My husband and I are not exchanging Christmas presents this year. I decided, then, to give myself a gift. That gift is the gift of not sending Christmas cards.
Don’t get me wrong. I love receiving Christmas cards. They are a sign of the season.
I admire the artistry of the cards themselves, from whimsical to traditional. Thick card stock always impresses me. High-gloss finishes tell me the sender is willing to take risks with markers.
I admire the fortitude of the family featured in the picture. They braved a dedicated photo shoot or lucked upon a worthy snapshot. They committed to an image as best representing the happiness, milestone, or celebration that defined the past year.
I admire the time-management skills that powered an envelope into my mailbox. Someone in that family worked backwards from December to calculate deadlines relating to picture selection, tracking down physical addresses, putting those addresses on envelopes, buying stamps, and putting stamps on envelopes. I suspect many of these same people do weekly meal plans on Sundays and file their own taxes.
None of these things come naturally to me.
The only color I am comfortable with is black. Whenever I am asked to evaluate colors to convey anything other than funeral-readiness, I am out of my league. The first Christmas card featuring my daughter was the color of dirty moss.
I am very conscientious about spending money. I struggle with the idea that I am paying to send a picture someone will review only briefly, and then recycle or toss into a holiday-themed basket. Therefore, the Christmas cards I have previously sent had a production value only slightly greater than the postage stamp. The message that communicated was less “Happy Holidays!” and more “Yes, we’re cheap.”
I do not like to be photographed, and I do not like taking staged photographs of others. The anticipatory preparation involving lighting, angles and screaming for genuine smiles does not make me smile. By the time the picture is taken, I already hate it and the moment it captured. My favorite pictures of my children usually do not involve them looking at the camera.
I have time management skills, but they are already exhausted by the things in my life that need to be managed. I do not have the capacity to add Christmas cards to the mix without exponentially increasing my stress level. I don’t think Christmas is supposed to make you angry at your loved ones for having a mailbox.
At this point, it’s important to note that my husband, who has known me for almost two decades, has told me for years to drop the Christmas card act. That sound you hear is him demanding to be recognized. Allow me to publicly acknowledge: you were right, Dos.
It’s also important to note that I do love my children and I do want to preserve photographic proof of their existence and the times we’ve shared as a family. There are hundreds of pictures on my phone. As few as possible include me. This is just the way I like it.
And here’s the thing: a fair percentage of those pictures have been shared with people who might want to see them. I text some to my mother and sisters. I post some to Facebook or Instagram. I scroll through them myself when a flight is delayed.
I just don’t want to begrudge a picture of them for the work and angst I associate with it. So I’m giving myself the gift of letting it go.
We took the money we would have spent on Christmas cards and made a donation to a local nonprofit. I took the time I would have spent swearing at address labels, multiplied that by the time I didn’t have to spoil things with my bad mood, and addressed dozens of other tasks I care about more than mail. I took stock of how lucky I am to see my children when they are really happy, or really getting along, or really sitting in a pose they naturally assume.
Now I’ll take advantage of this forum to wish you and yours the happiest of holiday seasons.