Thursday, December 08, 2011

To Card or Not To Card: Perpetuating Holiday Traditions (or Not)


Recently, there was a discussion about holiday etiquette, which was really just a catchy timely headline for everyday etiquette because it was just about thank you notes.

That same discussion -- with its preference for handwritten notes -- has echoed around my circles lately. In general, I am the minority who think that email is all right for sending a thanks or expression of appreciation.

I'm kind of in the Warm Fuzzy camp, I guess, when it comes to sending good wishes and positive sentiment -- Bring It On!

I have the same philosophy about holiday cards: I really don't care what your reason for the season is, if you want to wish me and mine well, I'll take it! And hopefully, you'll accept my wishes for you and yours, too. But oooh boy have I ever heard some actually rude sentiments around this -- both from the recipient side. I've heard some people say they only accept cards that are specifically Christmas cards. ACK! I've also heard people who do not celebrate Christmas resent any type of good wishes this time of year, even innocuous Peace ones.

"That's just a mask over Christmas; I know which holiday they really mean!" the angry person told me.

For the fourth time that week I replied, "Hmm, well it varies year to year a bit but isn't it Hanukkah about now, with Kwanzaa and Christmas coming up? I think Islam is out for this month but sometimes I think they are in. Isn't it kind of cool to see all the major monotheistic religions sort of coming together in a positive spirit with good wishes across religious borders?"

"No," the person snapped. That person was frustrated because she felt her own personal atheism was being trampled and disrespected.

I can sort of see the perspective. Rick Perry's opinion (or whatever that is) aside, Christmas is sort of crammed down our throats starting earlier and earlier and getting bigger and bigger every year. Also, the ante keeps getting upped. Charities and retailers alike count on The Most Wonderful Time of the Year more and more as the economy keeps hurting, and the desperate stakes messages can slam you hard. It's a barrage by mid-November.

Still. I hope people don't lump their friends who just want to say Happy New Year in with that.

Sometimes my cards are vague: Peace-Love-Joy. Sometimes I just get to the point and don't obfuscate: Merry Christmas. But my message is always the same: I wish you and yours well.

I've tried doing this different times of the year, such as Valentine's Day. But it just doesn't feel the same. Also, it caused me to fall off a lot of card lists. I'm still trying to recover.

I like sending holiday cards this time of year.

I've sent photo cards with a pictorial trip through our family year, a single photo with a short message, a beautiful design card with a typed letter inside regaling friends and family about our exploits, and many other iterations. Right now it's a card with several shots of our family individually and together. I guess this year it's about who we are -- a family -- more than where we've been and what we've done.

Whatever the style, I am so very excited every single time I go to the mailbox and find a new well-wishing card inside. I love sending and receiving holiday cards. I hardly care how they look (although they are always so gorgeous and individual), or what they say (although I breathe in the sentiment). I only care that they are and they are from you and you sent one to me.

I'm passing it on, too. I got the cutest little ornament cards for the kids to give to their teachers and good friends.

The girls, I've noticed, adore everything and anything to do with the Christmas season. Elf on the shelf (and everywhere else in the house), putting up decorations in stages (hey, I'm only human, a little here, a little there), watching holiday shows (wow, film makers were busy this past year -- there is a new one every day, though we stick to classics mainly), and so on. It's a chance for me to say things such as, "This show came out the year I was born and I've watched it every single year since." They don't know who some of the famous characters are -- Burl Ives, Bing Crosby -- and I delight in telling them. When cards arrive, they stare at the photos, sometimes making an observation, sometimes asking a question. I delight in telling them about thoughtful Aunt Dolly in Chicago who sends them handmade ornaments in cards every year, and how most of the ornaments on our tree are from her. They like hearing about far away cousins and family.

It brings us together.

So yeah, put me on Team Card. And Team Holiday Letter.

I know we keep up via Facebook and email and occasional passings by at school or events, but it's nice to know we're friends here, too.

So...to card or to not card?

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I've bought cards from a variety of sources -- sometimes charities, sometimes stationary stores, sometimes big box stores. I'm personally a big fan of the photo card, and being able to create it from the comfort of my desk and in my own time.

This year I tried out three different sites and services. I won't name the ones I didn't select because frankly, they were okay, just not a fit for me and what matters most to me.

My 2011 cards -- mine personally and the kids -- came from Tiny Prints. I went there first because I'd gotten cards from them before and was happy, but being a savvy shopper I had to try a few other spots too. I ended up going back to them.

What I liked there over other spots:
  • lots of designs and styles, definitely a lot I liked
  • a lot of layouts that can work for whatever you want to do
  • once you pick a design, you can select among more customizing layouts
  • you upload and store photos, which you can use over and over
  • you can edit photos in small ways (zoom in or out, sepia, black and white, shift) that enable you to tweak photos in place and see how it looks
  • they have customer service available to help (which I've used)
I liked being able to save my designs so I could do them in my own time. Best of all, though, was knowing that staff checked it to ensure it looked good and would do a fix if it needed it.

The card looked great on the screen, but when it arrived, it exceeded my expectations. The paper was very high quality and the right stock (nongloss) that I could use a pen to sign it. The colors were rich and true to what I expected from the screen, and the photos were crisp and perfect. I was really happy with these, and so glad to send them out to friends and family.

I also appreciated the messages letting me know the status.

I did pay for the cards myself and had received them when Tiny Prints contacted me with a promo code. So in fair disclosure, they did end up providing the cards for the kids and gave me a credit. However, they did not ask for this review or demand anything in return, and this post and my review is fully my own opinion. In fact, when they contacted me, I was already a satisfied customer.