Ten Must-Follow Rules for any Good Holiday Photo Card
Designing and printing a holiday card is pretty serious business. Don’t believe me? Well, what other piece of mail do you send to 50-100 of your closest friends and family every single year; a point of reference kept in a scrapbook in a box in a closet in an attic for all eternity as this year’s — this moment in time’s — iteration of you and your family?
Season’s greetings? No, no. The holiday card is so much more than that. The holiday card is that bit of tradition that says “please remember me and my family during the holiday season” coupled with a touch of “and don’t expect a gift.”
If you don’t feel the pressure of putting together a representative holiday card, you aren’t doing it right. And chances are, most of your friends and/or relatives have you near the bottom of the fridge ranking.
What, you don’t rank all the photo cards you get from best to worst, giving the best cards prime real estate at the top of the fridge, with the dregs barely hanging on to the bottom, just above the water filtration system? I cannot be the only one who does this. I refuse to believe that. (He’s not. Our favorites even get the good magnets! -Ed.)
Alas, I rank your cards, and with the wife sending out 100 or so each year, we get a ton back in the mail, if for nothing other than not wanting to be the schmucks who get a photo of my kids and don’t send one back of theirs. That said, they’re just setting themselves up to be judged — and ranked — on the fridge.
With all that, here are some rules (ten, in fact) for getting your card ranked at the top of every fridge list.
1) Know Your Audience
Knowing your audience is a simple rule that very few people seem to follow. If you send your card to 50 people, know how many of them are Jewish, or Hindu, Muslim or whatever. If there are even as few as 10-15 percent non-Christians on your list, sending a card that says Merry Christmas is a really crappy thing to do.
To be safe, if you don’t know the ethnic background of your card recipients, just go with Season’s Greetings. There’s nothing wrong with Season’s Greetings. Even Happy Holidays can get you in a bit of trouble if the person isn’t celebrating Hanukkah either (though we do recognize New Year’s Day as a holiday so there’s always some Happy Holidays wiggle room.)
Now before I become a Fox News “the liberals are trying to ruin Christmas” talking point, allow me to note that it’s not that at all. Think of it this way: do you send me a card on your birthday? Do I get a card on your wedding anniversary or do you send me a note when you graduate from college? So why do I get a card when you celebrate your holiday? Start sending me a card for all your big annual events and I’ll be cool with a Merry Christmas card, too.
2) One Card For All
This somewhat flies in the face of number one, but please, for the love of, ahem, ‘God’, just send one card to everyone. I’ve had years where people send me a Hanukkah card and my wife (and kids — what the hell is THAT) a Christmas card. Nothing makes a girl feel special like getting an off-the-rack Hanukkah card when everyone else on your list is getting cute pictures of your kids. Gee, thanks.
Speaking of cute pictures of your kids, the next few rules pertain specifically to photo choice.
3) No Ugly Kids
This is a simple, yet underutilized rule; no ugly kids. If you have a 13-year old going through an awkward phase, why in the world would you make him stand in front of your Christmas tree so you can send everyone a photo of just how gangly and pimple-faced he is? That, folks, is why your kids hate you. Well, that and because you put that lock on the liquor cabinet.
No, we don’t care what your teenage kids look like, because they are ugly. Almost all teenage kids are ugly, so chances are, your kids are too. Nobody needs to see that.
4) Little Kids are Never Ugly, But Some of Them are Weird Looking. Embrace That.
Okay, I don’t exactly know when the cutoff is, but sometime between the age of nine and 13 kids go from funny looking little runts to the aforementioned ugly, pimple-faced bastards. Before they reach the “your-kid-is-no-longer-cute” phase, that doesn’t always guarantee they are, or ever were, cute.
I know a woman who insists her kids are cute. They aren’t, but they’re kids, so they aren’t exactly ugly either. Having said that, it would be much more appropriate if she just embraced her kids’ awkwardness. This is my card. My kids are cute…they won’t always be, but they are now. I can smack those two little suckers down anywhere, tell them to smile and bam, I’m done, easy as that.
Most likely, your kids aren’t this cute, so embrace whatever they are. If your kid is weird looking, dress ’em up like an elf or something. Strange shaped head? Throw on a top hat, corn cob pipe and hand the kid a broom for your picture. Get creative.
