January 8, 2009

Photo Christmas Cards Suck

I like to send out Christmas cards every year. I will confess that one of the reasons why I participate in this annual ritual is so that I can prove to myself that I still know people and that I still have friends somewhere in the world. (However, this myth is often destroyed when I get cards returned back to me from the post office that are stamped "undeliverable" because a particular friend or family member moved and decide that I wasn't important enough to get the forwarding address information. Of course, if I wasn't such a bad friend or family member in the first place, then I would have known they were moving from the beginning.)

I have also selfishly keep track of how many Christmas cards I send out and how many I get back in return from others. I've been doing this for a few years, and there are a couple of disturbing trends arising in the Christmas card tradition.

The first trend is that people don’t really send out Christmas cards anymore. This year, I mailed 43 Christmas cards to family and friends. In the vast majority of these situations, the 43 recipients have been on my "list" for many years (so it’s not the first time they are getting a card from me). In addition, I send my cards out at the beginning of December, so recipients have plenty of time to receive them, realize they "forgot" to send me a card, then mail me one.

Despite the advance and repeated mailings every year, I only received 19 Christmas cards this December. That is only a 44% response rate from the 43 cards that I sent out. One theory could be that the majority of the people on my Christmas card list actually hate me, which would explain why I only got 19 cards, even though I sent out 43. But I think it is more likely that people have really given up on the whole Christmas card tradition. For the past few years now, I have only been receiving about one Christmas card for every two that I sent out. Perhaps "mail" is getting too old fashioned in our digital age, or perhaps people find themselves too busy to send out cards at this time of year. I’m not sure why people have given up on the tradition, because I kind of like it (and I don't really like anything). What are your thoughts on Christmas cards? Are they a waste of time? Why have people stopped sending them? Is it an "old person's" ritual?

The other disturbing trend I noticed in Christmas cards is that the majority of Christmas cards that I now receive are photo cards. Perhaps I shouldn't really complain, since I just went on and on about how I don't receive enough Christmas cards, but I hate these photo cards. I'm not against the photo cards in general - I just hate what people do with them.


Of the 19 Christmas cards I received this year, 11 were photo cards – so more than half of the Christmas cards I received had a photo on them. Of the 11 photo cards that I received, only one had the full family on it (mom, dad and son) and the rest of the cards only featured the couples' children - no parents. The kids in these photos ranged in age from 1 year old to 16 years old. Of the 11 different groups of children featured on these photo cards, I have actually met/seen only three of them in my entire life (and I haven’t seen any of those more than twice in my life). So, basically, I got 8 Christmas cards from total strangers.


Who is this person, and why is she sending me a Christmas card?? (And, perhaps more importantly... why is she wearing that hideous dress?)

Can someone please, PLEASE tell me why parents refuse to put themselves in the photo for the Christmas card?! I hate getting these damn cards from kids who I have never seen in my life and probably never WILL see in my life. I didn't send the stupid kid a Christmas card – I sent one to the parents. It's the PARENTS that I am friends with, or when to school with, or grew up with... not their kids. I don't care about their kids. I mean, I care about their kids to the extent that the kids make my friends happy, and I guess that's nice. But I don't really care about them in isolation, so why do the parents make the kids the prominent (and ONLY) feature on the Christmas cards?! Maybe, MAYBE, if it was a newborn, you can get away with doing it, but why is your 16-year old on the Christmas card? You can have the kids on the Christmas card, just make sure you include yourselves. It's the parents that I want to see, not the kids (who I have never met in my life because they live in a far-off city or something). I know everyone thinks their own kids are the best – but, really, isn't it presumptuous of these parents to jam their kids down our throats by putting them on a Christmas card and, simultaneously, depriving us of a photo of themselves - the only people we actually know?

Are parents so absorbed with their own kids that they insist on only having the kids in the photo? Do they feel that including themselves in the photo would be too conceited on their part? I don't get it. I just don't get it why the parents aren't in the photo, especially when it's only the parents that anyone really cares about. Put the whole family in the photo – what is wrong with that?! Why is that so horrible and so "wrong" to do??


Are these "bad people" for putting their entire family in the Christmas card photo? (Perhaps they are bad because they also appear to be members of the Aryan Nation, but that's another discussion)

Someone suggested to me that the reason why the parents don't put themselves in the Christmas card photo is because the parents know they look like shit - they look fat and/or old, and they are too self conscious about it. That might be a possible explanation... after all, this is America, and we get fat easily here – especially after having kids. But there are cards I received from really good-looking, thin parents (both the husband and wife) and the only people in the photo are the two kids (one of which is a step child of my friend, so I REALLY didn't care about that one). So that couple wasn't fat or old, and yet they weren't in the photo.

There are other examples I can think of where the parents weren't in the photo, even though they are attractive, so I'm convinced that the reason why parents don't put themselves in the photo is because they are self-conscious and bad-looking. I have to believe that the reason is because parents feel they need to "put the children before themselves" and that they feel it is too presumptuous, conceited and arrogant to feature themselves on the front of the card. Because, if the parents are in the photo, it's because they DECIDED to be in the photo, whereas the children are kids, and they don't have a say in the matter - the kids didn't consciously insist on being on the card... they were put there. Although, I would argue that consciously putting your own kid on the front of a Christmas card ("look at him! look at my kid, everyone!") is just as presumptuous and conceited as putting yourself on the card. Frankly, I don't really advocate ANYONE being in a photo on a Christmas card, but if you are going to do it - do us all a favor and put the people who we have real relationships with in the photo. I know parents don't really want to hear this, but we don't give a flying fuck about your 6-year daughter who we never, ever met. We care about you... the people who we have been friends with for 20 years. Not caring about your kids doesn't make us a bad person or a bad friend - it makes us real people with real priorities. We care about YOU, and that makes us good people.

