A Short History of Christmas Trees

“Mommy, why is there a tree in our living room?” Some children think to ask this question and some don’t. But why is there a tree in the living room?

Like many traditional symbols of Christmas, it is often explained as a reinvented old pagan symbol. Evergreens were a symbol of life and in the darkest time of year, right before the winter solstice, were used to symbolize the rebirth that would come with springtime.

There are many different explanations as to why trees became a symbol of Christmas. Another explanation, the one I remember hearing as a child when I asked the question, claims that a minister was walking home one Merry Christmas eve and was so struck by how beautiful the stars looked shining down on the trees that he wanted to share it with his children. He cut down a small tree, brought it home, and decorated it with candles. The modern Christmas tree dates back to Queen Victoria, who posed for a drawing with her family around a decorated tree for her own royal personalized Christmas card.

I do like to think about how it all started, especially when I find myself digging through boxes of Christmas tree ornaments, some of which have been around since 1924 when my uncle was born! In the end, I’m just glad of three things: that there IS a seasonal tree in my living room, that we no longer use lit candles to decorate it, and that my tree isn’t as big as the tree at Rockefeller Center.

Business Holiday Cards – Planning Ahead Will Save you the Stress

The Holiday season is a stressful time for many. One in four people report having increased headaches during this time of year. But it doesn’t have to get to that point. This is an auspicious time for businesses to reach out to clients, vendors, and employees. And by planning ahead, it will help to alleviate some of the stress…and the headaches.

Sending business holiday cards is a wonderful way to express gratitude to your patrons and your staff. But this shouldn’t be a last minute gesture. You should be sure to plan ahead with the appropriate card design, greeting, and imprint. Holiday cards may seem insignificant to some, but in actuality, it is a representation of you and your company. So be sure your correspondence reflects the aesthetics and philosophy of your company.

It is very important to update your recipient list each year. You’ll want to be sure to send holiday greeting cards to new clients and merchants and revise the contact information for clients that have changed location or came under new management. This reminds me of religious Christmas cards that are mailed to my house every year from a local Methodist Church. It is very nice that the ministry of this church keeps my family in its thoughts during the Christmas season, except my family is Jewish. The family who used to live in my house probably attended this church and either switched churches when they moved or never updated their mailing address. So be sure to update your recipient list each year so that your intended contacts are actually being mailed your holiday greeting cards.

For more success tips for small businesses during the Holiday season, check out Rhonda Abrams’ 2008 Holiday Survival Guide. Use this guide to plan ahead and don’t let the Holiday rush get the best of you.

Business Thanksgiving Cards…The “Write” Way to Say Thanks

Thanksgiving is the time of year that is traditionally known for giving thanks. Why not use this holiday as an opportunity to express your gratitude to your customers and clients by sending Corporate Thanksgiving Cards. Sending Thanksgiving cards to your business associates as a message of your goodwill and appreciation for their valued business is the perfect opportunity to convey the sentiment of the Thanksgiving season.

Sending business Thanksgiving cards also helps to minimize some of the frantic “festivities” of the season. Thanksgiving usually represents the start of the holiday season. Black Friday, the day after the holiday, is the biggest shopping day of the year. For me, the day after Thanksgiving signifies the start of the “race”…decorations need to be hung, presents need to be wrapped, and personalized Christmas cards need to be sent. To help eliminate some of the mad holiday rush, I have adopted a tradition of sending Thanksgiving cards both to my personal acquaintances as well as to my business associates. This practice has helped to alleviate some of the season’s stress by completing this task well before the season starts.

Sending Business Thanksgiving Cards also gets your wishes of gratitude and goodwill out there before all the other holiday cards start to arrive. Thanksgiving cards, sent out before the crowd, will make a lasting impression in the minds of your business associates.

Additionally, by sending business Thanksgiving cards you don’t have to worry about who celebrates what and if your message is appropriate. I used to spend a lot of time and effort to make sure that my holiday card was suitable for everyone. With Thanksgiving, this isn’t even a consideration – everyone celebrates Thanksgiving!

As the holidays approach, consider the “write” way to say thanks and send Thanksgiving cards as a way to extend your message of appreciation to your clients and customers.

Optimism, Joy, Hope, Capitalism, and Christmas Cards

Well I just need to move right on with my business here and complete the work of another blog posting. I need a little pick-me-up-optimism after that last post. So, where do I see optimism, joy, and hope? I see it everywhere in life and in business and especially in capitalism. Our great American corporate culture of business innovation, capital markets, and public investment is inspirational when you look at it all with the right perspective. Oddly enough, a place where I draw great strength and optimism a lot lately has been in the news. I haven’t read much of the coverage. I haven’t really been taking journalism too seriously for the past few years. But, it was hard not to notice the Wall Street Journal article touting business men and women drawing strength and rationalization for corporate behavior from Ayn Rand’s writings. Yes, I gather strength and a certain rationalization from her writings. Especially the approximately 32 page long section of Ayn Rand’s book, The Fountainhead, which I sometimes reference to business colleagues. I find it immeasurably helpful in business, in life, and in corporate affairs at my Christmas Card company. I will attempt to paraphrase it ever so briefly and concisely:

