Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Holiday Card Phenomenon

Every December, I vow to write a piece on The Holiday Card Phenomenon.  Even my own antics amaze me, and as cards begin to come into our home, I can’t help but think how the Holiday Card has morphed into a whole Experience, where once, not so very long ago, you just went to Target or Barnes and Noble, bought a box of pretty cards, signed your family’s name, maybe wrote a nice sentiment, and they were off. But now…

The Evolution of the Christmas Card.
When I first began to send out cards – I remember it was when I was in college and they went to sorority sisters – they consisted of a box of pretty cards found in a nearby store. Maybe I tried to get whimsical or funky or spirited, but nothing more crafty or creative came my way then a special pen at most. Oh, as I think back, could it have possible been a silver paint pen? So I sat and signed, and off they went for the mail to deliver.

The next phase was as a newly married couple. Not so different – a card we both liked, signed, sealed and delivered. That was it.

Then our first daughter was born. Ahhh…..the photo card begins. Oddly enough, I don’t remember the card or the picture – but there had to have been one, right? I vaguely remember those cards where you insert your picture inside a festive border. You could still write a message and sign your name. But soon enough, the flat photo card came into fashion, and here is where we are these days. And that, my friends, is where the true phenomena begins.

And the photo card is not alone – the counter part is….da da daaaaaaa – The Holiday Letter. Let’s take a look at these first, my friends.

The Holiday Letter
I have to go here first, because though the Holiday Letter gets more grief, I think the photo card has more behind the scenes to dissect, so we’ll save it. Your Holiday Letter is what it is, a review of the year. Sometimes quite nice and complete, full of cheer, good wishes and a little catch up for those not in touch much throughout the year. Other times, we receive the Holiday Letter that not unlike Facebook, is full of the Humble Brag. Gone are the gentle reminders of the lovely holiday season and instead are accounts of basement renovations, elite select sports team championships, precise numbers of hours spent volunteering and when little Darling began to read (at an early age of course).

The letter can be a lovely thing. We love to hear of new babies born, anniversaries celebrated, engagements and college acceptance. Do we need a list of tropical and European destinations visited or how many colleges sent those acceptances? I think the grades children earned can be saved for Grandma; we don’t all need to know, especially maybe those struggling to pass a class.  But the Holiday Letter often knows no bounds. Where those updates of interests, events and childrens’ ages are delightful to read, the detailed accounts of one’s lavish lives can sort of be a downer to others in the spirit of the season.

But enough on The Holiday Letter, it’s a time worn tradition and one that we can mock or love – or both. But time to move on to The Card.

The Photo Holiday Card
Around Thanksgiving, the holiday card dilemma begins to surface it’s seemingly innocuous head perking up and saying, “Come on and create me – we’ll have fun!” You make that cup of hot cocoa, put on some holiday music and begin to sift through some pictures from throughout the year, quietly recollecting fun times and smiling inside to yourself. Oh wait….First you take a quick look through Pinterest, searching Holiday Card Ideas.

But wait again, not everyone sifts through the year’s photos. Let’s begin with the ones who have a family photo shoot scheduled and perfect coordinating outfits are laid out and ready. Notice they are not matching, simply coordinating. Clothes must not look too contrived or things will be unnatural. So off they go on the Photo Shoot. Perhaps a prop, like the popular fancy frame or letters spelling out JOY will come along. Maybe the dog will be in the shoot or lights will be strung from a tree as a beautiful backdrop.

Another option, Mom will tell her kids to brush their hair and off they go to the neighborhood park, maybe she brings out the real camera, but sometimes the phone will do. It’s not unlike the professional photo shoot and props and dogs can come along. And whether Mom or Professional Photographer took the shots, that perfect one will surface, and no one will ever know the strife through the lens before and after. The angst and the arguing, threats and guilt from Mom will all quietly disappear as quickly as the golden hour, and the surly, sulking photo that says so much will be privately deleted, never to be seen by public eyes.

But for those who like a year in review rather than a photo just for the occasion – how do you decide? Will the card include multiple photos, one of each family member, or everyone grouped together? Will they be doing “their thing” or just hanging out looking fabulous? Can pictures take the place of the Letter, depicting the year with handheld chalkboard signs or catchy captions? So hard to decide…and by now, the cocoa is cold, the holiday music has been on repeat much too long, but a stack of virtual pictures is in the basket, weeded out and edited.

Still, decisions, decisions: Still deciding on a single fab photo or multiples? A great shot of the four of you or a so-so one with the Eiffel Tower in the background? Do you go fun or formal? Entire family together? Pets or not pets? Prop or no prop? What about the picture where everyone is together, looking right at the camera, soft expressions, natural poses and great smiles, the waves and beach a perfect backdrop and the lighting is heaven sent…but, wait, Mom’s hair looks more than not great, in fact, kinda bad? To use or not to use?

Not done yet…the pictures are uploaded, cropped and enhanced, but what about the photo card itself? Whimsical or traditional? Trendy or classic? Holiday or Christmas? Portrait or landscape? Rounded corners might be nice…? How many text boxes, and oh what font it is to choose on the four photo gold berry card…By this point, you’ve spiked your cold hot cocoa with bourbon and wanted to punch Bing Crosby in the gut when White Christmas came on for the twentieth time. But you’re almost finished you yell to your family, we’ll eat when I’m done.

Six hours later, you stagger from your computer, hungry (cause they ate dinner without you), exhausted, a little drunk, but the victor. You have created the perfect Holiday Card.  Just wait till they see it.

Happy Holidays, my friends – may be your card be the best one ever!
<3 writeymom