In the spastic miasma of acrimony that is apparently the new normal, one looks back fondly to Holidays past, the one time during the year where it would be possible to unplug, have a holiday movie on the TV in the background, and read cards with personal greetings from friends, with updates on what happened over the last year.
More ambitious senders might include a copy of a family portrait, often taken at a tool and underwear retailer called Sears. If particularly well-organized, they would manage to get the cards to arrive by Christmas, maybe even a week early.
It was exciting to find these hand-addressed, slightly plump cards in the mail, and display them together as a visual totem of amity. Yes, those were the good old ancient pre-Netflix days.
As holiday activity and accompanying stress levels continued to increase, some people turned to electronic greetings or stopped altogether, but cards remained for many an annual tradition they just couldn’t bear to discontinue.
Over time, the holiday card seemingly lost its soul, with a personal message replaced by an enclosed dossier of achievements of truly exceptional people (“Timmy was accepted into the ultra-selective XYZ Day Camp…”).
Cards became less reaching out to you, more about ‘let’s talk about me’.
Ultimately, obligation overwhelmed the pleasure of friendships as the driving force behind the sending of holiday cards.
Today, if you can actually find any holiday cards hidden within an endless swamp of catalogs, what you’ll see has become quite different. These cards, often custom-made for the occasion, are on high quality stock, with stunning retouched photography of a perfect family and a printed identifying caption, maybe addressed with printed labels or even faux calligraphy. They are beautiful. And they are coming in hot, ahead of schedule.
(Businesses, on the other hand, have kept the same printed card M.O. for decades – often using the exact same printed cards).
There is a name for this perfection: it’s called Customer Relationship Management. CRM is an automated way for businesses to keep in touch with their customers, in the interest of maintaining relationships. CRM uses something called Mass Customization – – the automatic inclusion of your name in a mass mailing – – you get these all the time and are no doubt moved near tears by the thoughtfulness of Credit Card Company X to think of you and include your very own name!
People are now basically adapting CRM for their personal cards. (“It’s Holiday Card time – – grab the ‘friend’ spreadsheet, upload a photo and let’s check that box and go to Cancun!”)
The problem is that CRM is great for businesses, not so much for actual friends.
While the gesture is admirable, spectacular production values are just no match for a heartfelt greeting – – a personal touch lets the recipient instantly know that they’re not just on your holiday contact list.
If the message is business focused, perhaps to let a coworker or client know you’re thinking of them (in an appropriate way of course), some nice holiday greetings can be found here.
And if you still appreciate the spirit of sending personal cards to friends, we salute you. And for those fellow scramblers whose cards are not yet out the door, try these humble curmudgeonly tips to help bring back some of the joyful connections of the Holidays (adding these steps will of course put even more pressure on you, but isn’t stress what the holidays are about?):
- For the friends you actually care about, consider putting some actual ink on the cards – – even if just to write your name. Typeset names on cards look a lot like “From the offices of…”
- Deflate the humble-brag notes. Facebook built a multi-billion-dollar business by creating a platform for family highlight reels. We’ve known for years that your Timmy is special and we naturally extend our deep admiration to you. But that turf is now taken and your news is old!
Most importantly, above everything else, please please please – no glitter!
Nice – I love that you included Mary Christine’s letter. Hope she doesn’t find out!