5) Less is More
I actually break this rule a lot, but whatever, I’m not perfect. One photo is better than 10 photos. Pick the one good photo of your kid, or kids, and go with that. If you do choose a pre-fab online card that has more than one space for photos, please pick images that fit each spot. We got a card this year with a 2×1 inch box. That’s a great size for a close-up, right? Right. So let’s put a full body shot, so our kid’s head is less than an 1/8th of an inch big. Makes sense.
You spent all that money to take your kid to Olan Mills and then you ruin it by picking a design with photo boxes that are too freaking tiny to see anything. One photo, or one group shot and then good sized photos of each kid by him or herself. You don’t need to go nuts.
6) No Stupid Non-Holiday Photos
This is your holiday card, so take the time to get a photo that’s not a piece of crap, okay? We don’t want anything dark or grainy or — how in the world did this happen to get on a card — dark and grainy AND blurry. Get a good photo, in focus, and put it on your card.
And while we’re here, it’s a holiday card. I don’t care about a sunset behind you, especially one that sets you in silhouette in front of it, thereby ruining what you or your family looks like. We get it, you went on vacation this year and you saw a nice sunset. So did EVERYONE ELSE. That’s what vacation photos are for, so if you want to show me your beautiful sunset photo that everyone else in the goddam world has too, invite me over for a slide presentation or set up a Flickr account. Oh, and for those of us who are on hard times this year and couldn’t afford a fancy vacation at the beach, thanks for ONCE AGAIN throwing it in our faces. There’s no place for beach frolicking on a holiday card.
7) No Pets Unless They’re With Your Kids
I’m not saying people without kids can’t send photo cards. The wife and I sent a card one year with ornaments that had our names on it. Get creative, but please don’t send me a photo of your stupid dog. I don’t care, and neither do any of the other people you’re sending it out to. We don’t care about your dog. Your dog is great, she’s a member of your family, but we can only tolerate putting your funny looking kids up on the fridge every year. I will not tolerate your dog. I love dogs, just keep them out of, and off, my fridge.
8) No Christmas Letter
A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Good, so we don’t need both. And we sure as hell don’t need a story being told through the pictures, with images of all the places you’ve visited during the year and random logos of businesses you’ve used to make money (seriously, we got a card with an eBay logo on it. Nothing says happy holidays like selling your old crap online.)
Just send us the card with one family photo and no story. We can tell by counting teeth which of your grandkids is hooked on meth. Yeah, you didn’t mention THAT in the Christmas letter, did you?
9) Size Matters
Our card is 5×7, the standard for many photos and easy to throw into an album or scrap book after the holidays. This year, some companies started selling 7.5 x 6 cards? What the shit is this? I’ve seen the 4×6 cards which are a bit small, yet inoffensive. I’ve even seen the 7.5 x 3 cards, which are fine to fit in a letter envelope and slim enough to fit a lot on your fridge. But 7.5×6 is just obnoxiously big. I have too many cards to rank to deal with oversized junk like that.
10) Names, Names, Names!
This is the last and perhaps most important rule to holiday photo cards; put your names on the cards. Make sure to put the first AND last names, too. If you just put the first names of you and your kids, you’re assuming that nobody else has the same names as your family. Look, with all the Aidens and Cadens and Bradens in the world, your names aren’t that original. Nice names, but there’s a chance 9000 other kids in our town have those names too. Put your last name on the card so we know the card is from you.
For those who put “From the Blank Family” and don’t put the first names (you’ll notice first names are small on our card, but there), it’s impossible for me to remember who all your kids are. I’m just going to start calling them by facial characteristics. Hey, look, there’s Lazy Eye and his sister Moley. Do you want that? Put their names.
And last, a bit of a pet peeve — We’re not The Levy’s. It’s The Levys. Or the Smiths Or the Joneses or the Whoevers. There is no apostrophe at the end of your last name, so don’t use one when you’re making your name plural. Even if you’re trying to say this is your card — which you’re not, but let’s say for argument’s sake that you are — you’d STILL make it plural possessive, because the entire family is in it. So it would be Happy Holidays from the Levys’ which, as stated, is still wrong, but less wrong than what you think is right.
Seasons Greeting’s. What, that looks weird? Exactly.