It is two and a half weeks until Thanksgiving, what on earth am I doing writing about Christmas cards? you might ask. There is an art to Christmas cards and one that takes time. I am writing in defense of the good, old fashioned Christmas card and the proper how-to of a meaningful missive. And so, two and a half weeks before I will be cooking my first turkey I bought Christmas cards.
Christmas cards began in the mid 1800’s as a way to get more folks to use the new postal service in Europe. It did catch on but for the most part, in the Americas and in Europe, the cards were too expensive for common people to send. In the early part of the 1900’s home made cards started to become popular and were typically given directly to the recipient. I have several post cards that I have collected from the 1800’s and early 1900’s that wish family a Merry Christmas. I think Christmas cards in this day and age are more important than ever.
Sure, we message, text, call, or see people on social media every day. We can keep in touch with family across the globe, send pictures, see funny quotes, and not miss a moment. However, there is a sort of veil over all of that type of communication. A falsity or feeling of disconnect. There is nothing like opening a beautifully etched card, colorful and festive, and to find special words intended only for you in a script that cannot be duplicated on computers and machines. A photograph, a wish, a blessing.
The problem with today’s Christmas cards is that folks have become so dreadfully busy so a scribbled signature beneath printed words is all one might receive from the mailbox. This card carries little soul but the script of the sender. A mindful card to send will add joy and meaningfulness back to the holiday at hand.
Step 1- Choose a card that appeals to you.
I get bored easily so I get two boxes of many types of cards. I love western art so I opt for the Leaning Tree cards. There are artsy cards out there, animal cards, funny cards, gold foiled, glittered, or home made…don’t just get what’s on sale, find your signature card. And do it earlier than later because cards do not get restocked. If you find it and love it, get it.
Step 2- Make a list.
Every year I write down who I received a card from to make sure I don’t miss anyone. I send a lot of cards and every year I end up adding ten or so more names to the list of recipients. It matters not if you receive a card in return. Send a card to those that have a place in your heart, your life, or have been meaningful to you in the past year. It is easy to fall into the, “Oh I have to send a card to so and so…” No you don’t. This is not supposed to be a chore. Send to those you want to.
Step 3- Make sure you have all of your addresses current.
Send inconspicuous texts or calls to find out up to date information before it is time to address envelopes.
(Do you see now why we start so early?)
Step 4- Decide what you want to slip inside.
Do you want to send photographs? A poem? A Christmas letter? Start designing that now. I like to send photos of the children but they are all grown now and we don’t have school pictures. I pull together my favorite photos of them over the year and their significant other, one photo of each family unit, a fun one of our granddaughter, one of us, maybe a fun farm one….until Doug tells me that is enough! He can only fit so many photos on one 3×5 photo card. He is quite brilliant on the computer (that makes one of us) and enjoys putting these holiday photo cards together. I make sure the cards I picked are big enough to accommodate.
If you are going to send a Christmas letter make sure it is an entertaining missive. I have received ones that bragged incessantly about all of their year’s charity work and children (no one really wants to hear straight bragging), some humorous and tongue in cheek (talking about how their goldfish were doing!), some that highlight various family members. Make sure it has a photo and some humor or interest to it. Those close to you already know what has been going on. My great-aunt’s Christmas letter serves to educate the rest of the family on various cousins’ happenings and we always look and see if we made the letter!
Step 5- Address the envelopes.
This is the most tedious of tasks to me. I like to do it early and take my time. Addressing one or two here and there. Purchase holiday stamps and stickers to affix to the front flap of the card. This assures it won’t open during shipment and adds a special touch to an ordinary envelope. Plus, who doesn’t miss using stickers?
Step 6- Fill out card.
Turn on Christmas music, drink eggnog…maybe a little brandy in it, don’t think you have to do it all at once. This is typically my last step and is done right after the Christmas tree is set up. I like to get my cards out early. I can’t wait to send them. Each card should have a personal message written in it to the recipient. Do not just quickly sign your name and send it off. That took no heart at all. And these are essentially small gifts. Over the years we had the children sign their own names and draw a small picture. Folks loved receiving these and each year the children’s handwriting changed and the pictures got better and then the kids moved out so we sign their name for them now. I miss those little pictures they drew. We have also always signed the names of our animals. It started with cats and a few dogs and people thought it humorous and mentioned how they loved that Snuggles was still around or that we got two new kittens, or just thought it was quirky (if not weird) that all the animals signed the card. When we started a farm I didn’t do it one year. People feared that all of our animals were dead. It might be silly, but it is one thing that distinguishes our card from others. Not every day does one receive a card from twenty four chickens and three goats. Make your card your own. The idea, after all, of a Christmas card is to make someone smile while opening your card to them. That you took the time to write them. That you thought of them at this blessed season.
Step 7- Complete card.
Insert whatever you are sending into card. Make sure recipient matches envelope. Place card in envelope. Seal. Put sticker on. Make sure you have it stamped and properly addressed. Mail. Enjoy cards that were given to you. Remember, someone took time from their busy schedule to send you a card. You were thought of, are missed, are cared for.
Now, I need to find a turkey recipe.
I would love to hear from you! If you would like to send us a card for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I would be ever so thrilled and I will send one back!
Mr. and Mrs. Doug Sanders
P.O. Box 2012
Elizabeth, Colorado 80107
9 Comments Add yours
Grandma “B” captured a drawing mid-year by our grandson artist, age seven (July). We used to do our own block prints (in grad school and following). We have one offspring. That family does not (as far as we know) “do” cards (December).
Grandchildren’s drawings make the best prints.
Such a lovely post! Just got home from work, walked Pippa and Ruby over the fields at the back of our house and as usual at this time catching a few quick minutes to read my emails. I always look forward to yours it was a joy to read and makes me ashamed that I have got out of the habit a bit over the last few years for various reasons. You reminded me what the Christmas card should be, a gift, thank you
I really cannot tell you how much this means to me. Thank you so much for these words.
Yes, this is a lovely post! Wish I knew how to make mine as special. I’m glad that the bookstore had discount Christmas cards for me to buy early on last week, though. They were surprisingly pretty, although they were less pricey. I love the ones with glitter on ’em.
You have already made them special by choosing to send some to those you love.
I’ll be paying very close attention to the handwriting to see if I can figure out how much brandied egg nog you had been drinking when you signed my Christmas card. LOL!!!!!
I love the Christmas card tradition, but it seems Facebook has taken over that tradition. So many people send out holiday wishes on FB to avoid the time and expense of Christmas cards. It’s just not the same though. Knowing that someone took the time and spent their money to send me a card makes me smile. They have expressed they are thinking of me as an individual, not as part of a group of friends on Facebook. That’s special.
Each year I send out Christmas cards. I want friends and family to know I’m thinking of them. I want them to know they are special to me and this is a small way to do just that.
I don’t like spirits in my eggnog so all of the signatures will be from my own quirky sober self! lol!