The Christmas card. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny its staying power. Despite everything getting faster, more convenient, more personalized and — more often than not, digital — the card prevails. Some may call it a relic of the past. However, where holidays are concerned, being nostalgic is a gift and being tangible is touching. 

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. I’m a creative by trade and I find myself starting to sweat the day after Thanksgiving. That’s when we get warm holiday greetings from our so-called friends. Those people who ruined the curve for us in Algebra II now continue their reign of terror into adulthood with a card that says “I’ve got my shit together, what are you doing with your life?” 

To be fair, I don’t actually hold it against them. They really are good friends. This is a problem of planning and priority on my part. After all, it’s not like Christmas is some mystery date that I never saw coming. With that in mind, here’s a basic creative brief to help for next year. 

Goal: Send a card to your friends and family.

Sounds easy enough. 

Target: Everyone you know. 

Well shit. I mean, this is going to everyone from my 91-year-old grandma to my old college roommate. How do I craft a meaningful message for my kids’ teachers, my neighbors, my siblings, my wife’s siblings, aunts, uncles and some people on this list who I would consider acquaintances but my wife insists are legit friends? TBD.

Brand: Funny, informative or inspiring? 

Funny: Our family brand leans toward funny. But going this route can be a dangerous game. First of all, reference the target above — funny isn’t always universal. Secondly, funny isn’t easy. I’ll include our Christmas card from this year at the bottom of this article and you can be the judge of how we did.

Inspiring: This can be almost as hard as funny. There is a fine line between giving people something heartwarming and telling people they are products of a capitalist culture and too focused on consumerism. However, it does free you up to use a quote rather than coming up with something witty on your own, which is nice.

Informative: This one can be the easiest, and often the most effective. Classic example: Lineup of kids in front of the Grand Canyon. Text: Happy holidays from the Smiths. Brayden (11), Cayden (9), Jayden (7). While it may not be original in concept, it tells a story.

Competitors: Everyone you know. 

Come on now. Christmas cards are not a competition, right? It’s not like the people who get them will display them side-by-side with all the other cards they receive. Wait…that’s exactly what everyone does? Challenge accepted. 

Competitors include:

  • People with new babies 
  • People with new pets 
  • People with an unhealthy obsession with their pet
  • People who write a full year in review
  • People with professional photographers 
  • People who use vacation photos 
  • People who are funny 
  • People who include hand-written notes

Unique selling proposition: What made you, you this year?

It can be intimidating to think, What did we do this year that’s card worthy? But the secret is to not go too big. Everyone knows what happened in the world. You don’t need to tell them in your card. And you have Facebook to share your political views. Going small is more effective. Make a list, and then pick one or two things to focus on. Keep it simple and keep it uniquely you. 

Our key benefits of 2020: 

  • Three daughters 
  • One dog
  • We learned to surf
  • We got a trampoline

Budget: Can you put a price on holiday joy? 

It turns out that you can. And the more joy you decide to share the higher the price. (Advice to self: Breathe in. Breathe out. It is indeed more expensive than anticipated. Yes, your list did grow. Don’t even mention this to your wife. You know you’re going to give in and buy them anyway. So just click the submit button and place the order.

Timeline: Nowish? 

Let’s set a calendar reminder for the day after Halloween. Walmart will already have their Christmas display up by then anyway. Plus you can have this all knocked out ready to ship by Thanksgiving. That means you can plan on enjoying leftovers and cruising Black Friday deals while some poor sap is sweating their Christmas card. 

Conclusion: Have fun

We take our kids out and spend 30 minutes taking a bunch of pictures in different places. For us, trying to get a perfect shot was a recipe for disaster that led to irritation followed by anger and then escalated to tears. Nowadays we try to have fun, take some pictures and then see what we get. My wife and I then write something that fits the picture rather than trying to take a picture that fits the idea. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But that’s okay. At the end of the day, this is just a card. The people you send it to should appreciate the effort and will be happy just to be included on your list. 

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