When Did We Start Including Photos On Our Christmas Cards?

Because it’s a lot of pressure.

Vintage Family Christmas Photo

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My mom has always preferred the handwritten Christmas card. It’s a laborious process. It's one that takes days instead of the hour to address envelopes and slap on stamps, but I love the tradition of it. I admire the time she spends tailoring every card and the message within to the recipient. As you might have guessed, my holiday greetings take on a more generic tone. Sure, our family flat photo cards hit more mailboxes, but maybe, like in so many things, it’s the quality over quantity that matters most—and I’m not talking cardstock weight. 

Part of me is envious of my mom’s commitment to the handwritten holiday card letter. Friends and loved ones have come to expect her seasonal greetings in looping cursive, whereas I find myself in the hamster wheel of trying to snap the perfect photo of my small children, which starts to feel more like a pressure cooker as the weeks from October through November ebb on. And I know I’m not alone in that. Even those who opt for the professional photos are not immune. Will the kids cooperate? Will this $300 family session be in vain? Will my husband wear the coordinating shirt? The potential pitfalls are endless. 

While the photo card seems the most popular way to send season’s greetings in recent years, I was merrily surprised to see a few options that did not include photos during my recent card shopping adventures. There were photo-mount options where a printed photo could be attached (a trend I noticed last year, but seems to have gained traction this year), but there were also one or two beautiful holiday cards that—gasp—left no room for family photo inclusion as the star. Something which I found nonexistent last year. Trust me, I looked. 

Does a pre-printed card void of a family photo go even more generic than the mass-printed photo cards? Sadly, that might be true. But does it eliminate some of that perfect-family-photo pressure? You betcha. It’s a mighty good option for those of us who are on a multi-step program of breaking up with our mass mailings in favor of our mother’s handwritten holiday greetings. Even if I am only on step 1.5 of this process. 

Just last week as I resolved to go the no-photo route, I happened to snap a photo of my two little ones standing on a seawall overlooking the Atlantic during our Thanksgiving vacation. Before you get ideas of this picturesque scene, note that what wasn’t shown was the parking lot they were facing. They stood in t-shirts and jeans with their arms lazily wrapped around each other but big grins on their faces. Once I snapped it, I knew it was Christmas card material. It’s a far cry from the staged and formal photographs we’ve used the past two years where knee socks and curls were perfectly in place, but something about this one feels more warm and cozy than any of the others. 

It feels like letting my friends and family in on our lives, even if it’s just in a t-shirt wearing photo, rings a bit more true during this current season my little family finds ourselves in and one step closer to the ultimate goal of my mom’s handwritten holiday card. A stretch goal but, Mama, I’m on my way.

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