I LOVE handmade Christmas cards. LOVE them. Almost as much as I love family Christmas letters - give me a handmade card with a family Christmas letter inside and I am yours forever! But I digress. Handmade cards - I eagerly anticipate them, display them, talk about them, and - at the end of the season - put them away carefully in a box as inspiration and ideas for my own future Christmas cards. Since I work in one of the biggest "handmade" industries in the world - I always looked forward to LOTS of handmade Christmas cards. So last year, when the handmade cards were coming in few and far between, I mentioned something about it to Don. I ranged from the paranoid (no one likes us) to the over-scheduled (I bet people are just late getting their cards out) to the blame-the-post-office (well - we DID move - so maybe they are all just lost in the mail). Then Don, in his blunt, wise way said "Maybe people just don't make them any more".
I was CRUSHED. Could it be true? Could one of my favorite holiday traditions be disappearing in front of my eyes? In the world of digital this and downloadable that was my Christmas joy being lost in the shuffle? Was I the only one who still cared?
Then - a few days before Christmas, I came across this article about how the internet is, in fact, killing the Christmas card industry as a whole. I stayed strong - finished up my last batch of cards (because while I love getting handmade cards, I often procrastinate and/or underestimate the number I need to make and so I completely stress myself out and sometimes they don't arrive until...say...New Years) and merrily made my way through the holidays, enjoying and appreciating the handmade cards I received even more.
With the holidays over I set aside my cards, made grandiose plans to start my 2011 cards in February, and - I admit - sort of forgot about the whole thing. Until, a few weeks later, I found something between redemption and clarity in the form of Dear Abby. On page B7, right next to the comics, was this...Dear Abby: Five years ago, when my niece was 9, we came up with the idea of making Christmas cards and sending them out to special friends and family members. We both work hard to make sure each is attractive and in good taste, and we handwrite a personal note inside. We also print on the back that the card was “handmade with love.” This has become a tradition for the two of us, and the cards are quite beautiful.
Last year, after we sent them out, I received a card from a friend with a small check inside. The card read, “I’m sending you this check so you can afford to buy ‘real cards’ next year.” I was, to say the least, hurt and offended. I wondered if others felt similarly, so I asked around and was shocked to learn they, too, thought I was “cheap.” Although it cost more money and time to create each card, no one appreciated them.
We won’t be making the cards this year, but how do I tell my niece why?
Blue at Christmas
Dear Blue: Tell your niece what you were told — and by whom — so she won’t waste any more effort on these rude and unappreciative individuals. Better she hear it from you than one of the recipients.
As to the “friend” who sent the check, I hope you returned it and deleted her from your Christmas card list. What she did was uncalled for.
I was further heartened when, a few weeks later, Abby printed an entire column full of letters from readers who thought the "friend", for lack of a better word, sucked. Many readers commented on how much they enjoyed receiving handmade cards and Abby herself thanked fans who sent her handmade holiday cards. And then it hit me. Some people DO care about making and receiving handmade cards - but not EVERYONE. It doesn't have anything to do with how much they like me or whether I send them a handmade card or whatever other reason had been whirling around in my mind - it just isn't that big of a deal. And you know what? That is a-ok. In fact, it is more than ok - it is actually quite freeing!
So this year I've vowed to make some changes to my Christmas card list. I'll still be sending out my bajillion cards, but some will be handmade and some won't. I'm sure Don's single 25 year old brother doesn't give two hoots about a handmade card, but I know his elderly aunt treasures them, and that brings me a lot of joy. My pre-school teacher and Don's grandmother would both disown me if they didn't get a handmade card (in fact - one year when we had just moved and I didn't send out any cards, Don's grandmother called my mother-in-law pissed off to ask what was wrong with me), but I don't think my hairdresser will miss it. Will I have to fine tune my list down the road? I'm sure. Will I still have years when I am behind schedule and feeling stressed and wonder why I do it in the first place? Guaranteed. But then I'll get a handmade card from my friend in Germany, and a photo card from our friends in New Mexico, and an ecard from my boss who has five kids, and I will remember the most important thing of all. We are loved. Electronically, mass-producedly, or handcreatedly. We are loved and remembered and treasured with glitter and singing elves and video clips, and I couldn't be more grateful.
Unless it includes a family Christmas letter.