Before I get angry emails and no Christmas cards, let me make this disclaimer: I am genuinely asking the question more than I am giving an answer.
Tis the season for scheduling the family photo shoot, painstakingly designing the perfect Christmas card, addressing envelopes and racing to the post office, all to wish our loved ones a Merry Christmas.
I love getting Christmas cards in the mail. It is truly the only time of year I look forward to the walk to the mailbox, and I actually find something inside besides bills or American Express offers. So I hate to even bring this up for fear the last hold-outs will change their minds.
I’ve never really sent Christmas cards before – well, maybe back in the day I did, before social media kept me in touch with all my high school and college friends, back when I’d write out a little note because that was the only time of year we’d actually stay in touch.
But times have changed since then. Now, the only kinds of Christmas cards I receive are the family photo Christmas cards. So far this year, I have received one real Christmas card – one that was an actual card, with an actual hand-written greeting inside. The rest were all the pre-printed family photo Christmas card greeting.
Well, now that we have our little guys, I’ve been wondering about jumping on the Christmas card bandwagon. It has made me wonder why we even send them, and if I should even bother at all.
So, why do we send Christmas cards?
Weren’t Christmas cards supposed to be a personal greeting to friends and family, especially those we haven’t kept in touch with all year? At most, there was the typically-TMI-Christmas letter; at least, there was a handwritten greeting and signature. Somewhere in between was a personal note.
Today, many of the cards I receive have printed-out labels, and the cards themselves are family pictures with some kind of seasonal greeting on it. No note. Not usually even signed.
Now, I’m not criticizing anyone who does this. In their (your?) defense, in our social media world, we are a lot more connected than we were a few decades ago when that hand-written Christmas card served a purpose and was maybe the only thread attaching people over the years. Now, I’d say that most of our present circles of relationships are connected by some kind of social media and therefore, are pretty up-to-date with family pictures, the latest events life events- all the thing we might have included in a Christmas card.
That being said, so what purpose do most of our present-day Christmas cards have other than sending people pictures of our kids? Seriously. I’m asking.
For argument’s sake, let’s say I didn’t feel emotionally ready to sacrifice this sacred Christmas-card-cow, and I still wanted to be a part of this tradition. Let’s talk practical details of my sentimental attachment.
First, there’s cost. I don’t think my boys have sat still once since they started walking, so therefore, I have not taken one quality picture of them in the past 9 months. So, if I wanted to get a picture worth sending, we would have to hire a photographer. So, there’s that. Then, there’s the money to get them printed. Then, money for stamps. (Not to mention, who even makes the cuts for the card list? What is the criteria for that?) For those of you who do this, I’m curious. How much does it cost you to send out Christmas cards?
If I felt it was worth it, I might justify the cost. Well, would it be worth it?
To answer that, I need to first ask: what do all of you do with the Christmas cards people send you? Be honest, now. We save and display the ones we receive for the Christmas season. But then, after that? Into the garbage they go. To everyone who sends us cards, I’m sorry. Truly sorry. But does anyone keep them after the holiday season? Please tell me I’m not alone here!
So, do I want to spend x amount of dollars for something that would end up in the trash a few weeks from now?
Then, there’s the stress of creating the card – the perfect picture, the perfect layout, the perfect card. Making sure you get all this done amid the craziness of the holiday season to ensure it doesn’t arrive December 26. I honestly feel like it stresses most people out. And for what? Think of the endgame. Thirty days from now (maybe 35 if you are on your game and send them out the day after Thanksgiving), you know where those cards you slaved over will end up.
So, if I’m not going to write a personal note, if most people are up to date on our life events and kid pictures due to Facebook and Instagram, is there a purpose in sending Christmas cards out besides tradition? Couldn’t I just achieve the same effect by creating a card on Pic Monkey, posting on Facebook and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas? That’s so impersonal, you say. But really, what is so personal about the other option these days?
Now, true, there might be those in my life who aren’t on social media, who I haven’t spoken to, where a Christmas card might serve a purpose. But do I want to go through all of that hassle for just a few? Can’t I just write out a Christmas card to them and have a few pictures printed up?
I tend to be a traditionalist, and I really hate the idea of giving up a tradition like Christmas cards. I hate the idea that our world is so different now and that a ‘social-media-Christmas-greeting’ might really be the way to go. I’m looking for someone to convince me otherwise.
If there’s something personal written on those pre-printed-family-picture-Christmas-cards, then I might say, “Yes, that’s worth it. Send those out.” But from my own experience, that is just not the way I see Christmas cards being done these days.
So, help me out. If you send out the family picture card, what are your reasons for doing so? Convince me it’s worth the bother! If you receive those cards, how do you feel about them? Love them? Think they are a waste? What do you do with them after? What do you think about this whole tradition of Christmas cards – keep it? Time for it to go? Just do social media Christmas greetings?
I have to say, if everyone thought like me and I stopped getting Christmas cards, I’d be a little sad. But in the big picture, it’s not going to make or break my Christmas season. Things change, but Christmas will still go on.
The way I see it, it’s only worth it if it’s a meaningful gesture, not a ritual. Nobody likes to be on the receiving end of a ritual.
And to be honest, there is already enough of a fight these days to remember the true meaning of Christmas. About God giving His Son as a Gift to us. About celebrating the birth of One Who would save us. About being with family and friends – really being with them (not just doing things for them). About quiet and reflection and worship. About Jesus.
I feel like I need to measure Christmas cards against that backdrop, too. If Christmas cards help serve that purpose or are an expression of that, great. If it takes away from that, then maybe we need to rethink it all together. Maybe it’s not worth it.
Paradoxically, this season seems to give us more than enough to stress about. Anything that adds to that should definitely be reconsidered. Sacred cow traditions, included.
So, in the spirit of truly celebrating the season, consider this my Merry Christmas.