Magic Café Columnist & I.B.M. forum Staff
Posted: Jan 5, 2006 5:12pm
I have been sending, receiving and collecting magic-related Christmas cards for 20 years and over time have collected quite a few interesting ones. It’s always nice to hear from friends especially during the holidays. Even if they only send a standard greeting card or a form letter, at least it shows they care and they are thinking of me. With the advent of e-mail, Christmas cards are rapidly becoming one of the last vestiges of snail mail I ever receive from friends. E-mail has replaced the postage stamp but it is also much more impersonal. It is so much easier to send a greeting and attach a picture to a mass list with the click of a mouse. It takes more time to address and place a stamp on an envelope and take it to the post office. To me it says “I care” and “You are important to me.” I feel that people are thinking of me by making that extra effort and expense of time and money to send me a personal, hard copy seasonal greeting.
Correspondence nowadays is much more prolific but much more impersonal. E-mail notes are usually short and to the point as opposed to the friendly tone of the scribed word. There is something special about the time it takes to sit down and actually pen a letter or postcard. It is a gift of someone’s time not only to write it but also to post it. We have learned to think on the keyboard and leave our writing instruments on the desk. It is always wonderful to hear from friends at any time of the year but especially during the holidays.
Our first magic-related holiday cards were sent because my wife and I really liked our promotional photo so we put it on photo greeting cards in 1986. We received so many nice replies from friends who liked the card that we continued the tradition every year since. We try to be creative with our photos and make it look somewhat magical whether something is happening in the photo or whether we are just in a magical environment (like the Magic Island or the Magic Circle museum, etc.) My cards take a little time and thought as I am always on the lookout throughout the year to find the right idea or background for a camera shot to be used in my Christmas card. It is fun and challenging to think creatively all the time and not just about tricks or presentations.
Not everyone celebrates Christmas but instead they recognize Chanukah, Kwanza or as in Teller’s case, the winter solstice. Cards have been becoming more generic in wishing happy holidays or season’s greetings rather than worrying about having any religious connotation. I am a Christian so I have no problem with wishing someone a Merry Christmas because of my own belief and because I do not want to discriminate against other Christians. That being said, generic greetings are quite acceptable, too.
I have a few examples of some cards I have received throughout the years that show the kind of time, thought and care that went into the process. As mentioned some are “off the shelf” cards while others obviously took some extra consideration in preparing and sending the card. Cards from some “celebrity” magicians such as Lance Burton and Teller are probably created by someone on staff but no doubt approved by the sender before he signs the card. Noted magic collector Ken Klosterman sends greeting cards with Christmas card reproductions or pictures from his vast collection. Some cards serve dual purposes that show changes in address such as the one I received from Mac King in 1996. Some include calendars that keep the sender’s name in front of me all year long. Fantasma, the magic set toy company, sends greeting cards that have tricks on the card such as a prediction effect. Dan Witkowski, of MagiCom (the company that constructs magic-related premiums and tricks on and in cereal boxes), always sends some creative cards that do some sort of trick such as a pop-up card or perhaps a silvery card that allows you to read the backwards message in its reflection.
Perhaps one of the more unique cards I receive is from Glen Strange. His cards arrive any time except around Christmas. They are not timed to arrive around any other holiday either. They are always someone else’s card with the original senders’ names scratched out and Glen’s written in. The card is then folded to fit in any old envelope that Glen has laying around the house. The card is popped in the mail whenever the urge strikes him which could be in April, July or any other non-winter month. This is a pretty funny concept and one we always look forward to receiving.
As to selecting or preparing your own card, it is easy to have a photo (digital or otherwise) inexpensively made into a greeting card. You can also make a photo collage newsletter if you wish or perhaps use a cartoon or clip art to construct and print out your own special greeting card. For a few years we spent time manipulating photos by cutting and pasting. With the advent of digital photography and Photoshop-type software, we can now do nearly anything easily and quickly. We used to have our photo greeting cards made at Walgreens but in later years found we could either print them ourselves or have them made even more inexpensively in larger numbers at SAM’s Club.
What I’m saying is that there is no excuse for you not sending out some holiday greeting. You can also use these greetings as promotional tools. Send them to clients and prospective clients, agents and planners. You never know where that might take you.
"You cannot reach perfection though you try however hard to there's always one more friend or so you should have sent a card to," wrote the popular U.S. poet Richard Armour. That has been the perennial problem since Christmas cards were first introduced in England over 150 years ago. The more cards I send out, the more people I seem to inadvertently overlook. There seems to be an implied obligation to send a Christmas card if you have first received one yourself. So the trick is to be the first one to send out a card early in the year. That gives your friends time to “remember” to send you a timely card before the holiday. I usually send out more cards than I expect to receive. I know some of my friends choose not to send out cards though I know they always appreciate receiving my cards.
I think it is almost unforgivable for someone to send a card that arrives on or after Christmas (with the exception of cards received from Glen Strange). It is then too late for me to send them a card because it looks like I only sent them one because they first sent me one (which is true, of course). It is like giving a gift out of “obligation” after someone has first given you a gift. I feel like I need to return the kindness.
I think we should preserve this tradition of sending our cards rather than letting it slip into the sands of time and tradition. Surely we can take time out at least once a year to send a personal greeting. Moreover, since I am a magician I know that people appreciate receiving a magical greeting. So, if I am going to the “trouble” of send out a greeting, then why not go that extra mile and make it a magical greeting? Certainly there are a plethora of standard holiday cards proclaiming the “magic of the season” or “magical holidays” or some such other standard catch phrase of the season. You can just as easily shop for these cards as you can for any other greeting card. But to find the right card that uses the word “magic” in it shows that the sender took a little time to select the card for the receiver. It then becomes more of an inexpensive Christmas gift.
One thing is sure: Christmas comes every year at the same time. I am always amazed at those who let the holiday “creep up on them” without making preparations. Certainly you can purchase greeting cards at steeply discounted prices after the holidays then store them until next year. If you must, then you could even send yourself an electronic reminder or otherwise put it on your calendar to remember to send out the cards by a certain time the next year in time for the holiday.
Even though this season has come and gone, it’s not too late to be thinking about next year. Put it on your calendar…Christmas is a comin’ and it will be here quick. Until then, have a great new year.
"A magician who isn't working is only fooling himself." - Scott Wells, A.I.M.C. with Silver Star
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