Friday, December 14, 2012

Column: A happy Christmas is in the cards

Do you remember mail? It came in envelopes and someone would leave it in a box at the end of your driveway? You’re right, it does sound ridiculous.

Anyway, this is the one time of year when real mail makes a comeback. That’s because many people still send Christmas cards: For the price of a stamp (whatever that is), this allows you to share some tangible holiday cheer, not to be confused with the digital holiday cheer that involves putting someone’s head on a dancing elf. As hilarious as that may be.

Of course there are some questions involved with holiday cards, such as whether you should display them prominently around your house, or leave them in an unkempt pile on your kitchen counter until you throw them away on Dec. 26. Neither of these choices is necessarily correct, except for the second one.

Then there’s the question of what kind of card to send. There are several options, some of which even involve using glitter that spills out of the envelope when someone opens it, which is a great idea if you’re planning to send cards mostly to people you hate. If that’s not the case, though, consider one of the following:

1) Kid cards. Somewhere along the line it became a law that if you had a child between the ages of 0 and college, it was required that you stick their picture on your Christmas card. This made some sense back in the pre-Facebook days, but it’s less necessary now that you digitally document your child’s every milestone and achievement, and also all those times when they’re more adorable than all the other kids, which is always.

I’m among those guilty of using this method, partly because there’s now a certain level of Mutually Assured Christmas Card Destruction: Everyone involved agrees to keep proliferating children-centric Christmas cards so as not to be branded as the one set of parents not obsessively proud of their kids’ sparkling photographic charisma. Who knows what the other parents would think if you sent out a card that shunned your own children in favor of say, the baby Jesus, who is much less likely to be posed in a Santa hat in front of a fake fireplace. Which reminds me:

2) Jesus cards. These are cards meant to share in a joyous celebration of the birth of Christ, and to remind you that at some point you became a godless heathen who puts his own kid on his Christmas cards instead of God’s kid. (And are thus implicitly hell-bound, Merry Christmas.) Of course, you also might not be sending a Jesus card because you’re Jewish. Which brings me to:

3) “Seasons Greetings” cards. Since most families these days are made up of people practicing any number of religions, often at the same time, you might be safer with a “Season’s Greetings” card appropriate for Christian, Jew, Muslim, Wiccan, agnostic and atheist alike. Because even if we have differing beliefs, at the end of the day, there’s one thing we can all agree on: that it is currently a season.

4) Cards with side-splitting comical cartoons in which Santa’s butt crack is showing. Please stop sending me these. You know who you are.

5) Spite cards. These are cards sent specifically to arrive on Dec. 24, thus giving the receiver no time to send a card in response. Spite-card senders have been known to spend months mapping out a delivery timetable so as to ensure maximum guilt for the recipients, which is what the holidays are all about.

Wait, scratch that — I read my notes wrong. Perhaps what the holidays are really about, among other things that may or may not involve guilt, is slowing down long enough to appreciate what you’ve got and share some of that aforementioned good cheer — maybe even by writing out an actual card or two. If you manage to spread even a little old-fashioned holiday joy — real, physical joy that you can touch and smell, not eJoy — maybe it makes all the writing and stamping worthwhile.

But if I see my kids in that pile on your counter, next year you’re getting the dancing elf.

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