Monday, November 30, 2015

Christmas Cards: Wonderful or Wasteful?

There are five types of people in this world:

The Gleeful Card Crackhead
You absolutely live for sending and receiving mail. The Christmas season puts you over the edge of happiness and you quite literally soar to the mailbox each day. The cards you receive are hung delicately in a primary location in your home and then once Christmas is over, you press each card lovingly into a scrapbook. You mail approximately 150-300 handcrafted cards each holiday season to share the joy.

The Update Maniac
You view Christmastime as a chance to catch up, share the year's events with friends and family, and proudly display the growth of your kids/pets/acreage. Your cards are typically full of beautiful, flowing text, factoids about your job, and recent vacation pictures. Any cards you receive are quickly scanned for updates, then filed away in a pastel-colored accordion folder in your new home office.

The Standard Santa
You like Christmas. You order cards during online sales and pick a design that allows between 2-4 pictures of your family, preferably with everyone in sweaters. You try to get your cards mailed in time to not be rude. The cards you receive are placed on the counter with every intention of getting taped to the fridge, but 99% of the time end up in the recycling bin sometime around January 19th.

The Vintage Postman
You don't fall for the online gimmicks and marketing techniques of these new-fangled online "photo" card stores. You prefer to head to your local mom-and-pop shop, carefully select a set of pretty, unique Christmas cards, and hand-write a Christmas message to each of your card recipients. You are intentional with your stamp selection. You appreciate receiving cards but sometimes wish the cards were a little more personal and detailed.

The Scrooge
You can't stand Christmas cards. You think they are a complete waste of money and resources and you wish people would stop sending them. Any cards you receive are displayed for an obligatory amount of time and then disposed of, preferably in the recycling so yet another landfill doesn't become filled with our irresponsible holiday behavior.

Now for the most part, those categories are satire. They are not intended to cause guilt or pigeonhole anyone, although I'm sure some of us can relate and match specific faces to each personality. I actually know a Scrooge, and she is a fantastic person who just really doesn't like Christmas cards. All in good fun.

I am a Standard Santa. Christmas cards are more of an obligation than a true joy to me. I do not pen nice notes to my friends and family. I forget about cards until the last minute and, because I also forget to budget for them, end up getting whatever is on sale with whatever pictures I can take myself. I sit back and pray the pictures do the talking...."Look! My kids are alive, look at them being alive and smiling!"

I wish I were more like the gleeful card crackhead. I have visions...beautiful, gorgeous visions of handmade cards, created from scraps and repurposed garbage, created by my own two hands and lovingly delivered in-person to all of my loved ones.

I also really, really want a rainbow unicorn to pull me around in a sled made entirely of caramel butter pecan toffee.

Handmade cards won't happen. I can pretend they will. I can even say they will. But I know me. And they won't.

So that leaves me wondering, as Christmas draws near, why do we send Christmas cards? Do we do it out of obligation? Do we do it because it's the polite thing to do? Is it truly another wasteful tradition stemming from Shutterfly-manufactured demand? Or do we love it? What is the point of mailing a Christmas card?

To answer my question, I first turned to history. I'd read a kids book about a chick named Sarah over the weekend - she apparently saved Thanksgiving. I thought if I dug into the history of Christmas cards, maybe I'd find another cool story about determination and love and the meaning behind Christmas cards.

Instead, I found out the very first American Christmas cards showed up in the late 1840's and were actually too expensive for most people to buy. It wasn't until some dude named Louis Prang came over and started mass-producing cards in 1875 that most Americans were able to buy cards. He was eventually run outta business...although the same cannot be said of John Hall and his two brothers. They started Hallmark cards in 1915 and well, we all know where that went.

So history isn't lending much help in the way of supporting the feel-good tradition of sending Christmas cards. If anything, history speaks to Christmas card commerce....the very thing I don't want to fall victim to. Money is the opposite of Christmas joy, to me.

