The tradition continues

I’ve been sending Christmas cards to family and friends since 1995, and the scale of the effort continues to grow each year. This year’s list of recipients is just shy of 350, which of course means a lot of printing and envelopes and postage. It’s quite a production, and one which has consumed the past few weekends.

For many years, I would put together elaborate newsletters and photo collages and that sort of thing. One fateful year– 2009, to be exact– I was doing my usual work on our card, and came up with the design we’d send to the printing company.

That looks pretty good, right? Well, when I was taking the pictures, I mentioned that we should all make a goofy pose. We did, and I tested it on the card layout:

The kids absolutely loved it. They thought it would be so funny to send this as our annual card. So, okay, I did. I was (pleasantly) surprised at the number of people who mentioned how much they enjoyed our irreverence.

Thus, the tradition was born. The next year I wondered what we could add to our funny faces. The answer: head over to Target and have everyone pick out a hat to wear. We stood in the store, trying on hats, and eventually asked a customer to take our picture. That was an interesting conversation.

A year later, I thought we should stand in a circle looking down at a camera on the floor. (I admit, it wasn’t one of my most creative moments.)

In 2012 I decided we should take a serious family portrait– the kind of thing you’d buy at Olan Mills or some other professional studio. But I wanted to add something completely unexpected. After a bit of thought, it came to me. Wigs. This drew rave comments from a lot of friends, and remains one of my favorite cards. It’s mostly because of the way Zack looks.

My office has a lot of huge glass walls, and I figured we’d see what it looks like to mash our faces against glass and take a picture. The result wasn’t quite as funny as it seemed in my mind, and I ended up doing a lot of work to remove glare from the photo.

2014 was the year our Christmas cards went from an amusing anecdote amongst friends to the stuff of legend. For whatever reason, people loved the “Jurassic Park” idea. Even now, years later, I have friends who tell me how their kids talk about that card. I know people who still have this card on their refrigerator. Yes, really.

Inspired by the previous idea of combining our family with popular media, I decided to capitalize on the hysteria surrounding the newest Star Wars movie. As it turns out, it’s much more difficult than I expected to combine our faces with a movie poster. In addition, Alex was serving his mission in Peru so I couldn’t get a photo of him specifically for the pose I needed. That said, it turned out pretty good.

In 2016, I wanted to do something that combined our card with a web site. What sort of thing might have a multimedia tie-in? Music, of course! But we’re not a musical family at all (with the notable exception of Kyra and her flute), so whatever music we included would probably be bad. Well, why not make it really bad, then? The answer was obvious: kazoos. I opted for a serious take on a kazoo orchestra, and we all dressed up and tried to look serious. In truth, this “photo shoot” had me laughing so hard I was crying at points. We have some hilarious outtakes. And I built a web site, complete with audio clips and biographies of the orchestra members. Even Alex, still off in Peru, was mentioned as an absentee member. The site allowed people to comment, which was fun. This project definitely took longer than any previous card, but it was a blast.

This year I had a complete dearth of creativity. Thanksgiving had come and gone, and still I didn’t know what to do, but with some input from the team (well, Alex), it came together. It’s not my finest work, but I hope it’ll be a hit.