The Death of Christmas Cards, or, Tara’s Big Fat Holiday Rant

I’m probably going to piss off half my friends by writing this. However, this morning Hallmark pushed me over the edge. Their commercial—of a family of four fighting over which Christmas photo looks best—has sent me into a rant. Mostly because of the end of the commercial, where the mom finally picks her favorite photo, hits one button on the keyboard, and viola—her Christmas cards are done.

Oh, that’s because Hallmark will now print and mail your cards for you! That’s right—no more pesky pens, no more personalized messages or wishes, no more addressing envelopes, licking them, finding pretty Christmas stamps. As the voice over on the commercial says, “You can have more time to spend with your family.”

Sweet, isn’t it?

Oh right: except for the fact that the point of holiday cards is to keep in touch with family and friends and let them know you’re thinking of them even if you can’t see them every day. According to Hallmark, that’s the equivalent of exporting your Excel spreadsheet to them so they can print one generic message and ship it off lovingly to all your Google contacts.

Holiday cards just aren’t written on or personally signed anymore. Most of the cards sent these days are photo cards with printed generic messages or simply just big photos of friends’ children (some of whom you’ve never actually met) with no message or no indication that the photo is even a holiday card.

Now granted, I know people are busy. I’m not expecting long poetic letters expressing the deep meaning of our relationships. I certainly don’t need a typewritten “year in review” detailing all the teeth lost, vacations taken and promotions granted—I’m hoping if someone thinks enough to send me a card I might already know these things have happened.

Writing cards is not my favorite activity, even as a writer. Even so, I always dash off a few lines to let the person/people know I’m actually thinking of them when I’m writing their card. It’s nothing deep, and it’s not intended to be. But I do hope that it cuts above the noise with the understanding that it’s not just another address on the list. These are people I care about. If I have nothing to say to them, then I probably shouldn’t be sending them a card.

I don’t hate babies. I don’t hate your children or your dog or your cat. I love photos. Anyone who’s friends with me on Facebook knows that. I just hate the idea that once again, technology has made us so lazy that an act that was once meant to be personalized and heartfelt—on a holiday that’s supposed to be about connecting with loved ones, spreading cheer—is now just a mass-produced assembly line for another to-do we can easily check off the list.

I fear what’s next: packets of thank-you cards “personalized” with the bride and groom’s photo and a generic “thank you for your gift at our wedding” message printed in script font on the side. (Actually, maybe I shouldn’t give Hallmark this idea. Actually, maybe it’s already been done.)

I’m sorry if I offended anyone. I know that in all the hectic frenzy of the holidays, with all the present buying and decorating and traveling and cooking and eating and entertaining and keeping warm, writing out cards is just another time-consuming task that people dread. I dread it, too. But it’s also something that I think can be enjoyable if you think of it as something you want to do as opposed to a chore that has to be done. Shorten your list. Watch a movie while you’re writing. Hell, have a drink or two. And for christsakes, just SIGN the card yourself. Add a “have a great holiday!” or a “really loved spending time with you this year!” or a “Go Eagles!” to it, too, while you’re at it. I swear it doesn’t take that much longer.

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