The protagonist, architect corporate businessman Howard Roark, is wary of business clients and their inflated corporate egos. He is feeling a bit beaten down and comes to a turning point in his career and his profession. He, if I recall correctly, is depressed. He is feeling downtrodden and oppressed by the amazing business world and corporate achievements of the “world” represented in towering glass and steel buildings. He gazes skyward and wonders how and where he will make his impression on this world. He feels a futility as he is gazing upwards at the towering structures of corporate America. What business does he have thinking he could ever be in the company of the great architects and working men that had labored to create the amazing skyscrapers he stood beneath? Towering structures of steel and glass loom over him, belittling him. But then, suddenly, revelation comes to Howard. His perspective shifts his paradigm of the world, its businesses, corporations, and monument changes. He is enlightened. He suddenly sees all of mans’ accomplishments as a legacy, as a communal continuum of excellence and achievement. He sees his work in a new light. His legacy is to add to the amazing achievement in whatever small way. His perspective is shifted from one of jealously, belittlement, and comparison of his to theirs to a perspective of inclusion, ownership, and pride in their accomplishments as his and ours. He suddenly gains a beautiful appreciation and admiration instead of an oppressed feeling of smallness and irrelevance.

Ayn Rand’s writings have long been misinterpreted bent and twisted. In fact, back in her day she was accused of being a socialist. Her theories of “Objectivism” do have a twinge of communal versus individual. But there is real power in these pages I refer to in The Fountainhead. I will make it my business when I get off of this airplane to find the passage and update this post. I will have to make it my business to reread that section. I wonder how accurate my recollection is? I wonder what the law is about copywrite? If I want to contact the company that published this book will the Corporation’s lawyers let me post an excerpt? I’d think it would help their business to let people like me tout passages in this manner? I wonder if all of the publishing companies “company lawyers” react the same way?

I think I might have to make it my business to write some more about Ayn Rand and do more justice to her beliefs and how they fit in the company of Corporate America and Capitalism. It’s a topic I enjoy and I think you might want to make it your business to come back and read some more and share your opinions and comments with me.

Until next time,
A much cheerier traveling guy

City Scenes at Christmas Time

I’ve always loved New York City at Christmas time. Seeing all the holiday shoppers bustle by, laden with packages for their loved ones. I especially treasured how beautiful the city looks when dusted in fluffy white snow, just like a scene from a movie.

There really is nothing like visiting New York City at Christmas time. There is so much to do there and I have so many fond childhood memories of skating at Rockefeller Center and going to see the Rockettes put on their spectacular show at Radio City. I always look for Christmas Cards that remind me and my recipients of the fun that can be had during the holidays.

Of course, whenever visiting the city you do not want to miss the tree lighting ceremony. There is that truly awe-inspiring moment when the tree is first lit and you can hear an audible gasp amongst the crowd. You just know you are witnessing something really special that relatively few ever get to experience. My mother, who grew up in the city, is no longer a fan of making the trip and this makes me sad. For the last five years, I’ve tried to convince her to go with me, but to no avail. She does not like the hurried pace and traffic noise. I can understand why this may not appeal to her and had almost given up trying but, this year, I was feeling a little inspired.

So on the first cold day of the season as we were sipping our hot cocoa and trying to decide which holiday card to send, I started to talk about the good old days. I painted her a mental picture of a city scene all decked out at Christmas time with lights twinkling and holiday music playing. I told her how we could go in the city during the early morning hours when the noise was more of a lull and slipped in a promise of a trip around in a horse drawn carriage and guess what? She finally agreed and we plan to go visit the tree this year. After that, we’re off to the department stores for a little Christmas shopping and then some lunch at one of my favorite restaurants. Of course, we will end the day with the carriage ride I promised as we tour the city in style. I can’t wait!

Christmas Cards worth Keeping

The other day I was busily running around the house doing the “honey-do’s.” I’m not sure if that expression is sailor talk? I’ve no idea where it came from other than all of my friends who are sailors call them that. A Honey-do is the around the house chore, often completed on the weekend at the expense of some other activity with friends. Why’s it called a “Honey-do”? Because the person asking for the things done is normally “Honey” and when speaking to you they are saying “Honey do this, Honey do that, Honey are you done yet? When you are done, Honey, can you do this over here!?” I digress, this post was not supposed to be about Honey do’s, but rather what happened to me the other day while doing things for honey around the house. I had a surprisingly unexpected and reflective moment.

By late afternoon, I had achieved quite a few things. I’d thrown out innumerable children’s toys that were missing pieces. I’d picked up clothes strewn all over the house. I’d stuffed the summer things from the attic into the basement storage closet, and I found myself approaching seeming completion of the Honey-do list, which by the way is impossible. Think asymptote…look it up if you don’t know the definition. It’s almost as obscure as the word fungible.

