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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Christmas Card Conundrum

Each year I feel more and more challenged by the concept of sending Christmas cards. I shouldn't complain - it actually has become much easier since I've been using Hallmark's online store and I've sent cards this way for the past five years.

In November each year, I see what Hallmark is offering for boxed sets of Christmas cards, usually in their Shoebox humor line. I order about 80 cards (down from 120 last year) and the price includes a 2 line message imprinted on the inside and free return address printing on the envelopes. If I order with my Visa card it is usually 20% off if you know the coupon code. Also they have free shipping before Thanksgiving.

The cards arrive, I print out mailing labels, slap 'em on, add a stamp and viola! My cheerful Christmas message is on its way. Can't you just feel the sincerity? Hallmark will even sell you sheets of stamps and if you are really lazy, or delusional if you ask me, they will have someone handwrite all your recipient addresses on the envelopes and even mail them! Yeah, I want that job.

I remember my mother "making her list and checking it twice" which meant only one thing: sending and receiving Christmas cards had become a game or competition of keeping tabs on who you sent to, who didn't return the gesture, who sent to you but you didn't send to. Crazy.

What's crazier is how I always get my first card on the day after Thanksgiving from the same person. As if he's climbed the Mount Everest of holiday greetings first that year. I'm amazed at how it never arrives a day early or a day late.

Display methods these days is on a 6-foot long wire card holder, pictured on the right, I purchased at Pottery Barn that is just a vertical stem with 50 branches on each side. I actually leave the holder up all year and place birthday cards, gift cards, coupons, or reminders in it. My most ingenious way to display Christmas cards: in the slats of the venetian blinds in my dining room.

I think as more and more of us get into the "green" thing and start worrying about our carbon footprints, we see Christmas cards as impractical. On the plus side they are recyclable and some really nice ones can be saved and turned into ornaments with some imagination and a glue gun. But to me, I'd much rather make a phone call and catch up around the holidays. Or write an email - and I don't mean a mass mailing. I mean a thoughtful personalized message. I'm just that way I guess.

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