Well how about an informative infographic? Infographics always help, right?


Hmm. Seven years ago the average American family spent about $32 on Christmas cards. I can tell you that is not my life....I paid $35 for the cards and at $0.49 a pop, my postage will cost an additional $25. So for me, sending my measly 50 cards will cost $60 this year. Just for Christmas cards. Purchased half off. Without the gold foil trim. Or printed return address.

But wait! What's that blurp about donations to charity? Oh. That's the UK. Dang. Good, but still dang. Also apparently only women really buy Christmas cards. My inner feminist is screaming.

So no help from history, no help from infographics...what's a blogger to do?

That's where you come in, dear readers. Tell me, oh tell me, what are your thoughts on Christmas cards? Are they another ploy designed to suck the money from our pockets, or do they add real value to our lives each year?

I think if I were really honest with myself, I would acknowledge that most communication, updating, photo sharing, and happy greetings can be delivered via text, Facebook, or *gasp* in person these days. The lost art of letter writing makes my soul cry but yet I do nothing to bring my pen to the page, to reach out via snail mail to family living far, far away. Instead I do what I can to mitigate the guilt from not spending as much time communicating with family and friends as I should and I buy a photo card and send it in the mail once a year. I should probably stop spending unnecessary money on cards and instead work to send personalized letters or greetings to those I love when I think of them, year-round, instead of just at Christmas. Whew. Good thing I'm not being honest with myself.

So let's hear it, lovelies. Can you relate to any of the personalities I described above? Where do you see yourself? And what is your honest take on Christmas cards...are they wonderful or wasteful? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so, so much for reading!
Jen

22 comments:

  1. I am the vintage postman definitely :) I send about a dozen cards each time. Actually, ever since we relocated to Estonia, I've been sending cards on a monthly basis. Too bad none of my recipients shares my love for the cards as I never ever get them. Guess most of them go into the Scrooge category :)

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    1. Yes! I was afraid I wouldn't meet a vintage postman - to be honest I LOVE getting cards and letters from vintage postmen/women! :) I have a friend who selects the most beautiful Christmas cards each year - I always look forward to her card! I promise you, if your friends and family are anything like me, they appreciate you!! :)

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  2. Oh, I am definitely the Gleeful Card Crackhead! :) I have my stack of 150+ cards on my entryway table READY AND WAITING to be mailed out today! I've had them addressed for weeks! I love sending Christmas cards...and receiving them! This is such a cute post...love it!

    xo,
    blair
    blairblogs.com

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    1. HAHAH Blair I was cracking up reading your comment - I am picturing a tower of cards just waiting to tip over sitting in your hallway - your friends and family are so lucky to have you! Hope you get all the Christmas cards you've ever wanted this year!! :) :) :)

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  3. i'd be a standard santa too, if i could get my fiance to pose for some pictures with me. sadly, we're both terribly awful at that sort of thing, but now that we have a puppy, i might be able to convince him to do it anyway!

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    1. Haha that is hilarious - my husband never wants to be in pictures with us. I always just take a picture of my kiddos. If I didn't have my kiddos I would take pictures of my chickens or my cat for sure! Haha I bet my family would love it! :)

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  4. I love Christmas cards, but I'm afraid in this digital era that they are slowly fading away. My parents generation sends them, but not too many of my friends do. I love getting them though!
    Kari
    www.sweetteasweetie.com

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    1. Right? I'm with you - I am sad pretty stationary no longer has a real place in our lives. I have so much old letter writing stuff my grandparents gave me...I keep it tucked away for a time when I'll make the effort to use it and send real letters! *Sigh* someday!

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  5. I am definitely the Gleeful Card Crackhead. I save every picture card we receive and look at them each November when we take our decorations back out. I love seeing the change in people over the years! I don't save normal cards that don't have pictures unless they are from a grandparent.

