Greeting Cards, to bother or not to bother?

Full Disclaimer: I ❤ Greeting cards. I love making them, sending them out, and finding them unexpectedly in my mail box, at all times of the year, not only during the holidays. Every occasion I can think up, I’ll make a card for: births, weddings, engagements, halloween, new houses, you name it. We’ve already discussed the fact that I (begrudgingly) admit my hopeless romantic outlook on life. Greeting cards play into this side of my personality perfectly.

For the last few years, on and off, I would try to hand-make a few cards, regardless of occasion, just to add a touch of whimsy, or something personal. Then, about two years ago, I decided to just scrap it all, stop spending upwards of $5 per card per person, and just make my own. I was sick of spending a good portion of my “gift” budget on greeting cards or gift wrap year after year. So I made a challenge to myself, if I am going to bother sending out a card to anyone, for any reason I better damn well make it. The response the first go around was more or less positive. It was after I got into a groove, getting more creative that I realized I actually liked making them. Each one, I would try to have something personal for each recipient. A little joke, a picture they would find funny, a surprise of sorts in every envelope. This stance of mine, however, is not one often shared. 

One of my best (and very cynical) friends, bless his soul, chose to partake in this blog of mine by way of a rant. A rant specifically surrounding the premise of greeting cards. Here is his story: 

I’m kind of a jerk. When I write it is either to help someone solve a technical problem (which involves me telling them something has gone wrong, and insinuating someone is an idiot) or, recently, for grad school which is basically the same thing just with a lot more research.

You might think “Hey, this is Christmas, doesn’t this jerk write any nice Christmas cards to balance out the jerk writing?”

To that I would say two things:

1) “Nice segue Mr. or Mrs. inner monologue”

and

2) “No. I don’t write any Christmas cards”. Gasp.

Christmas cards are fake. They are a stand in for real sentiment. Also, they are for old people who love killing trees and spending $7 for an 8.5 x 11 inch piece of printed paper, folded, with envelope. Cards should cost 10 cents but they don’t because everyone is forced by the card cabal into this inane moneymaking scheme.

I once thought that cards would become like pictures (and to some extent I still think along these lines) in that digital cameras dropped their price significantly and people experience them in many digital forms (digital photo frames, computer desktop wallpapers, etc.). Cards should become easier to access and print, driving the price down. With less people sending cards their prices have gone up to try to reclaim those losses. Even though people can print cards from home, they still go buy cards?

Here is my complete unscientific chart on card deaths:

  • 85% of all cards end up in the trash < 2 minutes after opening.
  • 9% sit on shelf / mantel to collect dust. In trash < 1.5 weeks after opening.
  • 4% end up in a shoebox to never be seen again, sit in closet 5+ years as fire hazard.
  • 2% never sent, sit forever. These cards are suicidal.
  • 1% cause actual human death as:
    1. Man sends wife’s card to mistress and vice-versa. This leads to double homicide, and tax payer dollars down the tubes.
    2. Cards that are sent to mob bosses that are unfunny/not sentimental enough result in the sender being “removed” from Christmas cars list permanently.
    3. 1 in every 900 mail carriers dies of exhaustion carrying the entire weight of Christmas cards for the year through the snow

See, you could save a life by not sending cards. The life you save could be your own (see items 1 & 2 – possibly 3).

Also, people send cards in the mail…. Why do you do this? We have a new invention called the “Internet….ooooohhhh….ahhhhhhh”. This is equivalent to you thinking this: “I want to send this message to someone, but it should take a random amount of days and take a really long time, or at least as long as possible, and I should need a little sticker to do it, and need put it in an inconveniently placed metal box , and have no idea if it gets there. I also want to pay for this shoddy service!” instead of thinking: “ [Click] ”.

Seriously, I do understand why we send cards. It’s nice to hold something tangible. For the elderly or Internet-less, it’s the only/best way to reach them. E-cards are too cheap and insincere, and our society has an almost mystical relationship with cards of all types. Think about the significance so many people put on getting a card whenever any event or milestone or holiday happens. Births, deaths, and weddings all rate a card. However, holidays, birthdays and anniversaries also get cards. These events happen automatically people. You don’t have to do anything special for Christmas or Easter or Thanksgiving to come again. That’s just how a calendar works.

