Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas cards, letters, and e-versions

I’m late working on my Christmas communication this year. I know, if I get them in the mail by Wednesday, no one will be the wiser. Well, except for the fact that I just wrote about it here.

Actually writing Christmas cards and letters has changed so much over the years, especially in recent years. I remember as a child the years dad worked for a division of a major corporation that there were cards everywhere in the living and dining rooms. I don’t remember how many we sent in those years because mom “did” cards while we were at school.

Even when we were first married we sent dozens of Christmas cards. I think this was typical of the era but also our status as newlyweds. Everybody who came or sent a wedding gift got a card – for years. Of course being military, like any corporate job, there were a number of required people to send a card to as good business.

Then, we started having children. There is nothing to disrupt your habitual ways of doing anything quite like morning sickness. Obviously we needed a different approach to the stacks of cards for which we wrote personal messages on the back. And so it began - our journey to the dark side of holiday communication.

The first change, which one of us really dug in his heels about, was dropping people who had never sent a Christmas card. Really, even if you don’t apply the filter to business cards, refusing to send cards to people who could but don’t send you a card will cut the list by one third. Note that I wrote “could but don’t;” that means we send to elderly or sick people on the list regardless of getting cards from them.

The second change was to minimize hand-written notes, and thus entered the annual Christmas letter. For us, the letter went, and few still go, to those who wanted fluffy news about the kids but weren’t on the “call regularly” list. In most of these cases we were also getting letters from them, or would eventually. There are some people who hate these letters. But face it some of these people would hate any kind of card you sent as well.

The next change came in the cards and we still do this for those two groups who don’t get the annual but much shortened letter. The first group is inner circle such as close family and a few long term friends who get hand-picked cards. The second group of cards is strictly for business and those people get standard boxed-set business-like cards; sometimes they get New Year’s cards instead.

The changes we haven’t adopted, yet anyway, are the electronic card or the emailed letter. We do get a few every year, and while they are cute and tree-free, they haven’t made it to the list of acceptable practices so far. For some things, there seems to be a line between doing what makes sense to unburden the holiday season and “jonesing” our techy skills. We could get sucked into this very quickly and that would not be good for us or the possibly unenthusiastic recipients with limited bandwidth.

Communicating in December, whether you celebrate Christmas or Chanukah or Kwanzaa or New Years, is unavoidably fraught with hazards. If you can do what you do because you want to do it, things will go more smoothly but even then it won’t be bump free. Our three lists might look like overkill but what it does is it allows us to assembly-line the necessary but not personal cards, tell those who want news “the news,” and then allows us to have time to reflect thoughtfully on the really personal cards.

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Scribbit said...

I've put off our family cards and have as my excuse our family portrait which won't be available until January. I figured I'd send it late this year and include the picture. Rationalization I know :)

Pieces of Me said...

I just made Chanukah cards for Ivry's teachers. As you most likely know, there is such a difference between receiving a card and sending it. the same goes for the receiver, I would presume.

Mrs_Scotsman said...

Saturday I went to Chick-fil-a with my address book and sat down to write Christmas cards...all by myself. I decide to write only cards to those I actually had something I wanted to say. This year it was mainly people who have been there for me, people who have a special relationship with BB, and people I just wanted to catch up with. I completely left DH's family out of it except for Mutti.

Since then I have decided if time allows to....gasp...send an electronic newsletter. I have so many pictures of BB from this year that I want those who don't see her often to see what she has been upto. We have decided to name the publication "The Scotsman Herald".