Monday, December 20, 2010

Sandra Boynton's Christmastime (Part Three)

Chapter Two
Christmas Greetings

"Christmas is the ideal time to contact those individuals that you haven't gotten along with in the past--just to let them know that you're still thriving."  --Sandra Boynton

Now this chapter is one that definitely has Boynton's unique voice all over it, given her long history of designing greeting cards.  Her take on the Christmas tradition of greeting cards and newsletters is still just as relevant today as it ever was.  In the age of email and electronic greeting cards, Christmas is truly the one season where I can go to my mailbox pretty much every day to find something that isn't an advertisement or bill waiting inside.

Boynton suggests that Christmas greetings are an ideal way to reconnect with friends and loved ones you might have lost touch with over the years.  In today's Facebook age, I am not sure how true that remains, but it is certainly an interesting thought.  For me, personally, Christmas cards are a way to touch base with my very large family, which is spread out all over the country.  I also do like to acknowledge those friends that I don't get to see regularly throughout the year or those I won't be seeing in person at Christmas.  For me, the cards are a way to let these people all know that I am thinking of them this time of year and that I miss them if I haven't seen them in a while.

I can acknowledge, however, that there do seem to be many situations in which one is obligated to send or give cards to people rather than choosing to do so of one's own free will.  I don't know if this is a practice that I am simply out of touch with because I no longer work in an office environment (Hubby did give out cards to all of the people he manages or works with in his company, though I don't think he felt obligated to do so, but rather wanted to acknowledge their accomplishments over this past year), or if this just isn't as heavily in practice as it was in the late eighties, which were, I think, the time for a different kind of big business than is practiced today.  Of course, I have always been one of those people who doesn't really enjoy giving (or getting) false platitudes, so I long ago decided to only keep in touch with the people I actually want to keep in touch with.  This may be why parts of this chapter don't strike me as close to home as other sections of the book.

Either way, I think we can all agree with Boynton that writing out Christmas cards every year, even if it is a labor of love, is still a labor, and often a huge hassle.  It is easily procrastinated and probably a large source of holiday related stress.  So she does offer suggestions for a few alternatives to sending out Christmas cards:  calling your friends to convey season's greetings, conveying the greetings in person, or even having someone else do your dirty work for you.  Of course, as Boynton admits, none of these alternatives are without their own hassles or potential drawbacks, so she then points out that the best way to approach the sending of Christmas cards is to just do it, perhaps by finding a methodical and efficient manner in the process.  Or you could just put it off until next Christmas.

"Christmas cards make a wonderful decorative garland.  But don't forget to respond to the cards before you hang them up."  --Sandra Boynton

Once you have decided to go with Christmas cards for your method of season's greetings, you must then of course actually pick out the cards you would like to send.  Unlike greeting cards for other occasions (such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, etc.), Christmas cards are often available in boxed sets.  Boynton's tidbit that these boxes usually come "20 to a box, with 17 or so envelopes" has always amused me, long before I started doing my own Christmas cards.   And this is another point on which Boynton remains right on the ball even today.  While most of the time, when I buy a box of Christmas cards, I do find the correct number of envelopes, I have on more than one occasion come up short.  Thanks to Christmastime I am usually able to meet this challenge with a chuckle and a shake of my head, remembering the adorable little drawing of a pig forlornly holding up an empty card box searching for more envelopes.

Styles of Christmas cards vary widely, of course, and can say much about the sender.  She illustrates this point by drawing several sample cards with the "message" they send printed next to the card.  I particularly enjoy the "message" next to the Boynton card, which is "witty, stylish, and intelligent."  Then there are the handmade cards created lovingly by the sender personally.  Boynton has this to say about those:

"If you decide to make your own cards instead of buying them, you will project Creativity, Individuality, Resourcefulness, and a Reverence for well as an Appalling Lack of Consideration for Professional Greeting Card Artists, Who Have to Make Our Living Somehow, You Know."

If the thought of writing a personal message inside every card you will be sending is as daunting to you as it is to me, Boynton has you covered as well.  She has three solutions for this particular problem:

Christmas Postcards
Pros:  These are relatively inexpensive compared to cards (and cheaper to mail) and have much less room for a handwritten message. 
Cons:  As long as you've got nothing private to say.

Individualized Holiday Photocards
Pros:  Again, these are fairly affordable (depending on where you get them they can be cheaper than cards or run about the same cost), most processing centers include envelopes, they contain a pre-printed holiday message, and they leave absolutely no room for writing a personalized message whatsoever.
Cons:  You just have to provide a picture of your family that you don't mind having everyone on your mailing list stick up on their fridge for the next year or so.

The Holiday Newsletter
Pros:  This can be typed up once and then printed up as many times as necessary to be slipped inside of each card you send out, thus avoiding the necessity to write anything to the people receiving the card, this can be a tremendous time-saver, and it allows you to share with all of your far-flung loved ones everything that has happened to you in the past year.
Cons:  This can (according to Boynton) lead you to having fewer friends to send cards to next year (though maybe that's a Pro here).

Tomorrow:  Gift-Giving

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