Hold off on the holiday cards featuring cute canines, cute kids and lengthy newsletters


November 07, 1996|By Kevin Cowherd

For the record, let me state that I'm a big fan of holiday greeting cards, despite receiving last year what will henceforth be known as the "Fluffy card."

The card arrived a week or so before Christmas from our friends Don and Renee.

The outside of the card suggested nothing untoward. It featured a typical winter tableau of horse and sleigh silhouetted in front of a snowy pine forest, along with a standard eye-glazing Hallmark inscription: "Wishing you the best in holiday cheer at this joyous time of blah, blah, blah."

But the inside of the card was a different matter. Because affixed to one flap was a glossy snapshot of Don and Renee's poodle, Fluffy.

This, of course, was bad enough -- Fluffy is an annoying little mutt who yaps and lunges menacingly at your feet from the moment you walk in their house until the moment you leave.

Plus Don and Renee have this sickening habit of using baby talk with the dog ("Does Fwuffy want a wittle tweat? He does?") that makes you hate him even more, even if it isn't his fault.

But making the picture of Fluffy even more chilling was this: He was dressed in a little reindeer costume, complete with tiny plastic antlers and Rudolph-like red rubber nose.

Well. I'm not sure I can express the sheer horror that a poodle in a reindeer costume can evoke, except to say that it was many days before my wife and I were able to open another Christmas card in the carefree, innocent manner to which we'd become accustomed.

With that in mind, here are a few tips for card-givers everywhere that will help make the holidays a more pleasant time for all:

Be judicious in your use of pet photos. It goes without saying (or it should, anyway) that a snapshot of a poodle in a reindeer costume is entirely inappropriate and constitutes, if not outright cruelty to the animal, an unnerving experience for the recipient of the card.

This would also apply to a shot of a St. Bernard named Holmes, with a faux cask of brandy under his chin, a river of drool cascading from his mouth and a Santa hat perched jauntily atop his head.

Remember: Not everyone is as fascinated with our pets as we are.

A holiday greeting card without a personalized inscription exudes all the warmth of a W-2 form.

I am constantly amazed at the number of people who are content to let American Greetings Corp., convey their holiday wishes to others in the form of a sappy, cliche-ridden poem -- and then don't even add a warm complimentary close such as: "Thinking of you, Barbara and Bill."

The dealership where I bought my last car sends out a Christmas card with more feeling than the cards I get from some people I've known 20 years.

As with pets, children should not be misused photographically in Christmas cards.

The idea of a toddler posing in a miniature woolen Santa outfit complete with suspenders, bushy wig and burlap beard sounds cute now.

But don't be surprised if, 25 years from now, your child is standing at a group-therapy session in a dank church basement, stubbing out a Winston, rubbing his red-rimmed eyes and announcing in a halting voice: "My parents used to dress me in these little Santa outfits. ... God, it was so humiliating."

One other note: Posing the little dears in front of the same fireplace year after year, a yule log blazing in the background and their Christmas stockings arranged neatly over the hearth, loses its visual allure after a while.

After a very short while, if you catch my drift.

A word or two about the "family newsletters" that often accompany holiday greeting cards.

If you are the type of person who sends these, it's wonderful to hear that your husband has ascended to the vice presidency of his firm, your own real estate business is thriving, your daughter was accepted at the Ivy League college of her choice and that your son, in addition to quarterbacking the varsity football team to a 9-0 record and the state title, will spend this summer in Paris studying fin de siecle architecture.

However, some of us have not been as blessed and, if forced to sit at the word processor and compose such a newsletter, might well write:

Dear folks,

As I type this, the living room couch just went skidding by, followed by an end table and the hassock. This is due to the fact that the house is listing at an alarming 22-degree angle, ever since the discovery of a giant sinkhole in the front yard.

Joe lost his job at the cannery. Millie shaved her head and joined the Hare Krishna movement; we don't see much of her unless we drive out to the airport where they're chanting and so forth. As for Joe Jr., he is repeating the eighth grade for the second time.

Fortunately, we have our health -- well, Millie, Joe Jr. and I do, anyway. Joe has been feeling poorly since he was sideswiped by that bakery van two months ago.

Our best to everyone, The O'Briens

As a further sign that the Apocalypse is nigh, holiday greeting cards can now be sent via computer.

Both American Greetings and Hallmark Cards offer CD-ROM packages that allow you to design a card on your computer screen, type in the name and address of the person you want it sent to, and click on an "order" icon.

The company will then print and mail the card for you, freeing up time for the things in your life that really matter, such as "Regis and Kathie Lee."

Cold? Impersonal? A hellish descent into a technology-dominated future where human feelings and emotions count for zero?

Could be, could be.

Then again, if it cuts down on the number of cards featuring poodles dressed as reindeer, who's to say it's such a bad thing?

Pub Date: 11/07/96

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