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    1. Yesssss - I love you crackheads. You're always so festive! What a cool card tradition! I love knowing there are people out there like you who appreciate my standard santa cards! :)

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  6. It's a love of mine, but it also is work! I am old school and like to send handwritten cards and envelopes, updating people that I do not get to chat with, especially elder family members. I love picking out the cards and the stamps and I also include a few printed out photos from the year. We do not live near most of our card list so it gives me a chance to catch up and let them know that someone is thinking of them. How fun is it when you get a handwritten card that sends you a little message and not just a signature!! I also do not hold myself to a deadline. Some years they get sent for Christmas and some years they are New Year Wishes cards - everyone likes mail no matter when it comes!

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    1. I love it - you're the Vintage Postwoman! I would love to get cards like yours - they sound so special and well thought-out! And yes, a TON of work! HAHAHA I must admit I do love getting stamps. Even tho they are super expensive, stamps make the envelope, for me. When we lived in Germany we didn't have access to the pretty American stamps on our post so by the time I made it back over the Atlantic, I was itching to buy all the special forever stamps I could find :) Thank you so much for sharing! I love your no-pressure way of sending holiday greetings!

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  7. I love sending Christmas cards! Mine are usually the funny ones.

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    1. HAHA OMG I forgot about the funny ones! I love the funny ones!!! Knowing you, yours would be hilarious!

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  8. Haha I'm the The Update Maniac! Maybe since I'm the younger generation and used to computers, emails and digital are the way to go. But I do smile with a real card. Alas, it prob will vanish completely in my lifetime (replaced perhaps by holographs)

    www.obsessivecooking.com

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    1. Yes! Update maniacs have their place in this world for sure! I have an update maniac in my life and I do like reading all about her family each year. HAHAHAHA replaced by holographs - I am dying

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  9. I haven't sent them in 3 years but did them this year. You're TOTALLY right, so wasteful. DAMN! Why didn't you write this 3 weeks ago??!!

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    1. HAHAHA don't worry Kristen, there's always NEXT YEAR *dum..dum...DUMMMM!!!* hahaha! You're so funny girl

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  10. The first one. My motivation is an intense love of crafting combined with a cheapskate personality. I actually cheat somewhat because I make and send about 200 cards each Christmas....on behalf of my parents. They have so many friends. They include a family photo inside each of my handmade cards. I love the system because mom and dad buy the paper and whatever I need and then I make cards while watching movies. My mom is in love with pictures of her family and thinks everybody she knows should have one...and apparently most of our friends and relatives look forward to the yearly photo. This year our family photo was taken when we were all in Cambodia, so it is pretty epic. One year we did "Brady Bunch" style panels because the family wasn't in the same place for the entire year. 2016 will probably be something like that. I also handmake my own Christmas cards, but we don't send out a photo (there's only Angel and I after all, and we always look the same), and I only sent out 13 this year, mostly to our relatives. My design is always more elaborate than the one I make for my parents, just because they have so very many! The cards aren't super fancy when there's 200 of them. Most of our friends are not yet at the stage of life where they have semi-permanent mailing addresses.

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    1. HAHA I would've loved to get your brady bunch card, that is hilarious. And I could totally see you being a card crackhead. You should do a post so I can see some of your designs! I bet they are gorgeous...even the 200+ ones! :)

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  11. I'm in a last category that wasn't noted: indifferent. Lol. No one I know is really into sending Christmas cards because it's not a Holiday we really participate in. I grew up when my mother was in her 'Jehovah's Witness' phase which meant: No Christmas celebration. I had to beg for a Christmas tree, and one year I got it but no subsequent years. Now as an adult with free will, we have one in our home but my boyfriend does NOT care for Christmas or any of its longstanding traditions. Lol! :) Have a great one Jen! -Iva

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    1. Ugh Iva you need a Christmas makeover. If you lived near me I would force you to come over and get de-grinched from all of your childhood christmas blahs. I would decorate you in tinsel and make you happy with my homemade eggnog and WHAMMO, instant IvaSanta.

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