Even if you physically attend an event you are still expected to bring a card…..I doubt the hosts forget who they invited (particularly with email) yet you are supposed to hand them a piece of paper with your name on it. Just in case.

Please, people, stop sending cards when it just doesn’t make sense.

Although, maybe I’ve totally misunderstood just how important a role cards play. We interact with chits (which is a term commonly used in many militaries. It comes from Sanskrit and means a small piece of paper) all the time:

  • playing cards
  • tickets (people attach huge significance to these)
  • tarot cards (even more significance)
  • permits / licenses
  • business cards

I spent quite a few hours this week making samples for a friend of graphical business cards (which is probably how these thoughts started) and noticed just how important those little cards are to most people. [In Japan, it is considered bad form, when bowing and handing over your business card, to touch the face with anything but the smallest piece of your thumb, and never over the logo or name.]
http://learn2lingo.com/blog/2009/11/japanese-business-card-etiquette/

Photo example of how to accept a business card in Japan:
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_5k_Lj7lfCmU/Sb9KiI9eaVI/AAAAAAAAAfQ/FAl92kZ52KA/s400/business+card.jpg

Cards are significant because they have a way of directing our lives (and not just the tarot kind). Cards push and prod us. They cause us to gain and pay money. They Identify us. And, they are responsible for the exchange of sentiment. At least fake or restrained sentiment.

This holiday season, be different. Send a long-winded and heartfelt sentimental email to the people around you. Something that has real information in it, and takes more then 2.9 seconds to read. Tell people about what is going on and what you think about it. Yes, it takes more time, but it’s the one blow you can make against the glib and shoddy level of communication (the text message/facebook-ization [yeah, that’s right, this blog invents words!] of our communicative habits) we see everyday. After a party – send a letter – don’t take a card. People around you might think you are crazy, but the host will completely understand after getting your email. So will loved ones. So will random people you barely talk to. Send a message, not a card. Try it out, and you will be impressed.

Here are the exceptions to the “don’t send a card” rule.

  • Old people
  • People you don’t actually love/care about
  • People who annoyingly demand cards (see number 2)
  • People who send handmade cards, or cards that are just crammed full of handwritten text (you people are ok)
  • Old people in foreign countries
  • Indigenous tribes without internet access
  • Old people without internet access

If you must send a card, check these out. At least you won’t be a classy card sender:
http://theoatmeal.com/horrible

If you must send a message, try sending one of these- they are personalized phone calls from Santa (actually from Google). Everyone loves them, and this includes people over the age of 12.
http://www.sendacallfromsanta.com/

If you’ve read this, I hope it gave you something to think about. I hope you have an excellent holiday season and I honestly hope that you communicate better with your loved ones both verbally and through the written word. – A.C.C.

That is a lot to take in, I agree. I toyed with chopping up this rant and censoring it some. Ultimately, I felt to get my (correct) approach across, it was best to leave it as-is. Bitter undertones and all. I should note, he is not a hypocrite in his distaste for cards. I can vouch that I received, and opened his Christmas present to me, and sure enough, it was sans-greeting card. (I suppose he would state his excuse being this above tirade). He’s obviously of the new-age digital generation. I just like to think of life prior to say…the 80s. How else would you have gotten in touch with someone? Phone, fax or mail. Actual snail-mail. Even when I was a precious pre-pubescent child, I enjoyed long-hand letter writing. My cousin in Ontario and I would send back PAGES of random anecdotes to each other on a monthly basis. We would outline love, life, school, really anything we felt of importance to the other. It was tedious, but it was truly a labour of love. 

I rediscovered this passion during my European travels, when I had met some truly amazing people from a handful of countries. Now a day, when most people say “sure, we’ll keep in touch”, that implies they add each other to Facebook, and randomly creep each others’ profiles once a year, never actually enquiring about the other. Not so. I send bimonthly letters (long hand), or emails to near every person I met. Sure, we have Facebook, Skype and instant messaging; but every time one of them open my letters, they always state how much of a surprise it is when they get them. 

I leave you today with a picture of what I refer to as “Santa’s Workshop”. (In other words, my desk, during the peak of holiday season, making cards.)

 

May you find the time to write something special, 
xo,
Meera

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