IT'S time to unveil the results of the Lai See Festive Card Competition, run on the basis that if we're going to cut down half the trees in Finland for cards they might as well be well-designed. Entries were culled from the the hundreds of cards received at the Post this year, plus several dozen sent to us this week after it was announced that the competition was being run. They ranged from baffling modern art to sultry shots of hunky studs in underwear as in the card from the Ying Yang Club. Howard Gorges, director of South China Brokerage and chairman of the panel that judges the competition for annual reports, kindly offered to play Judge Pao for us, so those who notice that one of the cards was drawn by the Post's cartoonist can rest assured that the competition was not fixed. 'I've been talking to people about how to judge Christmas cards and they haven't come up with many ideas,' said Howard when we turned up in his office on Thursday afternoon with a large cardboard box full of cards and dumped them on his desk. To avoid conflicts of interest, both Howard's cards and the Post's own corporate card were removed from the competition. About 100 cards were left after the super dull and truly awful cards were weeded out, and the serious judging began. After some discussion, it seemed reasonable to look for cards which were cheerful, subtle, and appropriate for Hong Kong with its blend of cultures and beliefs. The Stock Exchange's card had a big photo of its trading floor, which may well be phased out soon. A lot of companies ruled themselves out by being a little heavy-handed. The card from the Hong Kong Women Workers' Association featured Mother Christmas while the card from the Family Planning Association (3) with its dancing condoms and spermicidal jelly suffered in this respect. Even though it was not a winner, we've reprinted the association's card because it's a good laugh. Mainland-controlled Jinhui Shipping came close with a blue card with a simple anchor logo and a picture of one of the company's ships inside and the multicultural message 'Season's Greetings', but it wasn't quite cheerful enough to make it to the final stage. Also close was the Asia Equity cartoon of Santa Claus putting an H-bomb down a chimney with 'Merry Christmas Mr Greenspan', a joking reference to the effect of Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan on the stock market. However, Howard felt it was a bit obscure for non-broking types. And now the awards. A technological achievement award went to networking firm Banyan Systems whose card of a Banyan Tree slid open to reveal a floppy disk with a screen saver program. Howard's verdict was: 'Quite good. Quite ingenious.' It also stood up, a fairly basic requirement that Caltex forgot with its otherwise good card featuring three wise men who drive away in a car when a slider is pulled. All the cards mentioned from now on are displayed in the honour gallery above and can consider themselves winners. Shipping firm Orient Overseas (4) has, since 1991, approached a children's charity to help design their cards, and this year they've worked with the Evangel Children's Homes, which look after deprived, orphaned or maltreated children aged four to 18. This year's design was by 13-year-old Lai Kai-yit and we agree with Howard that it is: 'Quite subtle, with an original, clear design.' Carlingford Insurance (7) got a rather different group to design its card: its own management. It was a drawing done as part of a rather baffling management course in which participants have to draw in a square. To be frank, we don't understand the explanation inside, but it is colourful, different and festive without being heavy-handed. It looks like it was drawn by a bunch of four-year-olds but as this is a season of goodwill we won't go on about it. American Express (8) made a play on its ad which says 'Santa Claus. Cardmember since Christmas began' while air freight firm HACTL (2) depicted Santa taking it easy this year by using HACTL's air freight services. HACTL also displayed the master work of an in-house poet. Westworld (6) won the Entertainment category with three Mao Zedongs dressed as the three wise men, a controversial choice which wouldn't work for a would-be Hong Kong Affairs Adviser but is fine for a nightclub. Mott MacDonald (1), which is building the Tsing Ma Bridge, had a cartoon showing Santa and reindeer saying: 'It definitely was not here when we came last year.' 'They're giving a message about what they are doing,' noted Howard, adding that it was funny and accurately represented the current state of the bridge's construction. A bit of colour would have helped, though. The Most Surprising Card came from Shenzhen Vanke (5), the mainland property and investment firm. There were a lot of mainland festive cards in the competition, but this was definitely the only one with an African child on the front. There is no overall winner, but one card that is truly original and funny is from Yamato Creation (HK) (9), a company that sells mannequins for shops. 'It's the most artistic,' was Howard's final word as he began to reclaim his desk. Finally, we know that quite a few companies - including Baker and McKenzie, BDM, and Richard Ellis, have decided to save the forests by not sending ex-trees. We may just turn this whole competition around next year and try to find the most innovative alternative to not sending a card. And there's a special trendy greeny award for environmental consultants ERM whose card (not shown above) stated inside: 'In the interest of recycling we would be pleased to receive this card back next year.' Send them one? We could send them 600. Anyone got any ideas what we should do with them?