If Christmas Cards Were Realistic

Tis’ the season for twinkling lights, sparkling tress and the annual Christmas card.  It brings me joy to see children growing and the families that have my heart doing well.

I’m going to be honest and say that while I love the cards that grace my mail box, I dread the process of creating my own card. There’s just so much pressure.

There is pressure to have matching outfits and a professional photo shoot draped in the perfect sunlight.

There is pressure to capture genuine grins of joy that radiate love and affection.

There is pressure to find the perfect card design that’s printed on the thickest card stock.

Friends, that’s WAY too much pressure in this sacred season! May I dare call it insanity?

But like everyone, I try to put my best foot forward and embrace the tradition of the Christmas card. We try to be that family. Dressed in our Sunday best, we pray that one picture will give the illusion that we have it all together.

Except that’s not real life.

Our reality is filled with child crying, tantrums, and more tense moments than I care to admit.  We’re not always the loving and kind family our Christmas card portrays. But then again, is anyone’s life really Christmas card perfect?

Can we be just be honest?

If we’re all honest, behind those plastered smiles are hurts, troubles, and real-life problems. If Christmas cards and letters were truly realistic, they would share the real stories of the lives represented on the cards.

Instead of perfection, friends would see the deep hurts and needs of the grinning family. With that openness, friends could rush to the aid of the family in need.

If Christmas cards were realistic, what would they say about your family? Being honest and vulnerable can be a HUGE blessing to a family. Here's why you need to showcase your reality this Christmas.

The blessing of vulnerability

What freedom to let down our guard, share our struggles and tell the real stories of the past year. We would not feel the need to hide behind halfhearted sentiments and merry wishes in the Christmas letter that only mentions the highlights.

Friends would see the tears and be able to lend a helping hand. Instead of posed looks of joy, we would know the relationship strains and the tensions in the family. A caring community would be ready to be the hands and feet of Jesus while offering encouragement and pointing to truth.

Friends would see a need and take action to help.

Food could be provided when it is scarce.

Financial assistance offered when times are lean.

Counsel provided for the couple on the brink of divorce.

It’s time to take off the masks

If Christmas cards were realistic, we could take off our masks and be free to be whom God made us to be without the expectations of perfection and without fear of judgement. As a result, our hearts would be freer and our burdens a bit lighter. Imagine the beauty of authentic relationships where you could share both the sorrows and the joys.

While the concept of realistic Christmas cards will probably never catch on, imagine the beautiful relationships we could build if everyone was honest and vulnerable.

As for me, I’m going to embrace our imperfections and let our blooper picture make the final cut for our card. Our friends and family will know that while we aren’t perfect, we aren’t afraid to share reality, even when it’s not picture perfect.

As you get ready to make your own cards, remember they don’t have to feign perfection.  Don’t be afraid to let your real circumstances show in your Christmas letter and if you decide you want to add the bloopers to your final card, I’m pretty sure I’d have a new best friend!


  1. Yes! no family is perfect. Not on facebook , not on pictures and not in real life. kudos to you for being real. I do our own pictures, I’m a “wannabe” , a trying hard photographer ( only to my family..lol). They both won’t look at the camera at the same time ..but after 10 shots..I found one..still not looking in the camera but smiling. I am ok with that. Take care!!

    1. Khit,

      Your pictures are great! You are super talented and I love that you chose a shot where no one is looking but they are still smiling! That’s real life, friend!

  2. I love this Sarah Ann! I feel the same way about social media. We paint this pretty pictures of our lives and it keeps everyone at a distance. No closeness or honesty. Thanks so much for putting it out there to encourage us and for linking this at Counting My Blessings. Enjoy a wonderful weekend.

  3. Love this–the reality mixed with humor. I would love to see an outtake reel from all the Christmas cards I receive.

  4. So glad you posted this! We are a little behind this year with taking our pics and will be attempting it this weekend. Sometimes the spoof ones are my favorite. Regardless, it’s your little family and they are great! Now having a little one I think it’s kind of funny when we see a perfect pic on social media. I often think, yeah ok, how many did they take to get that one?!?!

