Endangered species: Christmas Cards

I noticed this Christmas a trend that gets worse every year – the Christmas postcards with nothing but a picture of a friend’s children and the words “Happy Holidays” or some other version of the same sentiment. A couple of years ago it was cute, now the majority of the cards we receive are not cards, but pictures. Many troubling questions arise from this trend out of hand:

  • What do you do with the pictures after the season is done? I like digital pictures because there’s no additional clutter. I don’t have photo albums, so printed pictures sit in a box some place. Honestly, I throw them out. Sorry, most of the time I don’t even recognize who’s on the card, why would I keep the picture? Which leads me to the second point:
  • Why aren’t the people I’m friends with on the card too? It used to be that you might get the odd family photo at Christmas, but of all the cards we received, only one included an image of the people we’re actually friends with (and those friends don’t have children). But if they do decide to have children, then the next question is:
  • How long does this last? My friend Nancy had a little girl last year, and sent out Christmas cards with a picture of her daughter to her friends that haven’t seen her in awhile. We saw her last night and she asked me “when do I stop?” Good question. At least once the kids get to college.
  • To my friends that have sent us Christmas cards with their children on them – don’t fret, we’d rather hear from you, than not. Take this post as me being Andy Rooney, who I seem to get more and more like each year.

    • grace

      Tarik (my husband) and I talk about this every year for probably the last three years. We don’t really feel like we’ve “stayed in touch” with people that send us one of those kid photo cards. The only reason I put in the effort to send cards at holiday time is to send a little personal note and share that nano second of contact with people, a lot of whom that’s all the contact I get for an entire year. And you’re right–I am friends with an adult, not the 6-year old child of that adult. I mean, they’re cute and all, but.

      I feel disappointed and undervalued when I get one of those. How much effort do you think went into it? And it could have been anyone’s name on the envelope. In fact, if I were sending something so generic, I would form an assembly line where all the envelopes are stuffed and then I would simply go alphabetically through my address book and put addresses on the envelopes. And that’s pretty impersonal.

      So, it’s laziness, and it’s transparent. The recipient’s can feel the lack of effort. Boo.

      Thanks for the post, Andy.

    • http://merujo.blogspot.com Merujo

      I felt really guilty that I didn’t get any cards out this year, but then I received the freakiest Xmas letter from a kinda-friend from high school, and I felt better about the world. Handy hint based upon said letter: if you resent your kids for keeping you from being able to hold a full-time job *and* you buy them roaches when they ask for pets because you don’t want a dog to ruin your new carpets…omigod – keep it to yourself! Just reading this holiday missive made me want to call social services and get a restraining order, all at the same time. I think she didn’t include a photo of her kidlets because they probably would have been holding up signs reading “HELP US, PLEASE!”

      Eeeeeek!

    • Julie

      You’re dead to me.

    • Spencer

      Oh man. You know I love you sis.

    • http://swedehartjournal.blogspot.com Jessica

      I stopped taking photos when my kids refused to star as my card anymore. I also stopped sending cards at that point cause the only reason I sent em was because I wanted to show them off–and because my grandma said I should.

      I enjoy the photo cards, but throw em out after the new year w/the rest of my decorations. I’m not a card saver.

    • http://abbondanza.blogspot.com/ kristen

      I have to agree – I like the cards with the whole family pictured. A personal message is nice too. Sometimes you get cards with only the kid’s name when you haven’t seen the parents in five-plus years and didn’t know they were having a baby, so you’re not even sure what is going on and why you are receiving it. That just makes me feel like a fool, obligated to send a return card to someone who came to my house once for a beer night, and then never spoke to me again other than sending annual pictures of a child I’ve never met.

      Merujo – at least the roach thing is different! Those must have been some fancy roaches. Most of those bugs are a free gift for their unfortunate hosts.

      Letters scare me because the ones I have received are usually full of bragging that no one believes or all the news that’s not fit to print about someone’s bunion surgery. They come off as arrogant or self-aggrandizing if done badly, which they usually are. If I sent out a family newsletter, it would be rife with absurd gossip and lies to entertain our loved ones. Stories about the exciting barfight where I saved the life of a BackStreet Boy, Spencer’s mischievous “Find/Replace” stunt where he changed the spelling of Iraq to “EEEROCK” on CNN’s website, my Academy Award nomination for the theme song to Mighty Ducks 8: Minimal Estevez/Maximum Ice, and the rustic chateau we are building with funds from our hit Broadway musical adaptation of Face/Off. Spencer and I love bringing the screen to the stage!

      That was easy – I think I have half of next year’s greeting done already!

    • http://merujo.blogspot.com Merujo

      One year I sent out a letter claiming I’d hooked up with Viggo Mortensen in New Zealand and had won a Pulitzer Prize, among other things. God, that was fun.