So, I don't know... I'm annoyed and frustrated by receiving these photo cards that might as well be from total strangers with pre-printed messages that are stuffed in envelopes with pre-printed address labels. I mean, could you get any more impersonal? Maybe this is why people have stopped sending traditional Christmas cards... because of the crap you get in return. Maybe I will join them next year and stop sending cards. Or maybe I will print up a bunch of photo cards with some random child I find on the street and see what type of response I get.

13 comments:

  1. what's even worse is when people send photo christmas cards of their pets! i mean, if i don't want to see your child, i certainly don't want to see your dog!

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  2. Right on, Minister!!!! I thought I was the only one who tracked how many I got versus what I sent out. And I hate to admit that I'm so anal that I keep a database...and basically if I haven't gotten a card from you 3 years in a row, I drop you off my list. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but you have to draw the line somewhere...

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  3. Wow! Are you people Grinches! I guess I have real friends and family because I get more cards than I send AND everyone remarks on them and I love ALL photo cards! Even the silly pet ones. Maybe you would have more friends and people that really cared if you got out there in life instead of complaining about photo cards. Get out there...life is short...make the best of you time.

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  4. I totally agree that people should put themselves in the photo card, instead of just the children! I think that should be right etiquette.

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  5. It's obvious you do not have kids, Minister! If you have kids, then you would see how difficult it is to get everyone together for a family portrait. It's much easier to just take a photo of the children.

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  6. How about the cards with the kids holding hands and their backs facing the camera? Some new trend this year it seems. If I have to look at pics I would at least like to see faces.

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  7. You sounds really needy and whiny. Are you like this is real life or is this an online persona?

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  8. Dear Anonynmous above, yes I do whine a lot, but I prefer to call it "constructive complaining". And, unfortunately, it's not an online persona - I'm like this in real life (although I do tend to intentionally "overdo" it on this blog). I pretty much expect that everyone will hate me... which is only fair because there are quite of few people I don't like either. But try not to take it too seriously - it's called sarcasm.

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  9. I ran across this from 2009 and hope you are getting this reply. THANK YOU!!! I am artist and in the gift design field. We work hard to make a living creating beautiful cards. This disturbing trend in bland, boring photo collage cards printed from companies online, Costco, Walmart, etc featuring family members and bad art is just really getting on my nerves. I love getting photos, but put them INSIDE the card. The real kind of Christmas card. Your own art, your own photo, a box from Target or Walmart of art you like an artist is trying to make a living creating, etc. Enough with the stupid family photo Christmas cards!!! They go directly in the trash. I am not going to frame or display something that looks like a commercial post card.

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  10. I hope you're getting my reply, too. We NEED you back! Common Sense needs as many defenders as possible! Without them, Common Sense is doomed to fail!!!

    *ahem* Anyway, I agree with what you've said about photo Christmas cards. I'd say that 90% of the Christmas cards we get are pre-printed Walmart garbage like what you've shown here. Now I don't want to be an ungrateful "Grinche" but I am surprised at how little we regard Christmas cards in comparison to, say, thank-you cards given for wedding gifts. For example, a hand-written appreciation is considered a requirement in the world of Wedding etiquette. Christmas cards should be treated more intimately and with more value than thank-you cards in my opinion. Yet Christmas cards are so much more impersonal and tacky and these days. I don't care what your excuse is; your family and friends deserve the consideration of a hand printed, thoughtfully chosen Christmas card. And if you have to send a photo card, at least take a Sharpy and write a quick message to the recipient.

    If your Christmas card list is too big for this, you have too many "friends."

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  11. I hope you're getting my reply, too. We NEED you back! Common Sense needs as many defenders as possible! Without them, Common Sense is doomed to fail!!!

    *ahem* Anyway, I agree with what you've said about photo Christmas cards. I'd say that 90% of the Christmas cards we get are pre-printed Walmart garbage like what you've shown here. Now I don't want to be an ungrateful "Grinche" but I am surprised at how little we regard Christmas cards in comparison to, say, thank-you cards given for wedding gifts. For example, a hand-written appreciation is considered a requirement in the world of Wedding etiquette. Christmas cards should be treated more intimately and with more value than thank-you cards in my opinion. Yet Christmas cards are so much more impersonal and tacky and these days. I don't care what your excuse is; your family and friends deserve the consideration of a hand printed, thoughtfully chosen Christmas card. And if you have to send a photo card, at least take a Sharpy and write a quick message to the recipient.

    If your Christmas card list is too big for this, you have too many "friends."

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  12. I send out holiday cards to close family members, only about 5 cards per season. I buy the cards individually, picking them out according to the receipent. I don't care if I get a card in return, that's not the point. However, I do absolutely hate those photo cards, whoever or whatever they choose to put on the cover. Why do I want a picture of your kids visiting Santa-yuck. I especially hate when a neighbor, who I am not even social with, sticks one of these cards in my mailbox a couple of days before xmas. It's so obvious that they have ordered too many photo cards and are trying to unload them! Even worse when they contain a running commentary of the familys entire year. And yes, I do have both a child and pet that I love to look at-I just choose not to shove them down everyones throat.

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    ReplyDelete