Cards. I can spend a lot of time looking at other cards, but the ones I like best are Caspari. Recently, though, I came across cards made by Giizhik Klawiter, a 10-year-old boy with autism, and his brother Mino. They sell the cards to benefit autism research at University of Wisconsin. No, I have no ties to Wisconsin. Still, I’m drawn to the snowmen Giizhik draws and to the wonderful cause, so this may be a Christmas card turning point for me.
I wish I’d kept one of every card I’ve ever sent. I’m pretty sure there’s some sort of psychological study to be had there. On the flip side, if I’d kept one of every card, I would probably be a hoarder, and you’d never be able to find those cards. Because let’s face it – I’m not one of those nice, neat scrapbook types. Ah, if only! Something to strive for in 2013.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Wonderful New Year to All!