Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Greetings in the Electronic Age

I got my first pdf Christmas card this morning. I was thrilled to see that I'm not the only one who is using electronic media to greet friends during the holidays.

I go through great guilt each year, and have for the past 47 years, the number of years I have been sending out yearly Christmas letters. Every year there is going to be some point when there will be an attack on people who send Christmas letters. I've never understood that. I don't understand the visceral response of some people, like the blogger who recently wrote "I LOATHE them!" It is up to the receiver whether to read the thing or not. Why complain that someone has taken the time to write one? If you loathe them, just don't read them!

There are interesting letters and boring letters, short letters and long letters. (Some years mine are interesting and some years they are boring, always they are long!) But each Christmas letter that comes has taken the writer time to sort through the past twelve months and share the highlights with their friends. I've always felt much more kindly toward people who send Christmas letters than toward people who send cards with their name pre-printed on them, and no message whatsoever. But to each his own.

The first Christmas letter I wrote, before we were married, came with no photos. I took it to work and snuck a few copies through the copier and sent them inside Christmas cards that I bought. The best (or worst) of all possible worlds.

The year Jeri was born, the Christmas letter was the Christmas card, an 8-1/2 x 11 sheet of paper folded into card form and sent without an additional Christmas letter. As the kids began to arrive and grow, there was more to say and more people to talk about. Over the following years, some years the letter was the card, other years there was a letter inside a card. When we put a letter inside a card there was also the possibility that it would require two stams instead of one.

We would take the kids to various scenic spots to take their photos and then write a paragraph about each one. Sometimes the kids even helped with the card design, making this a famiy project rather than something Mom did all by herself.

jericard.jpg (39146 bytes)

Jericard2.jpg (68250 bytes)

I had long since given up making copies on a work computer and we now went with a professional printer. Adding photos added to the cost of producing the letter if we went with "good" copies, in the 1970s and 80s (this was before the arrival of Kinkos). Also, we gradually started sending more and more letters to the point where I was sending out over 100 cards each Christmas. If you add up the cost of a card, the cost of printing a letter with photos, and the escalating cost of postage, sending out our yearly greeting was becoming significant expense!

And yet, I didn't want to give up the Christmas letter. It's one of the things I love doing each year. (I actually did bend to peer pressure one year and didn't write one--and got several complaint letters!)

1999 was the last wholly printed letter we sent out. It was the year Paul died and it was a very staid and solemn letter. In 2000, I threw caution to the wind and posted the Christmas letter on line as a web site. There weren't that many people we knew you had e-mail addresses at that time, but for those who did, I sent out a link and an apology for being so tacky as to post it on the internet. Friends who didn't do e-mail got a printed version of the letter. The difference between the two letters was significant. I probably had to edit the printed version and definitely there was no color in the photos, thus the print version was more boring.

I discovered that being able to design for the web offered me so many more possibilities. Over the years, the letters popped with color and links and I even started embedding videos in the letter too sometimes. It takes me a week or longer to design a Christmas letter and then it gets posted and links sent to all of the family so they can have their own say about what they don't want posted or what they'd like added.

Now I could not only be long and boring, I could be ridiculously long and boring too! But I was saving a ton of money, was being, in my mind, more personal. I justified it by thinking of all the trees I was saving by not buying pre-printed cards (though I still do send out a handful each year--not all of our friends have e-mail). Sending by e-mail allows me to add a personal message with each one as well (and since my handwriting is so horrible, people are more likely to get a longer personal message than if I were just adding a quick note to the bottom of a card).

I like to think that the letters are interesting enough to keep people reading and that people enjoy seeing lots of color photos. I know *I* like to see lots of color photos when I hear from friends! And if nobody ever reads it, I'll never know.

Until today, however, I hadn't come across anybody else who uses electronic resources for Christmas greetings. Given that it costs nearly 50 cents postage to send out one Christmas card through the U.S. post office, I think sending pdf cards to your e-mail list is emminently sensible. Creating a pdf file also gives you 100% control over how the card looks, rather than sticking with a pre-designed template. So thanks, Sherri! I hope others follow suit soon so I'll stop feeling guilty each year!

1 comment:

kathi said...

:: slightly belated mingle ::

Found your review of the Davis Children's Nutcracker, and some other past articles and even a video. I really enjoyed reading about such a unique tradition, especially how it spans over generations.