#BBCtrending: The surreal world of the family Xmas video card

  • 19 December 2013

One family's Christmas "video card" has been viewed more than 11 million times on YouTube - is this the future?

It's a surreal world out there in the land of the family video Christmas card - a world of stripy pyjamas, dazzling lights, Santa hats, Christmas jumpers, and talking cats. Although traditionally Christmas greetings were always conveyed by sending a real, physical greeting card, a quick trawl of social media shows that this season, several thousand of these "video cards" have been posted on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Vimeo and elsewhere. One - by a US family in North Carolina - has been watched more than 11 million times. Many are similar to the Christmas letter or email - with a recap of what each family member has been doing over the past year.

Some families make an extraordinary effort - like the Slades, who live in Gilbert, Arizona. "We worked on the concept for a few months," says Micah Slade, a concrete contractor, whose hobby is video. For this year's Christmas card video - the family's third - he spent two weeks building a life-size spinning recreation sitting room, so he, his wife and four children could walk on the walls and ceiling. "It's cool because people can really get creative and have fun as a family making it," he says.

The majority of video cards are much more low-key. Most seem to be from the US and Canada, but the British - who send more traditional greeting cards per capita than any other country in the world - are also joining in. "It's definitely a big trend we are seeing," says Jessica Casano-Antonellis of the video sharing site Vimeo. This year is exactly 170 years since the first commercially-made Christmas card, by British civil servant Sir Henry Cole and artist John Callcott Horsley. Would they turn in their graves? Probably not. "Greetings cards have always reflected societal trends," says Jacqueline Brown, editor of the industry magazine Progressive Greetings.

Others are more damning. "Video versions of the 'traditional' wince-inducing and bathetic family newsletters are simply the latest seasonal assault on taste, manners and discretion," says British design critic and cultural commentator Stephen Bayley. He sees them as an example of how the "disease of celebrity has infected the population".

Reporting by Cordelia Hebblethwaite

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