What's in a Holiday Card?

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Kate* (not her real name), an old college buddy, has since become one of my “greeting card friends.”
You know who I’m talking about—those chums from your past that you never keep in touch with anymore, not even on Facebook. The only time you ever hear from them is when their holiday cards fly through your mail slot sometime after Thanksgiving each year.

A greeting card can say a lot about a person or their thoughts about the holidays, reflecting their views about family, nature or in some cases revealing their sense of humor. Kate, I’ve noticed, is one of these moms that enjoys sending photo cards of her children dressed up in bows, lace and three-piece suits, often with a Christmas tree in the background.

“Most people use the holiday card to either show themselves in their best light or to show how classy and elegant they can be,” says Lindsley Lowell, founder of, a woman’s lifestyle website. “You do not see them arguing or with dirty shirts.” They want their card to say, “We are a sparkly, good-looking, normal family,” Lowell says.

The card where kids are decked out in holiday splendor is “a Christmas classic that has been around for as long as we could possibly remember … and why not?” says Valerie Haberman, U.S. manager of greeting card company”Honestly, one of the best ways to capture the cheer of the season is with a photo of kids decked out in matching sweaters and a baby with a Santa hat propped up in the middle.”

Haberman had observations to make about other common types of holiday cards that flood the mail each December:
The informal family photo, with everyone gathered outside looking like they just raked leaves, or a montage of family photos with certain family members and pets sitting on the couch. “From personal experience, I can say that these are a classic way to show a homey setting that takes those who receive these cards into the person’s home. The staging of them may annoy Grandma and the family dog just a tad, but the end result always puts a wide smile on the card receiver’s face,” Haberman says.

The nondenominational “winter scene” card, perhaps with birds perched on a snow-laden branch or a cityscape with people ice skating in a giant rink. Or a horse-drawn carriage driving over a bridge as the snow falls. A winter staple, “these are always a hit because they cater to everyone no matter what holiday they may be celebrating,” Haberman observes. “Even for customers that live in warmer climates, the holiday season always brings these images to mind.”

Someone who sends out a card with an image of a tree, or snow, or other serene image may also be trying to give the impression that they have class and good taste, Lowell suggests.

Cartoon cards are popular for all seasons “but for Christmas there’s an abundance of humorous cards, from Santas pulling pranks to reindeer causing an extra bit of holiday mischief,” Haberman says. “Card publishers work hard every year to come up with new material.”

Lowell says she prefers zany cards, and creates one with her husband each year. “Being non-traditional sets us apart from everyone else. People tell us that they look forward to our cards and keep them up on the fridge all year round. Our card says: We are unique and don’t take ourselves too seriously. “I recommend that once in a while, people try something different and show some creativity, pizzazz and spark. It’s the holidays—live it up!” Lowell says.

What’s YOUR holiday card style?


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