The Horror of Holiday Cards
It happens every year. (Or, at least, you try to make it happen...) The holidays come around, and you get that urge to share with everyone pictures of your beautiful family, to let your friends and relatives know that you're doing well and that you wish them a happy new year.
It sounds like a wonderful sentiment, doesn't it?
So then how does the tradition turn into such pain and anguish for so many people that it's almost abandoned altogether? And then your friends from college send you a picture with their three adorable children, and you really wish you'd sent a card. So you pledge to send one next year, and the same thing happens all over again!
Getting the Picture
Around Thanksgiving, the fact that The Holidays are coming really starts to hit home. One of the parents begins frantically searching for a time when the entire family will be home with an extra adult or two. This, alone, is a task worthy of the gods, but somehow -- be it through the power of an extra forceful parent or through sheer luck -- it gets done. All family members (plus the one) get into one room at once. It's a miracle!
But where to set the picture?
Mom wants it on the front steps. Dad wants it in the living room. Oldest child wants it in the backyard. Younger children don't want to doooo thissssssss. They're clawing at their "Sunday best". The dog gives you a look that tells you he is the only sane one left. You can tell everyone's fading fast. We'll take it right here!
So how to position yourselves within the picture? Who should sit? Who should stand? Should the little ones kneel? Sit back down there! It should be serious... no, it should be silly... let's all stick out our tongues! Mom, this sweater is itchy. Maybe we should get the fireplace and the mantle in the background. Will that make the picture too busy?
The middle and the youngest ones won't look at the camera, and the dog seems to be losing interest. The eldest turns to yell at them. When did this turn into so much anger? Weren't we supposed to share the joy of being a family with all our acquaintances? Everyone smile. At least pretend to love each other for a second...
A couple flashes. The dog wanders off. That's gotta be good enough, right?
Of course the picture-taker, unless a professional photographer, has done it wrong. You look at the camera, and it is more than obvious that the picture is not centered or is too zoomed-in... or not zoomed-in enough. But you look past that. You choose the one where only one of the children is looking in the wrong direction and only one of the dog's eyes is closed. Good enough! You think.
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The Next Steps
Well, that may have been good enough to actually get the photo you're okay to use. But if all of the previous chaos didn't deter you... the following of the same just might.
You see, if sending holiday cards were just the taking of a suitable picture, many more of us would be in the annual habit. It's the sending of the cards that takes so much work that even the most organized will cringe.
It's easy enough to pick a message to write. "Wishing You the Happiest of Holidays! from (love?) the ____ Family" or something like that works perfectly.
But to whom are you going to send this little package of joy? Friends. Okay, but which friends? Friends from high school? Friends from college? Work friends from a job you quit six years ago? Neighbors? Which ones? Who will talk to whom, and who will be hurt if they don't receive a card? Do you even have everyone's updated addresses? And remember that the more cards you send, the more money it will cost in printing and postage.
And what about extended family? You try to send it to "everyone," but will your cousin talk to his cousin that you've met several times, and will she be upset that you forgot her? How far does this "extended" family go, anyways? And what if your uncle didn't invite you to his second wedding three months ago? Will it look like you sent the card out of spite? Do you send a card to the estranged husband of your aunt Cindy? You love him, but he's not really your uncle anymore...
Complexities abound. The digital age may make it easy to compile and print addresses, but not if you don't have the addresses in the first place! Of course you could send the card digitally (hoping that people you painstakingly chose don't delete it immediately as spam), but your computer will certainly not tell you whether it is "worth it" to send one of these painfully-begotten cards to your step-grandfather Lou whose wife (your grandmother) died ten years ago. The software these days really just doesn't go that far.
Basically what I'm saying is that there is no conclusion. Holiday cards will always cause a certain amount of guilt to those that pledge to ourselves we will do them and continually fail to surmount the obstacles.
But don't beat yourself up about it. You know it's a rough road to the holidays, so maybe you shouldn't even bother with a "season's greetings"? I do have to say, though, that I loved growing up and seeing pictures from my parents' college friends with their hot sons... It just might be worth all the trouble to show off your family.