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Christmas-Card Envy is Real. But Don’t Let it Steal Your Christmas Joy.

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

According to numbers from the U.S. Postal Service, mail, in general, has declined 43% since 2001, but greeting cards have not. Americans buy 6.5 billion greeting cards per year—1.6 billion of those are Christmas cards. Online card-making companies like Shutterfly and Etsy are reporting an increase in searches for family Christmas cards and portrait options. For Etsy, those searches were 258% higher from 2017 to 2018.

But you don’t need the research to prove this to you. You probably already have a stack of Christmas cards from friends and family you have yet to open… Perhaps you are stressing about addressing and stamping your own, or even trying to wrangle your family to take that perfect fireplace photo at the last minute.

While I love holiday traditions and getting updates on friends and family, sometimes the influx of Christmas cards during this season can lead us to compare our family to everyone else’s. These perfectly posed photos, often accompanied by a letter detailing how Sally made all A’s this year and Tommy is the star of the football team, can steal our joy from the season that is meant to be the most joyous.

If you haven’t gotten around to sending Christmas cards this year, you might be feeling even more envy. How are these families so on top of it when I’m not? How do they have the time to organize 100 cards and get them shipped before Christmas? I’m busy trying to keep my toddler alive.

A few Christmases ago, my sweet niece texted me this photo after attempting to make gingerbread houses with her daughter. You can see my niece holding the house remains after it collapsed. When the house fell, her daughter ran out of the room crying.

The truth is, this scenario better depicts our experiences with our kids during Christmas, and every other time of the year, better than most posed and perfect Christmas card photos ever could. If we were all a little more honest about what our lives actually looked like day to day in our Christmas card photos, wouldn’t we find more solidarity than envy when opening the mail this time of year? Wouldn’t we feel more joy, peace, and companionship with one another if we sent the photo like my niece’s instead of the prim and proper ones we feel the need to send out to everyone we know?

A quick internet search shows that some families are on board with this idea. Like this family who sent a card showing how exhausted they felt on Christmas with a baby and toddler. And this family, who commissioned a realistic portrait that depicts their kids fighting and a post-Christmas morning living room in disarray.

I would much rather receive one of these Christmas cards, wouldn’t you? Something to make you laugh and nod in agreement. You know more often than not this is how your life looks too.

If you haven’t sent out a card this year and want to, I encourage you to consider taking the approach that these families did. Or even posting something realistic on social media, like the photo my niece sent me. Perfect Christmas card photos make us feel envious and less-than. Realistic portrayals of our everyday lives make us feel encouraged and connected. How do you want to feel this Christmas?

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