It is that time of the year when mailboxes are filled with colorful envelopes, family photos and handwritten letters. These cards are artfully stacked or placed in one crevice of the house until another holiday season comes to an end. Some photos arrive from families that you saw yesterday at game night, while others are from a distant college friend that you have not spoken to since graduation.

Getting something in the mail, the old fashioned kind, has a heart-warming effect. But, as the progression of iPhones and Snapchats surge into the future, written notes are left behind until December happens again. The holiday season makes everyone feel a bit more popular and a tad more loved. Cards are fun to send and receive because they give you a chance to reminisce on the year, forgive the mistakes and rejoice in the good.

At the same time, it can be odd to receive a card from a family you have not spoken to in five years. Maybe it is one of those timeless friends who you only need to talk to every odd year, but sometimes it can be simply random. Certain cards appear thrown together, while others look like Martha Steward made the design. With this cheerful season comes an interesting array of holiday cards:

1. The Collage

This card is fairly basic and easy to understand. That family did not have a decent family photo to send to 50 different areas of the world. Instead, 5 to 8 photos ranging from the cute new puppy to selfies at the family vacation to the kid’s first day of school, plaster the double-sided notecard. Collages happen for a variety of reasons: no one had any time, kids are in the “mom and dad aren’t cool” phase, or everyone frankly forgot.

2. Perfectly Posed Family

In other words, a professional took the photo complete with a backdrop or scenic view in the distance. This family went all out. Everyone looks poised and happy – an image of pristine content and love. The kids are holding hands and dad has a hand on mom’s shoulder. Who knows, maybe this is how the family is all the time, or it’s possible that an argument happened 30 seconds before those smiles. It all depends.

3. Everyone is Distracted

No one, not mom, dad, or grandpa, is looking at the camera. Now, with small family gatherings, it is easy to take a few more photos to capture the perfect moment. But, large groups can be stressful. It is hard to keep all the five and eight year old cousins to sit for more than 10 seconds. Everyone is shouting and before you know it the camera flashes and no one wants to sit through another, so you call it good and send it to Costco.

4. Kids Only

The parents are not in the picture. This is another card that happens for a variety of reasons. On a serious note, maybe mom and dad are not together anymore and one decides to talk about their children this holiday. That would make this card a logical option to post and send. On the other hand, the “kid’s only” photo can also happen because of one too many Christmas cards in the past. Children are graduating college soon and the idea of another family photo is cringe worthy.

5. The Never-Ending Letter

The card that gives receiving families an update on every aspect of the sender’s lives. Some call it bragging, others find it to be military style bullet points of the past year’s experiences, and it can also resemble a Dear Annie column in the paper. Whatever you define these letters as or however you choose to write them, try to leave judgment out.

These cards can be funny to look at or easy to judge, but ultimately the people that sent them care enough about you to send a holiday greeting. So have a laugh (or two), but remember that every family had a different experience in 2015.

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