Tis the season for many a holiday tradition – new and old. And while holiday cards are nothing new, the way we send them now is certainly different than in previous generations. According to the Greeting Card Association, approximately 50 million ecards are sent every year. And, despite anxiety that the many ways that this cohort of digital native uses to keep in touch might make a paper holiday card obsolete, more than 2 billion boxed and individual Christmas cards were purchased in 2011. But outside the box, more and more companies offer opportunities to customize cards to make them your own. Sure, one benefit of these cards is making it easier to send (upload your mailing list once and these services will save you a trip to the post office!). But more often than not, the holiday card lets today’s families say something about themselves. (Holiday style segmentation anyone?) And, since children and families are so central to this genre of self-branding and promoting, we thought we’d examine what families are really saying about themselves through their holiday cards…
- “We’re still here!” Or, “we’re here!” Far from holiday greetings being replaced by a wink or a poke on a social network, a yearly check-in might be more important than ever for today’s mobile families. It’s not just a holiday hello, but an annual GPS that tells a broad circle of family and friends where you are and that you’re still seeking connection.
- “We’re okay.” You know those letters that provide a topline summary of the year that was? They might be brag sheets for some…But they’re also ways to reassure and reaffirm that life is good. That college student whose living in the basement? He’s figuring out what makes him passionate. That unexpected illness? A life event that brought everything else in perspective. These narratives are not only stories to tell others, but ways to bring comfort to ourselves.
- “Holidays are about home.” And of course, for families, there about the “Wondrous Innocence” that sociologists like Gary Cross suggest are indelibly associated with children and that special moment we think of when we think of Christmas morning. Whether your holiday style is matching sweaters, a casually chaotic snapshot, or a photo from a favorite moment of the year, they all remind us that between sleepless nights for parents of newbies, school slip-ups or pre-adolescent pouting, there are times when everything seems innocent and perfect.
Even with family-life more complex than ever before, the most conventional of holiday cards continues to feel relevant. Something about those check-ins challenges our notion that nothing is the way it used to be.