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Holiday Cards Are Not What They Used to Be

by Carisa Miller
Photo by: Shutterstock

The first year I wrote Christmas cards, it was during happy hour in a fancy downtown hotel over gin and tonic. My new boyfriend had for many years been in the habit of sending holiday greetings, and I thought I might like to give it a try.

We ordered apps and cocktails and set up a card writing production at our table.

By the second round of drinks, we were crying tears of hysterical laughter over our ridiculous messages. These weren’t your typical, “Hope the season finds you merry and bright,” sort of sentiments. Sponsored by the spirits affecting our spirits, we wrote down whatever we were thinking. From, “Shoot! I just realized I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning,” to “Do you have any Grey Poupon?”

We wrote a commentary on the scene at our table, penned conversations back and forth and set our drinks on the cards leaving water rings as stamps to prove our silliness. We thought we were hilarious and had such tremendous fun. We vowed to hold a gin and tonic holiday card writing event every year thereafter.

The next December, we had been married two months. My hand was still cramped from writing wedding thank-yous. We had goofy-faced photo Christmas cards made, and brought home the requisite beverage components. We mixed our drinks and braced ourselves for a riot. It wasn’t the rager we’d had the year before, but it was still a good time.

Getting a greeting card, anytime of year, gives me the warm fuzzies. The thrill of having them come by the mailbox-full during the holidays, can’t be topped. We hang our cards over the entryway to the dining room. It’s a way to gather all the people we love in our home without having to make small talk or clean up after them. But given the effort we put into handwriting the cards we sent back then, I often found myself put off by those greetings that seemed generic. “Just a picture? They only signed their names? Why even bother?” I thought as I examined those cards that didn’t contain personal messages.

Four years, and two kids later, I’d like to travel back in time and smack my former childless self upside the head.

Between being pregnant, new babies and the entropy tornado that is everyday life, I have traded the time and energy I previously used to hand write personal messages – to plot strategies for visiting the bathroom unaccompanied.

Last year, for the first time, I guiltily sent off holiday cards without anything written on them. I cringed at imaginary (harrumphs) made by those on the receiving end. I hated the thought of insulting anyone or giving them the impression my caring for them had diminished. But I figured no message was better than no card.

This year, the children are ‘helping’ me with the cards. Our table is splayed with cards, envelopes, and postage stamps. A list of names and an address book are buried somewhere in the pile. There are envelopes sealed that contain neither card nor address, cards with scribbles over our family photo, and envelopes with postage stamps everywhere but the upper right hand corner.

Gone are the days of my heartfelt and/or gin induced personalized holiday greetings. This year it’ll be a win if the post office doesn’t reject any of the Christmas cards that actually make it into the mail.

Each year, as I am looking over my list, asking around for updated mailing addresses and stuffing envelopes, the people I send cards to are on my mind. I count years on my fingers to determine how long I’ve known them, or try to recall the last time we saw each other. I replay old times and spend a few moments with each person in my memory.

I realize now, that there is still magic in cards that barely get sent. It doesn’t matter whether they are homemade or handwritten. If you skip a year or send a bulk email. All holiday greetings come with love.

Are you sending holiday cards this year? Do you write messages in each one? Send just a picture? I’d love to know.

Carisa Miller is a sarcasm wielding, cherub lugging, cheese devouring nut-job. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her astonishingly patient husband, two fireball daughters, and an ill-tempered cat. Her haphazard adventures in baby raising, gardening, crafting, cooking and everything else are strewn across her website, Carisa Miller:Do You Read Me?, and on Twitter, Facebook & Pinterest, where serious undertones and actual information occasionally leak through one-liners and run-on sentences.

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