It all started just before Miss P the elder’s first Christmas, eleven years ago.
For a reason I can no longer recall, I vowed to take a personal approach to the season’s greetings and made my own cards, featuring a three-month-old Miss P wearing a Santa hat and a slightly stroppy expression. It went down well with relatives at the higher end of the age spectrum, but boy, did it turn out to be a rod for my own back, since thereafter I was forced to spend many hours of my life in the weeks prior to Christmas attempting to better the previous year’s card.
After that first, frankly amateurish attempt, I felt compelled to up the quality stakes and – with a little technical aid from someone cleverer than I – went digital. Adding a cheesy caption also seemed, at the time, to be the right thing to do.
I was anxious to retain that homemade feel though (and also, I was a total sucker), which meant cutting and pasting – in the old fashioned sense, I mean – each picture onto around eighty blank cards. This was a process that left me covered in a sticky film of Spray Mount, nauseous, and emotionally drained for days afterwards. (And you’ve got to remember – this is all BEFORE reaching the stamp-licking stage.)
But still. As with the baby Jesus, something important had been born. There was no question that I’d pick it up and run with it the following year, too…
And – with the addition to our family of Miss P the Younger adding a new dimension to the whole project – the year after that, too…
Possibly the whole concept was starting to lose appeal in 2005 – or maybe I just felt like sticking my neck out and trying something a bit more abstract…
Either way, it was back to angels again the following Christmas. By now though, the natives were getting restless – coaxing the girls into their costumes and extracting a smile out of them was not the simple matter it had been in years gone by, and now necessitated the use of bribery to recruit them…
And yes, ok, it’s true, by the time 2007 rolled round, I was definitely starting to dread the whole thing somewhat. It was basically a huge amount of hassle, and it was flippin’ expensive, too – by the time I’d paid for props, printing and materials, I could easily have bought many dozens of bumper selection boxes from W H Smiths. Maybe I should have cut my losses sooner. Except…I COULDN’T jack it in. I couldn’t draw a line under it. I’d started something I didn’t know how to stop. Partly because I didn’t want people to think I was copping out and partly because I didn’t want to give my detractors satisfaction by quitting. And oh yes, there were detractors. Even though no-one had ever actually come out to say so, I just KNEW that some recipients deemed my homemade cards tacky. Exploitative, even. Others clearly thought I was mad to expend so much time and effort on it. All of which drove me on into 2007 – I HAD to prove to those doubting bastards that this worthwhile tradition would be carried on AS LONG AS I LIVED AND BREATHED….
Perhaps. Because, Lordy, it was hard coming up with those captions, and harder still to get the girls to agree to dress up and pose like eejits. So hard, that I gave up on both in 2008 and went for something simpler, instead.
But hey. I got a little resurgence of energy, and a boost of enthusiasm, in 2009. The girls were right up for it, too, for a change. (That isn’t my joke, by the way…s’funny, though, innit?)
It did turn out to be my last, however. I finally got beaten down by lack of imagination, apathy, and the conviction that one day, the girls would seek payback. (Visions of a family Christmas card featuring me, naked from the waist up, but for a pair of oversized baubles to cover my dignity, haunted me.)
So in 2010, I gave up on Christmas cards, entirely. I couldn’t bring myself to buy that bumper selection pack, so instead, I emailed personal greetings to everyone who mattered and doesn’t live near by, and verbally wished my local friends the very best. Then I gave the £40 I would probably have spent in getting my homemade cards out to charity, instead.
And just like that, a new tradition was born.