Anyhow, seriously my last trip to the attic, avoiding successful completion of the honey-do’s, I wandered over to another area of the attic and started cleaning up random things. I had found an old file box. It was white cardboard with black ends and a little string that wraps around to keep the box shut. The top of the box was dusty and slightly discolored with age. I recognized the box as something I had cleaned out of my Mom’s home years ago. As I unwrapped the string and opened the box I remembered what it was…this box represented the very last “thing” that I possessed containing items from my deceased father. Sadly, he died a painful and slow death on September 21, 1985. I was barely a young man and it was a very difficult time.

So here I was, just more than 22 years later in my attic sitting on the floor in front of a file box with the last few things from my deceased dad. I opened the box to see what I had once only barely glanced at. The file box contained papers. It was only about one third full. I had never done anything before except just glanced inside. I really had never wanted the torture of revisiting his death and I think I feared that there might be something in the box that would only open more questions than provide answers. Whatever was in that box on those papers that my father had kept wouldn’t bring him back. I wasn’t even sure they were papers he had kept. For all I knew they were random papers lying about gathered and thrown into a box.

I reached in and rummaged around. There were mostly 8½” x 11″ business stationery-type documents…a lot of my Dad’s work stuff. Only really now as I write this do I fully realize that this box contains items cleaned from my father’s desk, from his “junk/memento” drawer. I have one of those too, something I guess in common with the man now dead for more than 1/2 of my life and really all of my adult life. There were letters, memos, faded pictures and press clippings. Things my father was proud of. As I thumbed the papers deciding what to read first, I found a small collection of envelopes. I chose one as the first item to read from this long avoided box of mystery. I pulled from the envelope a small piece of lined paper that was wrapped around a greeting card. I was surprised and smiled slightly, I think. A greeting card…I hadn’t expected it. The envelope wasn’t a shape that I expected to contain a card and it was hiding within the lined paper. The card was from my grandmother to my father. It was a Christmas card. “Merry Christmas my dear son” it read. I paused, staring into the attic rafters for some time just thinking. I turned the envelope over to look at the front. It was postmarked December 16, 1978. I thought, my Dad kept this, a simple Christmas card. It really meant something to him I dreamily pondered.

I went on to find a dozen or so greeting cards. They were all Birthday cards and Christmas cards, mostly from my grandmother to my Dad. I don’t know how long I was there just sitting in the attic thinking, skimming through papers, photographs and the cherished greeting cards. Soon though, it did occur me to get back to the chores. Company was coming for dinner and I needed to have my business taken care of before they arrived. I closed the box up and left it in the middle of the floor. Our company came and we had a nice time.

The next day, before heading to the office, I made my way up to the attic with a permanent black marker and I wrote on that box “Under no circumstances should this box ever be thrown out!” I will head back up there someday to peruse and read some more. But for now, those dusty old personal Christmas cards my Dad kept are just more of the things I keep for sentimental reasons, my last connection to someone I barely know but miss dearly.

Sadly I find myself here 22 years later, on a plane to Las Vegas, tearfully typing.

Sending a Photo Christmas Card – It is So Fun with a Growing Family

For my wife and me, it is very important and enjoyable to make the effort to reach out to family and friends…to stay in touch, catch up, and extend our wishes during the festive holiday season. As our lives continue to change and as we grow as a couple and a family, this has become more entertaining every year. We now have two children and for the past three years, we have been sending our Photo Christmas cards with a picture of the most adorable kids in the world…ours!

As much as we look forward to sending out our Christmas Cards with a photo and personalized greeting, we equally anticipate receiving Holiday Cards from family and friends. We look forward to seeing new photos of their family and catching up on new developments.

For us, the Christmas season is a time to reflect and appreciate what you have and to reach out to those you love the most. It is a reminder that friendships and families are to be cherished, preserved, and nurtured. Personalized Christmas cards are a great way to extend holiday wishes to those your care about. And why not show off an updated photo of the kids while you’re at it!

Personalized Christmas Cards – to Imprint or Not to Imprint? That is the Question.

Around this time of year, I have to decide what to do about my Christmas Cards. My first decision is where do I get my cards? Even though I work here, I have to be honest and say that the most impressive Corporate Christmas Cards I came across were the ones we offer. They are classy and elegant, which is totally my style. But I did have to ask myself, are Holiday Cards for businesses also suitable to give to family members? I decided what matters most is the thought behind it. There are so many beautiful Holiday designs to choose from that I can select one that suits my style. You can choose to say Season’s Greetings, Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. You can even say it in more than one language. An abundance of beautiful winter scenes, tree landscapes, ornaments and even fun Santa cards can be found for whatever suits your needs. I can even select one of the many photo cards available.

After choosing an intricate and shimmering ornament design, I gave some serious thought to which greeting and imprinted message I want to send to my friends and family to convey the sentiment of the holiday season. I have a very large family and feel sometimes it’s easier to get greeting cards imprinted rather than handwrite them myself. Some of my family members love to get cards that include a handwritten, personalized message, while others are happy to be remembered whether it be with a handwritten message or an imprinted one. This year, I decided to get my personal Christmas Cards imprinted, but for those family members who love to see that handwritten message, I will take the time to add that extra touch. So, with all that being settled, I’m on to the next item on my Christmas to-do list.