Monday, January 14, 2019

15 Christmas cards from the ACCA '18

Ooh, you lucky, lucky things you. In the past I've shown off 10 or a dozen Christmas cards that we've been sent. This year you get 15.

Let's start, like we usually do, with a token religious card or two. Religious cards are usually dire. I don't know why. In Christian theology, Christmas marks the actual moment when the creator God of the universe was born as a tiny, helpless infant, on a quest to redeem humanity from the stain of sin. Quite how you can make that idea boring, I don't know. But card companies do. Repeatedly.

Anyway, I quite like this card.

Obviously, it's not particularly interesting as a picture, but the artistry in the design elevates it above the herd of boring stables and lone stars in dark nights above stereotypical middle eastern townscapes.

But Christmas seems to have transcended its religious roots, merging with and absorbing all kinds of other traditions. And extra stuff seems to get heaped on with every passing year. Like Christmas jumpers. They started off a few years back as a bit of a joke. Now they are mass-produced in Chinese sweatshops year-round in anticipation of the cheap novelty jumper frenzy every December. 

If you were going to choose one cultural accretion to mash up with the religious aspect of the holiday, why not Christmas jumpers? I actually really liked this card with cutesy nativity characters on jumpers.

Of course, we all know who the real star of Christmas is. Move over Jesus, the kids are more interested in Santa anyway.

This year we got an advent calendar card with Santa on. It arrived the end of November. There are elves behind the doors - but you'll have to take my word for that because I scanned it with the doors shut.

Who buys Santa presents? Inquiring minds want to know.

Snowmen, apparently. Goodness knows what he's wrapped up in there. Something frozen, I hope. 

Speaking of snowmen, this chap amused me. However, this is one of the cards that arrived in an orgy of glitter, which I am still noticing on the carpet.

Some newish themes came our way this year, particularly animals in the snow. This blackbird had a mscheivous glint in his eye.

And this donkey looked surprisingly chipper, despite only having a scarf to ward off the perishing cold.

(Seriously, animals do not stand out in falling snow. Animals are smarter than that.)

Another random theme, featuring on two cards this year, were hares and moons. Not mooning hares, although that will no doubt feature at some point as any cultural shift gets debased. These cards were captioned "Hare by Moonlight" and "Moonlit Hare". See if you can work out which was which.

We had no dogs in Santa hats this year (which deeply disappoints me) so I'm declaring hares and moons as the new dogs in Santa hats, in terms of card fashions. I guess they'd also count as 'animals too dumb to shelter from falling snow' along with the donkey and the cheeky berry-thieving blackbird. (You know it's not his berry. He's nicking it. You can tell by the glint in his eye. And good for him. We need more anarchic animals taking on humanity; pinching berries, burning stuff, overthrowing capitalism.)

Another macro-theme would be 'cards that people send me to mess up my audit'. The next one clearly falls into this theme. I'm fairly certain my friend Stewart was trying to derail me with this card.

Also, now I have to have a llamas category because someone thought it wise to send us this.

I didn't want a new category but Cathy insisted, because llamas.

Penguins - that's a sensible Christmas category that we've always had since the audit began back in 2012. (Ah, remember 2012? We'd just had the Olympics. The nation was united. We weren't going to be leaving the EU and plunge into economic chaos because a bunch of gammons were fed up with foreigners coming over here and doing all the menial jobs and paying tax on their earnings. A simpler time.)

Anyway, enough of the reverie about a time before the country turned into a toxic hot mess. Penguins. They're cute on their own of course. But even cuter as a couple.

The "Cosy Christmas Cuddles" card was Cathy's card to me. It's probably not that surprising that every year two of my favourite cards are the ones that we give to each other. I went native with my choice. You can't get more Welsh than two sheep saying Happy Christmas in Welsh.

Seriously, how cute are they? I bought this card when I saw it in November, instead of procrastinating and doing my usual 23rd December late dash to a supermarket.

And so, on to the last card I'm going to show you from this year's collection. This was from my northern-dwelling sister-in-law, Abby. It's a Geordie version of a popular Christmas song. It's the perfect marriage of concept and design and it's even got the Angel of the North on it in faint outline. Now, that's my kind of Christmas angel.

