In one week, the holiday chaos begins. Christmas markets are being set up in Germany. Women are playing a little Christmas music when they think no one is around.
We’re pinning holiday ideas onto Pinterest. And I’m getting pretty excited about my mailbox, just like Tsh mentioned on Monday. It’s Christmas card season!
Svetlana Alliluveya (aka Lana Peters) described our tradition perfectly when she said:
“One good thing about not seeing you is that I can write you letters.”
I’ve got some ideas for sending Christmas cards that I want to share with you. I also have some tips for what to do with all those holiday cards when January rolls into town.
First up: ideas for sending cards
1. Make it matter.
A few Christmases ago when I was living in Berlin, Germany, I received a holiday card from some friends. I was pretty excited as I tore open the envelope on my way up the stairs to my apartment. Then I froze.
They didn’t pause to sign their names. They just printed off a sheet of labels that said “Merry Christmas from Jack and Jill” and stuck one in the card.
We have this societal expectation that everyone must send cards. You don’t have to. Some years, life is too busy. The people who care about you get that you have your hands full. Skip cards this season if you need to. But when you do send them, make them matter.
Add a personal note. Pass the card around the table for everyone to sign. Add some x’s and o’s.
2. Send fun photos.
When I was young, one of my aunts always tucked a traditional family photo in the holiday cards she sent like everybody else. What was unique was that she also took the time to add a photo of my cousins and me camping, eating ice cream, driving go-carts – something fun from that year.
That gesture is even bigger these days as most of us take hundreds of photographs and store them on our computers. We rarely get prints of any of our photos.
I make it a regular habit to send fun photos with the letters and Christmas cards I write (like the photo above!). You’d be surprised how many of these photos end up on bedroom mirrors, bulletin boards, and refrigerators… places where professional photos of each other’s families never end up.
Second: ideas for saving cards
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, “Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.”
It’s true. Last year, I shared a slew of ideas with you on how to repurpose cards. Today, let’s talk about the cards you want to keep.
1. Leave cards as they are, but repurpose them into something new.
What on earth do I mean by that? Let Sara from the simple living blog, Go Gingham, show you:
Photo by Sara Tetreault
This bundle of old Christmas cards belonged to Sara’s great grandmother, Clara. Clara collected the sentiments from her family and friends and tied them with string. On the blank portion of each card, she wrote her most-used recipes. There’s everything from lotion to pickles.
Now it’s a family heirloom of holiday stories and recipes.
(Oh! And lest you say card collecting is a waste, here’s an incredible story: if Sara hadn’t blogged about this collection of cards, we never would have known: we’re second cousins. Clara is my great grandmother, too.)
2. Hang onto cards from an incredible friend, then return them.
About eight years ago, my grandma’s best friend from college was moving to a retirement center. She sent my grandma a zipped plastic bag of about forty cards that my grandma had written to her over the years.
Who would have thought to keep such a collection? It’s one of the greatest gifts my grandma or any of us could have received.
I got to read about my dad’s first Christmas from my grandma’s perspective!
Now I encourage you to keep all the warm notes from a few good friends, too. Don’t tell them. Then one day, mail those letters back.
3. Put cards in a book.
The third way my extended family celebrates handwritten cards we’ve received is in journals like this one from Gadanke:
Photo by Katie Clemons
What good are the cards that tell the stories and celebrate the milestones of our lives if they are in a shoebox under the bed? I think we need them out where we can flip through them and celebrate all the stories of people who have touched us.
I keep this journal on the bookcase near my bed and add a card or two every so often. I have an old postcard from my brother asking for more candy at Scout camp. There are encouraging cards my mom sent while I was away at college. There are notes from new friends and old. And to tie in with Christmas, there are plenty of those cards, too… including one from the big red guy himself.
Otherwise, where would those cards go? In the trash? In a shoebox in the back of the closet?
This season, I challenge you to add a little extra heart into your holiday cards – the ones you send and the ones you receive. You just never know how your notes will touch people for years to come.
Will you be sending holiday cards this season?