The Real Meaning of Christmas – Part 1: Holiday Greeting Cards

snow globe

Let me be the first to wish you Happy Valentine’s Day. Why so early, you ask? When it comes to holiday preparations, you need to be thinking months ahead. This year, the Christmas season officially started on September 27th. That’s the day my local Costco put on display several lovely 8’ plastic Snowman snow globes. They always add such a festive touch to anyone’s front lawn, especially when deflated.

If it seems like the holiday season is starting earlier every year, that’s because it is. In the 1960’s, it kicked off the day after Thanksgiving – Black Friday.  By the 1980’s, it began by November 15th.  By 2000, the official launch was the day after Halloween. It is projected that by the year 2050, the holiday season will officially begin on New Year’s Day.

If you have not begun your holiday plans, what are you waiting for? You need to get going on your holiday to do list. Don’t be confused by all the mixed messages about honoring the birth of baby Jesus. The real meaning of Christmas is all about showing your friends, neighbors and in-laws that you have successfully completed your holiday season to-do list way before they did. Today’s lesson is about holiday greeting cards. So get off the couch, put down the remote, turn off the football game and get to work on your cards. If you follow these steps, in no time you’ll be back on the couch, watching the New England Patriots beat the crap out of the Carolina Panthers, the way Jesus would have wanted it.

palin greeting card

Nothing says “Let’s celebrate the birth of our savior” like the exchange of holiday greeting cards. This year my card will feature the traditional Nativity scene image of Santa playing poker with his reindeer — Rudolph is working on an inside straight. To me, opening up the holiday cards is one of the most heart-warming parts of this magical time of year. It’s the time when I get to see the photo of my long lost friend’s two adorable little kids who I have never met (nor ever will) – my, how they have grown. A few key things to remember when you send out your holiday cards:

Get them out early – no later than October 25th. It will really tick off the recipients and make them feel guilty about the fact they had no intention of sending you a card this year.  The number of cards you receive is directly proportional to the degree of guilt you inflict.

christmas card photo of toddlerIf you are going to include photos of the family, be sure to include only photos of your kids and no one else. Even though you’re the only person in your family your friend from college days really cares to hear about, just send them a photo of your kids instead. I am sure they will cherish it .

Do not, under any circumstances, include a personal note. That takes way too much effort. The less you write, the more cards you can send out to people you have not seen or spoken to in years.  When it comes to demonstrating your holiday spirit, the quantity of holiday cards you send is far more important than the quality. Besides, writing a personal note wastes ink, which is bad for the environment.

Do NOT sign your card. Just get a printer to stamp your family name.  I’m pretty sure you can get 5,000 cards like this done at Costco in 20 minutes for $19.95. Nothing says “I care about our friendship” like a generic, unsigned holiday card with the embossed message “Joyous Season’s Greetings and Best Wishes for a Happy New Year” – and a photo of your adorable kids (but not you) postmarked October 24th.

A word for those of you who like to write those marathon four-page, single-spaced annual newsletters. The word is STOP. I for one would NEVER write a long-winded tome about all the minutiae that took place in the past year. What? Why are you snickering? If you do decide to pen the next Great American Opus, let me give you a few guidelines:

  • Enough about your kids’ amazing middle school grades – I am sure they are the smartest kids in the state, but we really don’t need to be reminded that they’re a genius year after year
  • The same goes for their being named captain of the freshman football team, treasurer of the chess club, or winner for best 9th grade essay on the history of the button – You must be so proud. The rest of us? Um, not really interested.
  • Feel free to omit the chronology of your five vacations in the past year, including the memorable five-star Mediterranean cruise or the African safari tour capped by your sunset wine tasting atop the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Our vacation involved a KOA campground. The peak experience? Showering.
  • The fact you lost 30 pounds? Definitely worth sharing. The fact that you’re slimmer than you were in 12th grade and everyone says you look like Halle Berry? We really don’t want to know – even more so if you’re a guy.
  • Happy to read the latest job update. But spare us details like “with this, my fourth promotion in ten months, I am the youngest executive ever to oversee sales and marketing operations for North America and Europe.” You were already starting to annoy us with your Mediterranean cruise. Now you’re just pissing us off.

electronic greeting card

Some of you may think that it’s politically correct to switch from mailing hard copy holiday cards to sending email greeting cards instead. Some of you would be lazy. Nothing says you care like blasting a cute animated Elf holiday electronic greeting card to 400 of your closest friends with a single mouse click. People will surely hold onto your clever e-card for a long, long – CLICK – DELETE – Oops. Sorry.