  5. Sarah Ann,
    Your photos are beautiful – I love them! What a wise and wonderful post about being real this Christmas. I dread sending out cards because it’s just me — no husband, no kids . . . but what a beautiful picture your words have painted. Love this and wishing you all the joy and peace this holiday season, friend!

    1. Thank you sweet, friend! I know your style and have confidence that your pictures would be stunning! Don’t be afraid to shine exactly as you are. You are fabulous!

  6. I love your photos and seeing the ‘real’ you. This time of year can be hard when you have a special child. I see my friends posting about their Norman Rockwell Christmas moments with their kids, while mine are melting down and I can’t imagine an evening of roasting chestnuts by an open fire together as a family. Thanks for being real and encouraging that it’s OK not to put on our ‘perfect family’ face. I know we’ll make some wonderful memories together, but maybe not too many Pinterest or Facebook worthy ones…

    1. Ha, Kathryn! I have to laugh at the idea of my children around an open flame! My daughter would be attracted to it and want to hold it! Oh no! Yes, we are definitely memories and having fun, no matter what they look like or how our pictures came out. Thanks so much for your support! It means so much to me!

  7. My family has always kinda privately made fun of the Christmas newsletters we receive. Taking things a step further than the perfect Christmas card, the newsletters always ooze about beautiful vacations and perfect children. I think the one year we sent out a small update with our card was when I studied abroad, and we turned that into a joke with each member of the family talking about me in France.

    Life is messy! People aren’t perfect! I’m more interested in knowing what’s really going on in the lives of my loved ones than seeing a perfectly staged picture or reading a carefully edited list of their greatest hits.

    That said, my parents WILL be bragging this year since I got married, my younger brother graduated college, AND my twin brother got married. 2014 has been busy for the Longs!

    1. YES! We receive some newsy letters too, and even if times are tough, why not be honest? If all for celebrating the good times, as in your family, but why the need for smoke and mirrors portraying everything as perfect or at least ok? I love the idea of people being real instead of hiding behind phony smiles!

  8. A Christmas card loving gal, with a true heart and desire for authenticity you are Sarah Ann!! You had me at ‘better than a bill in the mail.’ But, as I continued to read, your words really resonated. So often we get hung up on portraying perfection which can really alienates us from others, not allowing real connection or relationship. Thanks for this reminder this season. Visiting you via SITSSHareFest. P.S. There was a hilarious post at parentdish.ca recently about ‘funny Christmas cards’ that I think you would appreciate.

    1. Thanks so much for the encouragement and the suggestion to read that post! I so appreciate you stopping by and your kindness! Have a fabulous weekend!

  9. Such a wonderful post! It takes us so long to get a decent picture, so I never try for perfection. 🙂

    1. Ha! YES! We went and saw Santa today, and I had to settle for both of them looking at the camera with no smiles. There were no tears, though, so it was a win in my book!

  10. This reminds me, my daughter was asked to bring a family photo to her kindergarten, for a project “Family”, do I need to tell you it was impossible to find the one on which all the five of us were smiling and looking straight into camera…

    1. Ha! You should have seen the photo I ended up sending in to school, but that’s just ok!

  11. Amen. This is so true, and I think as moms sometimes we feel that we need to be perfect, or more so that we want others on the outside to think we’re perfect. The reality is most days are filled with a mixture of fails, feelings of being inadequate, screaming kids, love and joy. It’s all a mixture, and I haven’t had a “perfect” day of motherhood yet nor should I expect to. Great post, well said!

    1. Brittany,

      I totally agree that there is no perfect mom day! Even when we are having a really good day, a tantrum or melt-down is only a moment away. You are so right that our day is a mixture of all of these emotions. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  12. I love this post. It’s so true! I was really looking forward to taking a nice family photo for our Christmas cards with my new camera. My son ended up tripping and having to get stitches. I ended up scrapping the original plan and took some adorable & funny pictures of just my son with his bandage on. I think they came out so much better than anything we would have forced as a family.

