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ISSUE 121 VOL 9 PUBLISHED 11/30/2007

Hallmark holidays exclude

By Cody Venzke
Variety Editor

Friday, November 30, 2007

As a kid, there were two things that I never wanted to find under the tree Christmas morning: clothes and Christmas cards. I wanted something cool, something that made noise, something that I could maybe hit my little brother with, but never sweaters or anything that said Hallmark on it.

Some things never change. Although I'm slightly more receptive when I get clothes from my parents or well-meaning relatives, I still want something cool, something that makes noise or something to hit my little brother with (don't worry, he'll hit me back). As for anything labeled Hallmark, I still have mixed feelings.

To me, Christmas cards are an unnecessary, albeit inevitable, component of any December. Some people enjoy sending and receiving holiday greetings, and I can understand why. Occasionally, it is nice to hear from grandma, your third cousin twice-removed or some family friend who you barely remember. As always, no standard Christmas card is complete without overly-saccharine sentimentality, colorful seasonal illustrations and clever humor.

Some people love this. I, however, am inclined to think that the whole thing is a bit redundant. After all, if Grandma sends you a card from over the river and through the woods, you have to give her some kind of acknowledgement. So you go out, get your own heart-warming, sickeningly sweet Christmas card to thank Grandma for her card and the accompanying $20. And what if she responds to your thank-you card? What we have here is postal system disaster of national proportions just waiting to happen. Perhaps I'm just being a bit cynical -- I love Christmas, but when it comes to Christmas cards, I can be quite the Grinch.

Despite the fact that everybody (besides me) loves Christmas cards, even these little bundles of holiday joy can't escape the secularity-of-Christmas debate. This debate has been a surprisingly passionate one. We see the effects everywhere -- department stores, advertisements and even Christmas cards all make use of phrases like "holiday greetings" in place "merry Christmas."

This use of the general "holiday" over "Christmas" has upset some. After all, Christmas is a Christian holiday, and stripping it of its religious center seemingly reduces Christmas to nothing more than a month-long shopping spree.

However, a month-long shopping spree is exactly what most retailers are looking for. By using "Christmas" instead of the more general "holiday," marketers are advertising to a far wider market. I can only imagine that it's easier to sell a card with "Happy Holidays!" emblazoned across the front to non-Christians than one with "Merry Christmas." As I said earlier, Christmas is a Christian holiday, and not all of the American market is Christian. Manufacturers -- card makers included -- have a lucrative incentive to use "holiday" instead of "Christmas."

So what does all this mean to you, my Christmas (I mean "holiday") card lover? For starters, you're the one who will be sifting through hundreds of available cards to find the perfect one for your significant other (or maybe your kindergarten teacher). You will have to decide which cards you will want send out, and what aspects of the holiday season you want to emphasize.

You will also want to consider how specific each card is. When sending cards, many people are happy to send out a blanket greeting to everybody they have ever met. Cards sporting the general "Happy Holidays!" are perfect for this. Others, however, wish to send out cards with a more personal touch, complete with hand-written notes. In this case, cater to the celebrations of each individual recipient. If your recipients will be celebrating Hanukkah or don't profess any particular faith, it is probably not a good idea to shove Christmas down their throats.

Some may object that this amounts to a betrayal of Christianity, but I'm inclined to think otherwise. Respecting the religious preferences of your family and friends by no means betrays Christmas to either materialism or secularism. It's simply an acknowledgement of the diverse array of holidays that is celebrated as the year draws to a close.

Ultimately, don't kill yourself by trying to be politically correct. The holidays are a time to celebrate with family and friends. For some, holiday cards are the perfect way to reconnect, even if they are just a little too sweet.

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