Heralding the holidays

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It’s post-Thanksgiving and the last of the leftovers are being weeded out of the fridge for the 13th meal in a row. Work resumes and day-to-day routines start up again as you begin the final push towards Christmas, Kwanzaa, Chanukah, or maybe just the idea of a brief winter vacation. As you check the mail you begin to see cards from loved ones, acquaintances, and occasionally someone you struggle to remember knowing. (it’s OK, we all have those).

Christmas cards, holiday cards, end-of-year family portraits, and even letters with a multi-page yearly update on the family begin to arrive before, during and throughout the holiday season. It’s something that has been a tradition for millions over the years and can be as simple as a photograph or as elaborate as collaborating with the family to wear matching sweaters in June in order to have the Christmas logistics all wrapped up in time before the holidays.

With technology these days, it’s easier and cheaper than ever to mass-produce these mementos that collect on family fridges over the years. Where you may have had to pay to print photos before, you can now just send a digital card or email to your family and friends. Even old traditions have new variations.

So what can you do to share this manifestation of the holiday season? Well, there are a number of options, but photos seem to be the true centerpiece of Christmas cards. Now, not everyone has a great stone fireplace to gather in front of and others will never be so organized as to be able to find the photo they took at last year’s Christmas for this one, but those aren’t the things that matter.

If you truly want to embrace the tradition, follow one simple rule: Don’t overthink it.

For years now, the standards of Christmas card etiquette have been fading into the doily-garnished archives of the past. Can you still embrace the old ways? Of course. However, far fewer people expect it and you can feel comfortable sharing non-holiday-related photos in your cards. Common yet great photos to use include engagement photos, newborn photos, family vacation photos, etc. If it happened in the last year or so, it’s fair game.

Mostly what you are sharing is the message of inclusion. You want them to feel close to you, to simply feel that you are involving them in your life. These kinds of photos are great conversation starters for when you make those phone calls around the holidays to catch up with relatives you haven’t heard from all year.

Not everything needs to be shared on social media, and for some who have family that aren’t on social media; this is a genuine insight into your life and what has been happening. Perhaps it was a vacation photo, so talk about what you did, where you went, where your family member or friend has been thinking about going and so on.

The holidays are about being together, if not in the brevity of a card, then in the conversations and interactions we have as a result of them. This may have been the problem with old-fashioned cards where everyone was always dressed for the holidays and were posed the same way every year. There’s nothing new going on, there’s no insight or conversation starter to be had.

Some people send pictures of their dogs, why not? If it’s something that means something to you, it will mean something to those you send it to.  Take the money out of the equation. With cards like these, it’s about the exchange of personality, passion, and individuality. What better to warm everyone’s spirits?

In terms of your actual budget, the digital option is all but free. If you have a phone with a camera, you can take pictures that are just about as good as any fancy Nikon or Canon camera. Take the picture, edit it if you feel so inclined, and send an email with it to your contacts. If you are a citizen of experience that lies outside of the tech world, use this to your advantage. Recruit your grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc. Use the time they help you to send this out as an opportunity to spend time with them and spark a little of that holiday cheer.

Again this isn’t about the technology per se, but in all options lies the chance for spending time with those we love.

Finally, when it comes to those store-bought cards that you take the time to write out for yourself, don’t change a thing. A handwritten note goes a long way and it means something to get a card, especially one with words and thoughts not generated from the Hallmark company.

In this time of uncertainty with the pandemic and social distancing, holiday cards can be a great way to close the gap between us and draw closer to one another.

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