Christmas card season is the one time of year the Postal Service earns its keep. The rest of the year they have nothing to deliver except those cardboard packets containing CDs that stamps.com sends to every household in America each month. In an ironic twist worthy of inclusion in an Alanis Morissette song, the Postal Service’s biggest customer is trying to convince everyone to print their stamps online, thereby making the local post office even more obsolete.
But people don’t just send Christmas cards to provide postal worker job security; they are sending a message. That message is often hard to find beneath the foil, glitter and mushy sentiments. Here’s a handy guide to help you unlock the REAL message of holiday cards.
1) The look: Photo of holiday-dressed, cute kids says, “I started getting ready 3 months ago by shopping for matching outfits, getting the kids dressed, taking the photo, having the cards printed, stamped and in the mail a month before Christmas. Now I’m off to bake 20 dozen cookies for the school sale, then alphabetize my pantry.”
2) The message: One of 5 available canned message/border combos says, “I got a discount coupon for holiday printing at Walgreen’s.”
3) Who sends it: Uber-organized, driven Super Moms one step away from a nervous breakdown.
1) The look: Glossy finishes, foil embellishment and heavy card stock all contribute to a rich, elegant look that says, “This is a tax write-off.”
2) The message: Generic wishes for “the season” are as neutral as possible to avoid incurring the wrath of easily offended religious or anti-religious groups. Businesses would just say Happy Winter if they didn’t think that would seem to favor Wiccans.
The stamped signature (either foil embossed or simulated signature font) sends the joyous holiday message, “I’m too busy and important to bother to sign this myself.”
3) Who sends it: Your accountant, lawyer or investment adviser. More accurately, their secretaries, since that is who handles the whole process from ordering cards through separating the wheat from the chaff on the client list to printing mailing labels.
1) The look: Tri-fold, single sheet with narrative interspersed with pictures of the family schussing in Vail says, “My Publisher program came with several newsletter templates.”
2) The message: Braggy McBraggart lists of kids awards, job promotions and exotic trips taken that year says, “My life is better than yours.”
3) Who sends it: Old classmates, kids friends’ moms, former lovers, your sister-in-law or anyone else who wants to rub your nose in their success.Genuine card:
1) The look: Elegant scene says, “Let’s celebrate the reason for the season,” without bashing your head in about it all.
2) The message: Handwritten note starting with an anecdote about the dog barfing on the Christmas tree skirt and ending with good wishes and blessings says, “I’m a genuine person who truly cares about you.”
3) Who sends it: Me. If you didn’t get your card yet, blame the post office. They probably stashed all my Christmas cards under a viaduct in Chicago once again. Those bastards.