    • grace

      I love the whole Letter of Lies concept! Or maybe it’s a Tall Tales Letter. In any case, my Christmas 2008 Christmas newsletter is going to be action-packed.

      Do you think this sarcastic take on a holiday tradition will offend those that do it seriously?

      And Kristen–this past week my father actually remarked on how much he liked “Face Off.” I’ll have to let him know about your adaptation.

    • Spencer

      I hope you guys aren’t ripping on Face/Off. Grace – your Dad and I can watch movies together.

      As for the Letter of Lies – what would make it better? Judicious use of Photoshop.

    • radiocynic

      Hi and Happy New Year!

      Okay, I’m a semi-guilty party with a portion of this — (it was indeed a pic-card of just the kids, not us… though I hope it was noted that I at least attempted a small personal handwritten message on the back…) — but I’m still fascinated by this thread as it raises SO many issues I’ve considered and/or fretted over.

      In our defense, the pictures themselves became some sort of weird sadistic Christmas tradition we’ve subjected ourselves to. Cyn wrote a magazine/newspaper piece about it several years ago –

      http://cynicsgirl.blogspot.com/2005/11/adventures-in-photographic-hell.html

      – and it just became some inescapable mandatory procedure. That “tradition” might explain some of the “why aren’t the people we know in the picture” question. It starts with a picture of a baby, which somehow is more appropriate as “news” from, and directly affecting, the people you know. Then it just “traditions” from there to a point that it really doesn’t make all that much sense. (Although believe me, as they grow, they certainly continue to directly affect, influence and/or control the people you know… hard to explain ’til you’re living it…)

      The question of “when does it stop” with the kid pics? SO many times I’ve wondered out loud about that. I’m thinking it’s gotta be sometime well after “aw, how cute”, but well before it seems like an advertisement to marry them off. I figure in our case (kids 11 & 8) they’ll be refusing to participate soon enough.

      However, this was the first year we made that fatal step into laziness / time-saving / affordability by sending one of those wacky photo cards instead of a normal card with a photo within. I was actually already feeling a little weird about that… and this thread sure sealed that, eh?!! But honestly, this year was beyond-abnormal enough that we’re lucky we got anything out at all, so that’s the way it goes. (But btw, major props to krispen.net, Inc. for producing one of the coolest photo cards ever.)

      I was always tempted to do one of those goofy letters if only to exercise desktop publishing chops. Honestly, with today’s technology, why do all those letters always seem to be just a giant page o’ crammed single-spaced grey text?

      Ah, but now the idea of the Letter of Lies AND the judicious use of Photoshop this is REALLY getting inspiring. In my usual fence-riding way, I might like to combine accurate facts with absurdities and see who can tell the difference.

      And maybe we’ll try to send a photo of ourselves with the kids next year… but don’t be too surprised if we look a little more like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie… or at least a tall Tom Cruise and a short Katie Holmes… perhaps floating in space.

    • http://merujo.blogspot.com Merujo

      I think I see the beginning of a new tradition here, heh heh heh.

      Of course, right now, I’m typing this from the luxury beach cabana I’m sharing with Tyson Beckford in Thailand…

    • http://www.cynicsgirl.blogspot.com/ Cyn

      First of all, Randy said most of all I need to…however, I have never been, nor do I ever want to be, confused with Angelina Jolie — I think she is bizarre in every way….and I don’t think Brad Pitt is the least bit attractive either.

      Secondly, Spencer & Kristen, I completely expect you to be using the xmas card to construct some sort of ritualistic shrine to our children. Candles and animal sacrifice are encouraged.

      I clearly remember a holiday season 14 years ago, as my sister was putting a Christmas snapshot of a college friend’s child on our refrigerator. I said something along the lines of “Why would anyone want a picture of a kid they don’t even know?” (And a homely kid at that — there I said it.)

      Ah…parenthood changes everything. Or, to put it more crassly, once you’ve squeezed something living out of your very own body, you just can’t help but want to show it around. Hey! Look what we did!

      Oh geez, I’m in one of those moods. Sorry.

      Listen, I’m the weird sort who not only likes to receive photos of whatever, but also relishes receiving the Christmas letter. (Oh, I kinda rhymed there!)Although it may be simply because it gives me stuff to mock — but you gotta take the joy wherever you can find it.

      Happy New Year!

    • Jennifer

      Thanks, Spencer. Good post! Other than the card we received from you and your lovely bride, we only got ONE card (yes, card) with our FRIENDS faces on it (along with their kids). If it’s everybody, I don’t mind, but sending me photos of only your offspring shouts, “Look what I made!” and irritates the crap out of me. I miss my FRIENDS, not their KIDS. Trust me.