No matter what time of year it is, your Instagram feed is probably a carefully curated collection of your friends’ best moments.
But the holidays bring a whole other level of projecting a perfect life.
There is family photo shoot after no-tears family photo shoot. Moms and dads and kids, holding hands in a cheerful line, frolicking through fields awash in fall colors. Coordinated, cold-weather outfits for everyone. Rover the Dog is running alongside the whole parade. Savvy parents-to-be might even use the holiday card as a means of announcing the baby’s impending arrival. I have first-hand knowledge of this holiday card baby-announcement hack because I tried to let everyone know about the birth of my second and last child by holding a present in front of my abdomen on our 2014 holiday card. I say “tried” because the understated writing announcing the pregnancy on the back of the card combined with the present held in front of my stomach were too subtle for most to catch.
Enough with all of it! You won’t get a holiday card from me this year, because I’m not sending any.
I can’t help but feel that the original purpose of sending note cards during the holidays, to connect with loved ones near and far through a personal greeting, has gone by the wayside. Holiday cards have become a glossy, polished excuse to show off our lives that is disguised as a greeting. Do we wish our family and friends well? Of course we do. But I believe the practice of sending greeting cards around Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s and all the seasonal rest, has strayed from a selfless purpose. Who really needs a whole included letter about how well little Jake is doing in soccer this year and your wife’s promotion? Social media keeps us all up-to-date on those sort of life milestones, anyway.
All this said, the idea of holiday cards is still pretty harmless. It’s fun to get mail and find the handwritten address labels of holiday cards hidden in all the junk mail. Getting mail from someone tells you they’re thinking about you, and kid pictures are cute to look at.
My husband and I have taken pictures with our decorated Christmas tree and made them into holiday cards well before we had our kids, back when it was just us posing with our cranky cat in a tiny Santa hat. One ambitious year once both of our kids had arrived, we wore matching papa bear, mama bear, brother bear and sister bear pajamas for our holiday card picture. We were THAT family.
We’ve hired a professional photographer for a family photo shoot the past couple of years. Taking family photos is a great way to preserve memories and moments in time, but it’s expensive, requires lots of pre-planning, and is not something we can swing every year. Last year, we had a family photo shoot but ended up just creating a digital holiday card instead of mailing one out. We just plain ran out of time. Plus, is there anything more frustrating and tedious than digging around for Aunt Karen’s address, and texting your mom for your cousin’s new house number?
Finally, mailing holiday cards is pricey, at a time when so much money is already being spent on gifts.
This year, we didn’t manage a family photo shoot and we’re not doing a printed holiday card. We may or may not bother with a digital version.
Our kids are now 8 and 4, and we’re struggling to keep our heads above the water with Cub Scout activities, school dress-up days, dance recitals, choir performances and work holiday parties and potlucks. Our outside Christmas lights didn’t get up until weeks into December. We’re too busy living life to carefully craft a filtered image of a life being lived.
My husband and I discussed doing a holiday card this year, and were both ambivalent. We’re putting in real effort this year especially to be with family and friends during the holidays. We’ll be traveling to spend time with family members from both of our sides. We’re baking goods to share with friends and coworkers. If we don’t have time to curate an image of holiday happiness for a holiday card amidst the chaos of our real holiday happiness and stressful pitfalls, that’s perfectly fine.
Holiday cards can be a fun way to show off our super cute kids and let people in our lives past and present know we’re thinking of them. But they’re certainly not required reading to live our best holiday lives. Hand-written cards with no photos are just as good if not better, and a phone call or visit are truly the tinsel on the tree.
Real life is messy and busy, with nuances that can’t be captured in a professional photo shoot.
Maybe the best message we can send this holiday season is permission to ourselves to let go of some of the holiday pressures, and to be truly present in the moments as they speed by.
More About Holiday Cards:
- Clever Ways to Add Announcements Into Your Holiday Cards
- Here’s What to Do With Hour Holiday Cards After the Holidays
- DIY Holiday Card Tree