Oh, and a final note to those lame folks (and you know who you are) who always send out your holiday cards in early February, apologizing profusely (and lamely) about how hectic things were this year (and last year, and the year before that….) I remember just last year, when my friend Martha Nicholson’s holiday card arrived two months late. Talk about the nerve. I vaguely recall some hackneyed excuse involving kidney dialysis and prolonged chemotherapy or something. All I can say is, it better not happen again this year, lady.

So what are you waiting for? Before you know it, somebody is going to beat you to the punch and send you their holiday card first. And if they write you a personal note about their recent divorce or their seriously ill child, don’t take the bait and respond by actually signing your card with a personal note of your own in response. They’re just trying to make you feel guilty. You have better things to do with your time than writing a heartfelt personal note – like watching the second half of the Steelers game.

Let me close by offering this sincere and deeply personal message:

Joyous Season’s Greetings and Best Wishes for a Happy New Year

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

Click here for The Real Meaning of Christmas – Part 2: Decorations

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2010 – 2011

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  • Published On Nov. 21, 2009 by TEJ

    1. John Pickett

      Okay, now you’re hitting close to home. Many years ago I sent out dozens of Christmas cards with a personal note in each one. My wife, being a more social animal, joined in the fun and soon our Christmas card list exceeded 100 names. After I spent January 1989 in physical therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome, we decided to type a Christmas letter that, with the birth of our two children (who are practically perfect in every way, of course), has balooned to a dreaded 2-sided, single-spaced thesis. We do take the time to sign these wonderful missives but our signatures can no longer be distinguished from each others because none of us can write cursive anymore. (It’s Bill Gates’ fault.)

      As soon as I finish this comment, I am going to start writing this year’s note, which like all those end of the year articles, will omit all the wonderful goings on at the Pickett household between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

      Hey, maybe we can send an addendum in January. Lord knows, the post office could use the business.

    2. 11/21/09

      This for the man who wrote up, down, and sideways on the business greeting card, ruining the look of a tasteful holiday card to all of our customers, suppliers, consultant partners, and friends. Thanks, Tim Jones. Don’t repeat that performance this year, buddy. Oh, yeah. And one more thing: I write about my two children in my two-page holiday letter because they are still cute, funny, intelligent, and talented. Unlike your children who have passed through puberty to unspeakably scary teen years, my children will be young for, oh, two more years. So, get used to it: you have two more years of lengthy holiday letters. And, then, I’m pretty sure it will come to a grinding halt.
      (And just in case you can’t tell: I’m attempting to be funny here. I’m really not the angry, self-focused, narcissistic boss that I appear to be on your blog.)

    3. Drew Fisher

      Thanks for ruining it for us, Tim! Now I’ve got to send back those eight cartons of pre-printed, environmentally-sensitive, inoffensive “Season’s Greetings” cards. The ones with the tree that might or might not be a Christmas tree and the star that might or might not be the Star of Bethlehem (hey, EVERYBODY’s sky has stars in it). I had my four-page, double-sided 4-point Times New Roman holiday letter all set to go, too. This year, I decided that telling people about my retirement and the carefree summer by the lake was just too dull, so I invented a dysfunctional family with one kid turning down a scholarship from Harvard to go to Farnsworth County College and another kid producing plastic explosives in the chem lab at the high school.
      The best card I ever got came from my college friend Jerry Berkowitz (who is in the Guinness Book of World Records as “the world’s most avid theatergoer” [146 plays in two weeks at the 1979 Edinburgh Festival]). It was a New York subway map with the Third Avenue Elevated whited out (yeah, this was a while ago). The message inside the card read:



      The best news is that, even though I am forced to live on a pension now, I’ll still be able to afford the 75 kilowatts it takes to run my holiday light display. Rudolph’s nose is a laser this year.

    4. 11/21/09

      This hits awfully close to home. My friends and family have come to expect my Christmas card (and letter) to be the first one to arrive every year. I received a Christmas card once from my former college roommate on Dec 1st, announcing how proud she was to have sent her cards before me, but her true incentive was to announce her address change. As I’ve aged, I’ve mellowed a bit. I’ve managed to skip the Christmas letter a time or two in recent years.

    5. Darce Johnson

      Last year was the first year EVER, that I’ve skipped sending Christmas cards out….I’m still recovering. Lucky for me however, I don’t have to invent a dysfunctional family if I decide to enclose a Christmas letter for the first time. I actually have a dysfunctional family upon which I can draw enormous amounts of quality material from!

      This Thanksgiving alone was just a dress rehearsal…Thanks again Tim, for always making me laugh. (And your friends are funny too).

    6. Vicky Jones

      This is my Christmas card.

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