Thanks for reading this. Only 49 weeks until Christmas 2019!

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

The big Annual Christmas Card Audit 2018 (ACCA18)

I get a lot of questions about this audit, mainly along the lines of 'Are you going to do your audit again this year?' It seems to be the most interesting thing I do, which, now that I think about it, doesn't make me sound like the most thrilling person on the planet. (And quite a few people are deliberately sending me cards trying to bugger up my categories. I know who you are.)

But I do find this sort of thing interesting. The trends. Why are the rich, well-dressed three kings of the Orient so much more popular than the smelly shepherds? Why do religious Christmas cards almost never mention Christmas? Why are penguins perennial paradigms of Christmasness? What happened to all the dogs in Santa hats (none again this year!) The numbers. The charitable causes. The glitter.

Ah, the glitter.

Can I have a word about the glitter? It's incredibly bad for the planet. But never mind that, just when I've finally managed to hoover every stray bit of tinsel and fake green bits off the tree (why do plastic trees shed?), I then have to take down the Christmas cards. Glitter doesn't stay stuck. It's one of the laws of physics, I think. (Maybe I should have paid more attention in science class. If it's not a law, it should be.) Or rather, it doesn't stay stuck where it should, so I now have a glittery carpet, glittery socks, glittery thumbs and by the end of this, a glittery keyboard too, no doubt.

I'll get to the stats in a minute, but first something we've never received before - a very early Christmas card that doubled up as an advent calendar.

And so, on we go. New categories are asterisked.

Total number of cards: 82 - a year-on-year decline of 8 

Hand-made / home-produced cards: 7 (same number for the fifth year in a row)
Cards designed by kids: 5
Cards with glitter: 17 (exactly the same as last year)

Cards sold in aid of charity (or fundraising):50
Total number of charities represented: 36
Most popular charity represented: British Heart Foundation were the winners this year with 6. Cancer Research UK and the Traidcraft / SCIAF / CAFOD / Christian Aid combination were joint second with 5.

Religious themes
Religious-themed cards: 30 (down 1 from 2017)
Cards featuring the Nativity: 15 (down 1 from 2017)
Christmas story 'characters':
Three kings: 6 (same as last year)
The shepherds: 1
The star of Bethlehem: 1
Angels: 1
*Choirboys: 3 (All three looked very much alike - groups of choirboys in red and white robes standing outside a village church in the falling snow.)
'Cartoony' religious: 1

Other themes
Santa: 6
Penguins: 3
Bears: 1 
Deer/reindeer: 1
Christmas decorations: 2
Christmas trees: 6
Christmas food: 4 (mainly Christmas puddings)
Robins: 2
Donkeys: 1 
Sheep: 3
Winter scene/scenery: 3
Snowmen: 5
Licensed characters: 0 (no Star Wars cards this year)
*Llamas: 1 (Cathy wanted this as it's own category, even though it's really just a Peruvian deer)
*Hares and Moons: 2 (This year's 'dogs with Santa hats' type of trend, maybe? But less joyful. Because a dog in a Santa hat is always fun, even if it's a grumpy pug. but hares by moonlight look a bit mournful.)
*Holly and wreaths: 3

Messages (front of card only)
Cards that mention 'Christmas' on the front: 30. Only 6 of them were religious themed. This just confirms my annual observation that religious themed cards don't use the word Christmas. Also 1 card saying Nadolig Llawen. 
"Seasons Greetings": 1
Mentions "Jesus": 0 but 1 card did have "Emmanuel" on it
Bible verse: 2 (Well, kind of. They both said "unto us a child is born" which is a Bible verse, but neither had a Bible reference saying where it was from. But I'm going to count them because otherwise there would be zero.)
*Lines or titles of Christmas carols (including) "Joy to the World": 7
*Lines or titles of Christmas songs: 3

Previous years:
2015 plus 10 favourite cardssenders analysis and Bible verse breakdown
2016 plus favourite cards
2017 plus a dozen favourites and Christmas carol audit