Holiday Greetings!

[ 13 ] December 9, 2011 |

“Oh yeah. This is going to make our friends jealous,” our friend laughs, checking out his family’s Christmas card.

“It’s a competition,” his wife adds. “Who has the cutest kids? Who took the best vacation? It’s not a Christmas card. It’s a competition.”

We’re among friends. The wine is flowing. The holiday card competition conversation is all in good fun, and yet in the days that follow I find myself reflecting on the increasingly extravagant cards we display in our house each year.

Have annual holiday card exchanges really become a competition?

HolidayCardsFrom Thanksgiving right on through New Year’s they fill our mailbox — a few handwritten messages on note cards, a half-dozen typed letters detailing the comings and goings of the year, but mostly what we hang on the red ribbon in our living room are photos of happy, smiling children and families.

One that stands out in my mind was from two years ago — my friend and her beautiful family of five wearing coordinating outfits and synchronized smiles.

Nearly everyone who visited our house during that holiday season commented on the card.

They looked absolutely beautiful together. But I also I knew from private conversations with my friend that she and her husband had not shared a bedroom in over six months.

And then there was the gorgeous, ultra high-end card that came from another friend this past year. A few weeks after the New Year she expressed more than a little regret after calculating that between the professional photography, the clothes for the photo shoot, and the printing and postage for her large list of family and friends, she spent close to $1,000. On cards.

But it was sitting in the theater with my kids watching the new Muppet movie that cinched my need to write about and invite dialog on this subject.

In the movie Kermit tracks down Fozzie Bear, who is living in an alley behind a theater. As the camera slowly pans around Fozzie’s roofless “house” and the rain begins to fall, Kermit comments that he had no idea his friend was living like this, adding “It looks so different in your Christmas cards.”

As a highly social and creative person, I love holiday card exchanges. I love receiving photos of my friend’s children and watching them grow, I love filling our living room with photos of friends and family, and I love creating our own family card, which each year gets tucked into our Christmas Memories book.

But I as begin to think about the greetings I will send this year (which will likely be New Year’s greetings at the rate December is flying by), I am doing so with a new level of awareness and a desire to be clear with my intentions before I start stuffing envelopes.

How about you? Have you sent (or will you be sending) holiday cards this year? How do you feel about the tradition?

 

Category: holidays, organization


Erin Barrette Goodman

about the author ()

Erin is a multi-media artist, interfaith minister, yoga teacher and passionate builder of community. She is the founder of the Rhode Island Birth Network and the creator and host of Behind the Blog. As a mother of two, she also packs lunches, drives the carpool, and bows to the power of PBS Kids.

Comments (13)

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  1. It’s funny- I know a lot of people who really don’t like reading the “Family Newsletter” style holiday cards, calling them “cheesy” and braggish- but I’ll admit that I love hearing about family travels, celebrations and milestones. I see it as a way to keep up with folks who I have a hard time connecting with throughout the year. I don’t personally publish one, but that’s more because like you, it’s usually New Years or Valentines Day before I can aven entertain the thought of getting to that item on the “to do” list. 😉

  2. Erin Goodman says:

    Love hearing your thoughts, Johanna!

    And I too like reading the holiday letters – after the holidays when life slows down a bit. 😉

  3. Kristen says:

    I know folks without kids who feel their cards mean “less” as they are store bought without smiling faces…that makes me feel sad as this card exchange is about sharing joy, love, and well wishes (with or without smiling faces). Personally, I try to write a little note to nearly everyone (time consuming but personal) and I LOVE seeing & hearing what my friends and their families are up to. I too hang my cards (for at least a month!) and enjoy seeing all the beautiful people smiling at me 🙂

  4. Kelly says:

    While I love getting updates from friends and family and seeing children grow up, I was thinking about the competition aspect myself the other day. But, from a different angle. I was thinking about the popularity contest aspect of receiving the cards, the displays people create of all the cards (and I do too, on our mantle). Are we trying to show how many friends we have? How beautiful their families are? Why the display?

  5. Emily says:

    I often think the same thing about Facebook pictures – everyone sees a happy (or fake happy) snippet in time, but not the tantrum that happened 2 min. before or afterwards, or whatever it might have been that day.

  6. Amy Hood amy says:

    I’ve usually sent a photo card in the past, but not a specially-taken photo, just one from the year that I like. But it bothers me that the photo is typically just of the kids–my husband and I are part of the family, too. This spring we had family pictures taken (not for a card, just because the last time we did, I only had one kid!), and I’d love to use one of the five of us for a card, but the site the photographer uses for cards costs more than I want to spend on cards. And although I began putting together a photo card in Shutterfly, I decided, for lots of reasons, that I didn’t want to do that this year. So I’m sending handmade cards, not to impress anyone but because it makes me happier to do so.

    It doesn’t surprise me that people use holiday cards as proof of…something, but I’d rather not play games I will NEVER win anyway. One year I sent out cards and realized afterwards that my son was wearing mismatched socks in the picture. That’s us. The house is messy, we have paint on our hands and probably crumbs on the floor and nobody’s hair is combed! Happy holidays!! 🙂

  7. Allison Abramson Allison says:

    I wanted to do something that felt more personal this year- like making cards with the kids- but I’m realizing that I just didn’t give us enough time to create, assemble and get them mailed on time! So, I’ve ordered photo cards once again. It’s so quick and easy, it feels a little odd- like it’s not a true representation of how we feel about our loved ones. But I’m trying to embrace the tradition just the same- it’s really about sending a little note to let people know we’re thinking of them this time of year. Our card probably won’t win any prizes- we definitely don’t have matching outfits- but our sweet and simple sentiment is full of cheer. I hope that counts for something!

  8. cindy says:

    Wow, I truly never thought about it this way and now I am a little sick to my stomach. Food for thought indeed, you write so eloquently. Our cards have always either been generic (no family photo) or kid drawn. I am camera shy and I figure other people don’t really need pics of my kids hanging around their house. I don’t know why I think that because it is cute to have my friends kids faces here at our place, but I always think “oh why would anyone want a picture of US?”
    And I don’t bother with the letter partly because I find them hokey and partly because that’s what the blog is for in a way. This has given me a whole new perspective, thanks Erin!

  9. Erin Goodman says:

    Thank you so much for your comments — really LOVE all the different perspectives.

    ~erin

  10. We just got a photo postcard, addressed by a machine, and signed in a burgundy ink in a faux handwriting, 16 point font. In even larger print is “Hallmark” with the crown logo. The design quality is about that of an ad from a car dealership. The best part is this: I have no idea who the people are. Maybe it is just an ad from Hallmark?

    As for us, we shall send a long-ass letter, bragging in a self-deprecating way, and then detailing our diseases, surgeries, and debts. And a photo, chosen to make the mother look thin, with a glowing complexion!

    And to quote PORTLANDIA: put. a. bird. on. it.

  11. Katy Killilea Katy Killilea says:

    I’m never impressed by the outfits or photos. What impresses me: thick paper envelopes, sealing wax, good ink, good penmanship. Those are the things that make me feel like a schlump.

  12. Kelly says:

    Oh I love this, Erin. I have been thinking about this same thing- comparing my handmade photoshop cards to the fancy ones that keep showing up in our mail box. Our colors are kinda strange and one of my kids has red eyes, which I didn’t realize until I ordered 30 pictures (for 10 cents a piece), but I kept saying to myself- that’s us. Mine will also be late, but on each one will be a special note, b/c that to me is the best part- receiving a letter, like the old days.
    P.S. We have that same book 🙂

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