Documenting the Coming Singularity

Friday, December 15, 2006

Battle of the Christmas Cards

By 11:08 AM
(Thanks Mom, for the idea behind this article! I owe you one. Actually, I owe you quite a few.)

As each Christmas season comes around, our hearts beat just a tiny bit faster and our minds are filled with images of sugar plums, and…the battle of the Christmas cards. (I must confess that I, personally, have never actually sent anyone a Christmas card. Well, I have put stamps on some and placed them gently in the mailbox, but the fact is, my wife does all the rest of it each year.) What is the battle of the Christmas cards? From what I've been told, it involves the choices one must make, often excruciatingly difficult, concerning who should get one and who should not. In the spirit of my blog, I will attempt to assist all of you who must face this mêlée every year, year after year after year. Let us begin with a brief history of the Christmas card.

According to Wikipedia, Christmas cards began their illustrious existence with the commissioning by Sir Henry Cole of London in 1843 of a batch of 1,000 cards, each of which was sold for a shilling (pictured above). The same article explains that "official" Christmas cards were pioneered by Queen Victoria in the 1840s. Sadly, the arrival of technology has had an unhelpful effect by making other forms of keeping in touch much simpler to use. In the U.S., the average household took delivery of 20 cards in 2004, down from 29 in 1987. So heartbreaking for Hallmark and company.

Depending on their stamina, and perhaps sense of decorum, people send Christmas cards to relatives, close friends, distant acquaintances, and people they're not sure they can identify but who sent them a card a year previously. This practice can easily result in the need to address and personalize scores of cards and envelopes, which can take many hours to complete. And so the issue becomes, where do they draw the line? How can they reduce the list to a manageable number of cards? The battle begins.

A significant part of the challenge, it seems to my disinterested mind, must be having a bit of knowledge as to how meaningful the receipt of a card from you actually is to each person on your list. Let's face up to the truth…someone who couldn't care less whether they receive a cards from you or not, and who will very probably throw your card away the minute they get it from the mailbox into their home, cannot be said to be very deserving of your heroic efforts to send it. On the other hand, knowing that Aunt Millie will not only note the absence of a card from you, but will cut you out of her last will and testament entirely, well, that calls for a very nice card, don't you think? And then there's the gloomy requirement to cull from your list those who are dearly departed since last year. Not a pleasant task, but necessary in order to maintain a lean and mean directory.

Finally, I leave you with 8 Christmas card etiquette tips from Drs. Dave and Dee:

1. If uncertain if the recipient celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah, or another religious faith or tradition, then send a neutral card with a greeting of "Happy Holidays", "Season's Greetings", "Warm Wishes for a Happy Holiday Season", or "Peace on Earth".

2. Write the recipient's name inside the card.

3. Write a short note wishing them well, a simple sentence is better than nothing.

4. Even if your name is preprinted in the card, sign your first name after your short message.

5. Including a photo of the family is always delightful.

6. Send cards out in time for the recipient to receive before Christmas.

7. Only send holiday newsletters to close friends and family who would be interested in the details.

8. Remember to include your return address on the envelope.

9. Send a card to everyone who sends you one. 10. E-mail greeting cards are not a substitute for an actual holiday card.

Now, once more unto the breach, dear friends!