December can be really stressful, particularly for working parents. Work usually gets extra crazy with the need to cram in end of year performance reviews and training classes while managing projects with a skeleton staff. Then, of course, home life is busy with holiday shopping, kids out of school (even virtual school)….and of course, the pressure to create the perfect holiday card. In fact, truth be told most working parents have a love-hate relationship with the annual holiday card – we love the nostalgia and tradition, but we hate the work. Then there’s the conspicuous wrinkle that is 2020.
During this year of unprecedented change and challenge, many working parents have fought desperately to maintain as much tradition and normalcy as possible in a world that’s been turned upside down. Indeed, while corporate holiday parties and family dinners have gone virtual, many of us are determined to hold on to this time-honored tradition of sending a card as a way to reach out to loved ones near and far to provide an update on our growing families. For many holiday cards don’t just provide an opportunity to maintain personal connections; they also serve as a great way to build and sustain important professional relationships.
Arguably, these days what makes a great holiday card is that one (or two or three) amazing pictures, but how do you create a great holiday card when the family has been holed up in the living room binge watching Netflix nearly all year? What picture do you use for the year when everything was cancelled – including fun family vacations, field trips and other events as well as the annual professional photography session? Not to fear – this year you can still produce an amazing holiday card and maintain that treasured tradition. Here are a few innovative ideas for the year that forced working parents to reimagine just about everything.
Use a fun, casual picture instead of the “perfect” professional one
This year many popular online design companies are promoting designs with a pandemic theme or decidedly casual overtones. Minted’s collection for example boasts photo card taglines like “Cheers from our Quaranteam to Yours,” “Holiday Homebodies,” “It’s fine. We’re fine. Everything is fine.” or even just the hilarious “We Tried.” They even have a Quarantine theme category for these type cards which really beg for a much more casual, amateur photo that you may have snapped while the kids were homeschooling or playing kickball in the backyard. For my card this year, I thought about just using one of our unused professional pictures from 2019 (no one would really know the difference anyway), but instead I opted for a much more fun, albeit imperfect shot because I thought it really summed up the year much better.
Use the kids’ artwork as your image
Using one of the kids’ hand drawn pieces can create a holiday card that’s truly memorable, and it’s a great way to actually do something with one of those precious drawings instead of letting it just rot in a drawer. Certainly, most parents will agree that there’s no shortage of pieces to choose from. A child’s hand drawn family photo tends to work really well or take a picture of one of their many art projects. Just snap a quality shot of one of the pieces and upload it as your picture using one of the popular online holiday card sites like Shutterfly, Tiny Prints, Snapfish, or even Paperless Post if you choose to go the digital card route. The great thing about using the kids’ artwork is that imperfection is what makes it so precious. There is no “right” image. There are just some that are even cuter than others. Using a piece of their artwork can also be a great ice breaker to help forge stronger client or other business relationships if you prefer not to use a personal photo.
Create a collage from previous years’ cards
Many working parents undoubtedly used some of the additional time at home this year to work on craft projects either unfinished or imagined but never realized. One of my early craft projects was creating a collage of previous years’ holiday cards as I knew we wouldn’t likely take our regular professional pictures this year. The chaotic, almost messy nature of collages is perfect for the “good enough is the new perfect” reality of 2020. Since collages are all over the place by design, you can pull one together pretty quickly. If you have lots of great pictures or old holiday cards laying around, it won’t take much effort to assemble them into a collage and snap a pic that can become your holiday image. I decided to use my collage for the back of our 2020 holiday card. It’s actually a cool trip down memory lane that your friends and family will undoubtedly enjoy.
Obviously, these are just a few options, and there are many more. Certainly, you could dress up and conduct your own improvised photo session in your backyard with a selfie stick or timer, or even pivot completely to a non-photo card (with a family update letter inserted inside to personalize it a bit). There are lots of alternatives so tap into those creative juices one more time and come up with something memorable.
2020 was certainly the year where we all embraced imperfection and improvising so it seems only fitting that our holiday cards reflect that. The truth is that the best pictures in so many ways are like our best memories – invariably, it’s not the formal, expensive, planned ones but instead the simple, casual, cheap ones that we end up cherishing the most.