    1. Oh no! That would so happen to me! I just received the best card in the mail today, all with silly pictures, and it means so much more than something posed and stuffy. Good for you for embracing the humor!

  13. Thanks so much for this. We had such a good time taking the pictures, but when we got some of them back, all I could see in some of them how fat I feel. I was forgetting the fun, and the blessing that is my family.

    1. Oh, Lynne! I KNOW you are not alone in that! I was so less than thrilled with the way I looked in the pictures and you just opened up a whole new can of worms. Thanks for stopping by!

  14. I love this post! Thanks for the reminder that not only is no family perfect, but that because of God’s grace, we don’t need to be. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

    1. Gotta love blooper shots! In reality, these are the ones that I will look back on and cherish. I embrace real life!

  15. This post was great 🙂 You made me laugh & nod with understanding at the same time.

    1. Thanks, Teresa! I think moms everywhere have had moments like these at least sometime in their lives. We can all relate to crying and non-perfect moments!

  16. Love this! So much! Your family sounds a whole lot like mine and I’ve even given myself permission this year to forgo the family Christmas picture catastrophe and card sending altogether and just revel in the joy of receiving beautiful cards. But I pray with you that whatever cards and letters are sent there will be a realness about them and that communities could be changed in the process.

    1. Thanks so much, Becky! Good for you in realizing it doesn’t have to be! I just received our cards and included the cover picture for this post on it. It may truly be my favorite card ever! Best wishes to you!

  17. Oh those boys! You can see how mine reacted in the pictures! You just have to love them!

  18. I haven’t even put together our cards 🙁 I think I’d enjoy a real look of the behind the scenes of making the card as part of the card 🙂
    I think I might have to do that considering, I still HAVEN’T made our cards and it’s the 14TH!!

    Everyone wants to share their highlights, the cropped version of their ALMOST perfect lives, and people feel the need to do the same, because they are comparing their almost perfect to someone else’s perfect highlight reel. We’re not all perfect, but we’re perfect enough 🙂
    Happy Holidays!

    P.S Thanks for sharing via MMBH

    1. You are officially off the hook, says the mom who has had the cards for almost a week but haven’t addressed them! Often our cards arrive after Christmas, and I am perfectly ok with that! 🙂 I also am fine putting in pictures throughout the year, not just ones from a professional photo shoot. Best wishes!

  19. I loved reading this and completely agree! Thank you for sharing such vulnerable truth. Sharing today on my Facebook page.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Cassandra! I’m so blessed to have connected with you! I look forward to stopping by your place again soon!

  20. Way to go on this post. It is so true. We are all consumed with our looks but when we put on a good show, we miss the opportunity to show others how we can be ministered to. Loved this post. Looks like it got a great response. Cheering you on!!

    1. Thanks so much, Kelly! I so appreciate your cheers. 🙂 Hugs and Merry Christmas!

  21. I love this, Sarah Ann! We have four children, and even now that they are older, it is impossible to take a good group picture without people getting antsy and mad. I decided several years ago to just use candid, cute shots for the Christmas card picture. Otherwise we were ending the photo session angry and snippy with each other, and I don’t think that’s what the season is about. 🙂

    1. Thank you for the encouragement! I loved our card last year and it made me smile to know others could see what life was really like!

  22. Oh Sarah this post is SO true! Our Christmas card always includes at least one photo of us being absolutely goofy. Real.

    Speaking of real, this year we didn’t even do Christmas cards!! #parenting fail :/

    1. I love it! We almost didn’t do cards and if it wasn’t for my husband, we would have let it go by the wayside! Glad to know I’m not the only one!

  23. Oh my goodness I love this post! I’m a little scared to think what our Christmas cards would look like if they were realistic. 🙂 Thanks for your honest sharing. I {heart} your blog.

  24. It’s encouraging to know that our Father in Heaven doesn’t expect perfect, but just our willingness to be sensitive to Him. Great post, Sarah!

    1. Sarah Ann says:

      Thanks so much, Starla! I am SO thankful I can lay down my imperfections before Him!

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