What is it about December that tempts even the most modest people to break out the Kinkos stationary and pen excessively boastful form letters? You know the ones I'm talking about: cheesy rants and run-ons disguised as Christmas cards that flood your mailbox every winter until the joyous season ends.
I receive buckets of such letters from old college acquaintances and family members (who don't write me any other time of the year) indiscreetly detailing everything from their monetary gains to whatever award their genius child recently received. Lest you pass me off as a total Scrooge, I really do enjoy hearing from people over the holidays. It's just that in tough economic times like these, wouldn't it be nicer to emphasize the act of selfless giving and tone down the conceit just a tad?
Rather than dragging everyone through the unnecessarily mundane details of your life, why not try to come up with a creative card (or letter) alternative? Mine have often taken on the old-fashioned pen and paper form with a hand-drawn design, etc. In recent years, however, I've begun to play around more with electronic media to fashion e-cards, slide shows and videos using everything from iPhoto to Audacity. Web 2.0 has made this a reality for nearly everyone; even if you don't own a computer, chances are you can borrow one from a friend who does. Content, of course, can run the gamutjust remember to keep it modest, thoughtful and true to the expression of your sentiments for the season.
Old-School Pen and Paper
• Perhaps you have a favorite quote by an author that evokes the spirit of service you find important this time of year. Try combining it in print with a visual representation that you design yourself. Use some of the amazing papers available at your local craft supply store, and bam! You've got a personalized work of art for mere pennies.
• Want to share something personal about a family member who recently passed away? An heirloom holiday recipe of your grandmother's printed on cardstock with a vintage photo of her on the reverse would be lovely. A handmade accordion photo booklet coupled with quotes by your loved one would be equally appropriate.
High-Tech Christmas Card
• Interested in celebrating a recent addition to your family? Why not put together a slide show of tasteful photographs of your child (or pets) with your computer's built-in photo editor? Add appropriate music (your son or daughter accompanying on piano or recorder), and you've got an e-card that everyone will enjoy without becoming tooth-achingly sentimental.
• A Power Point slide show is also a nice way to introduce evocative images and/or text. Last year, I made one using only the words from the preface to Leaves of Grass.
• Slide shows not your thing? You could try doing a themed e-mail blast. Several years ago, I created my own version of the "Twelve Days of Christmas," during which I e-mailed a different poet (and three of their poems) every day for the 12 days leading up to Dec. 25.