the one about bringing back the Christmas card

When my husband and I got married over six years ago, I wanted to send out the perfect Christmas card. It was the first one that we would be sending out together, and I wanted it to make the right impression. I wanted people to hang them on their fridges or smile and say, "How cute!" 

I mounted a black and white wedding photo on two pieces of red and green card stock. I wrote a poem. It rhymed in perfect couplets. Oh yes, a thing of beauty.

They also cost me about $100 to make and mail. Ouch.

And despite their cuteness, I am sure they ended up in the bottom of about 40 trashcans of our family and friends. 

Each year following, I have continued the tradition. I have done different things each year-- more poems, expensive photo cards on heavy-weight card stock, handmade touches for that little something extra. 

What is it about Christmas cards? 

Most of us go nearly the entire year without sending one piece of mail otherwise, but when Christmas rolls around, we feel the need to wipe out our bank accounts for the perfect outfits for the perfect photo session with the perfect photographer to get the perfect photo of our perfect family and then put it on the perfect Christmas card and mail them out before the rush of the holidays...perfectly. 

I have seen it firsthand as a photographer, and I have experienced it firsthand as mom. Each Fall, when we get our family photos taken, I always critically eye each image and find the one. I have to make sure I look beautiful, my girls look angelic, my husband looks macho, and we all look like the most blissfully happy family you have ever seen. 

This year, we didn't get family photos taken (not sure why?), and I have been struggling with whether or not I should mail Christmas cards this year. I have read up on alternatives, such as donating money to a charity in place of mailing the cards, posting a photo on Facebook and just tagging all your friends and family, or simply just moving on with life and forgetting about it all together. We could really save the money and do something more practical with it, I'm sure. 

But a conversation with my husband changed my opinion about it. Usually the practical, sensical one in  the marriage, I predicted him to give me a high five when I said I was thinking about scrapping the Christmas card idea this year, but his face turned soft and he said that we should still send them. 

"It's not about us. It's about showing love to our friends and family. And I love seeing everyone else's cards that they send us!"

It's not about us.

So true. 

Christmas cards are not about us or for us. They are for our loved ones.

The people we mail our cards to already know us. They know we don't always ever dress in coordinated clothes or frolic lovingly in a grassy meadow with the most perfect golden sunset fading in the background. 

They know that 6 out of the 7 days a week, my hair is in a pony tail and not meticulously curled. They know that I usually am rewearing the same jeans for the third day without washing them, and that my daughter's socks never, ever match (she does that on purpose). 

They know that wrangling toddlers is somewhat like bathing cats, so they know that the perfectly posed and still children in the photograph are being bribed, heavily, with trips to Disney World and ponies and Starbucks hot chocolate. 

If they already know us, why am I spending so much energy trying to show them "who we are?"

I am also so guilty of writing lengthy poems or cutesy stories to highlight all of our accomplishments, vacations, big news, and "ta-das!" of the year. I have turned what should be the opportunity to wish someone else a Merry Christmas into a showcase of everything cool I have done over the past 12 months. 

Again, our loved ones know us already. They know about our accomplishments and have already shared their congratulations. They know about our big news because they were there when we announced it. They have witnessed our "ta-das!" and seen the photos of our vacations. 

Facebook does enough to make us feel like we aren't doing anything with our lives compared to our News Feed. We don't really need to be sending that kind of stuff through the mail under the disguise of a Christmas card, do we?

So let's bring back the Christmas card. 

Let's spread love, joy, cheer, and well wishes to our loved ones by way of imperfectly perfect photos, personalized messages, and heartfelt greetings. 

Let's remind ourselves that receiving a piece of snail mail (that is not a bill) is one of life's simple pleasures, and a sweet Christmas card can go a long way to brighten someone's spirits. 

Let's make it less about us and more about them.

And if you do happen to write a poem or narrative about your year, make sure you keep it real. Mine would probably go like this:

Dear Family and Friends,

Wow! 2013 was one for the record books! We experienced so many great joys this year. 

We went to South Carolina in June and Charlotte experienced the most epic diaper blow-out ever. It was so bad that we had to throw away the entire onesie. We also lost Noelle's beloved stuffed animal for the entire week and I lost more sleep about that than I care to admit.

We took the girls to Disney World in July, and it was truly a wonderful trip. I won Mother of the Year when the lady at the airline counter needed to see Charlotte's birth certificate in order to let her on the plane and I informed her that I hadn't picked it up from the Health Department yet (she was 9 months old). I redeemed myself when I remembered to bring a scented diaper trash bag on the plane to keep everyone from smelling Noelle's rancid Pull-Up the entire way to Orlando. 

I am enjoying my days as a stay at home mom. I do a great job of washing the laundry, yet never folding it or putting away. I make great meals, but I rarely do the dishes in a timely manner. I still manage to fit in time for exercise, though! I think I have worked out about 9 times this entire year. 

We have filled our days with fun family events, birthday parties, baptisms, and celebrations. I learned recently while at a birthday party for a friend that if you put a fork in Noelle's cupcake, she will come unglued and scream as if you severed one of her limbs. Trust me...just don't.

Luke went on a 10-day medical mission trip to Kenya. It was truly the highlight of his year. He did heroic acts like delivering a baby, helping a man who was nearly crushed by a van, and administering medication. While he was gone, I ate out for nearly every meal, never took the trash out, and killed our microwave. 

Despite all of our ups and downs, our greatest joy is spending the holidays with our family and friends. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and pray that you will be blessed in 2014.

The Ernstbergers

1 comment

  1. Bahahahahahaha...I'm loving the paragraph on Luke's trip...rolling on the floor.

    P.S. We love your Christmas cards :-D