Sunday, December 09, 2007

Making Christmas: Cards

On top of everything else, Christmas is card season! I do know a few families who send out their annual greetings at Easter or end of school year, but for most of us it's a perfect time to wish friends and family happy holidays and additionally inform and update on ourselves. This adds to the expense and time consumption of the season, but to me it's worth it.

We just started sending out Christmas cards 2 years ago, after Hazel was born. We went the easy route - picture card from shutterfly. A nice one-liner and you're done. But last year I so enjoyed the family letters we got from friends that I decided it's time for us to step it up. I also realized that I strongly preferred pictures that had all family members in them - not just the kids! As a parent who's put on some pounds - and wrinkles - over the years I definitely understand the preference to stay behind the camera, but come on, people! It's so fun to see my old friends, whatever condition they're in, and not just their kids who I've never met! So taking my own advice, this year we are sending out a regular family picture and a one-page letter. What I'd really like to do is send out something classy like this, but it will have to be another year.

Now the list. Ours is on an excel spreadsheet with 2 pages - Family and Friends. Family has all immediate family, all aunts, uncles, grandparents, and some cousins. Friends has three columns - the A, B and C lists. Each year names get shuffled among these, based on priority of new additions, returned cards the year before, how well we've kept in touch, etc. All said we're looking at about 90 going out this year - a number which surprised both me and Ed when we added it up. We know that many people? Guess so. When we reviewed the list he was also surprised - and disturbed - that most of the Friends were actually my friends, or friends we both had in Colorado. He does a terrible job of keeping in touch, and regrets it. So he racked his brain for high school, mission or work friends to track down and add to the list. We'll see how fruitful that exercise is.

Like almost everything else this year, I ordered my stamps online, so while I wait for them to arrive I've spent my evenings addressing envelopes in front of the TV. Friday night Ed came home at a reasonable hour so we divided up the list and stacks and got them all ready to go. When the stamps come in out they'll go.

Finally, what do we do with all the cards that come in? I love devoting a little time to each of my old friends as I read their updates or stare at their pictures. It's a great way to feel connected to people from the past, and also the present. But then what do you do with them? This year I bought a ribbon board to display the cards as they come, so we can look at them more than once and Ed can see what's come in when he comes home late at night. Eventually I'd like to get a nicer card holder, but that's another thing to plan on but put off. I read in a magazine of someone who cuts pictures from Christmas cards to make gift tags for next year, or to make Christmas books or collages with their kids. You hate to just throw them away, but you can't keep them around forever, either. I think I still have a stack from last year. What do you do?

So, that's it - what are your thoughts, habits, preferences, opinions on Christmas cards?


Michelle said...

I have done the card and letter thing for almost every year we have been married. I know I missed a year or two when things got crazy, and I am not above dropping anything during the holidays for the sake of sanity. Dave doesn't really see the need for the letter, but likes sending out a photo.

For me the letter is less about telling my friends about what has been happening but more about me reflecting on all the great things that my family has done. When I first sit down to write I always think there is nothing to say, but one memory leads to another and soon I am having to cut things out. In our everyday busy lives, it is so easy to forget that just a few months ago our kids were totally different people, they grow up so fast. And we are different too, and that is what I like about writing it down. Every year when the letter is done I read it and think, wow, I have so much to be grateful for. And that is why it is important to me. Because during the holiday season there can be a lot of stress and I want to focus on the thanksgiving.

tona said...

I agree that a letter is important. I sometimes wonder why someone bothers sending a printed card that they just sign. Like, where's your NEWS? We have a big list, about 200, plus all of the people that work in D's office (another 20 or 25). Some of these people, our only contact with them is a Christmas card but we rarely drop anyone off the list.

I am not very Excel savvy so ours is just a long word document in alphabetical order. It takes a couple of hours to address the cards and another session to stuff them.

We do write a letter, and now our collection of letters dating back to the year we got married is a fun "appendix" in the back of the Treasures of Christmas binder. (We had to upgrade to a fatter binder a couple of years ago). People tell us they look forward to our letter.

It is hard to know what to do with the cards at the end of the season. We keep ours in a basket where they can be seen when you first come in the door. New arrivals sit in front of the basket until everyone's seen them and then they go into the basket. Sometimes when I'm undecorating the house after New Years I just put the whole basket, cards and all, into a bag and into the attic. Then when I get it out the next year I have some fun looking through them before tossing them. I only keep the ones from immediate family. It does seem like a waste to throw away all those beautiful and sometimes expensive cards, and the photos, but there's only so much that's worth keeping.

When our list is this big, it can be hard to keep the costs down too. I don't buy cards in boxes at the store any more, too pricey, and we've never gone the custom card route (although those ones Kari linked from tinyprints are gorgeous. These days we just do a letter off our own printer, and a photo or (this year) a shutterfly 8x4 card. With that, plus the stamps, it can get close to $1 per card, and that adds up!

Jenifuz said...

I really enjoy getting the letters from friends and my step-mom always does a great card and my dad adds a wonderful letter. Usually everyone that I'd send our family letter to has already received that one so this year, it's just a photo card from us. Travis gets tired of the letters sometimes because it just reminds him of what he hasn't been able to do this year or it makes him feel poor. It's funny because I think he sees it more as bragging than just telling your friends what you've been up to. Life is too crazy this year so it's just a family picture card from JCP but it works. Our list is being kept small this year as we only have 36 cards. Anyone else might just get a little card with a wallet of our family in it. But I think we've got everyone in our list who we keep in contact with. My problem is that I keep in contact with most everyone by e-mail so I've had a hard time making sure I have the right addresses. We'll see how it goes but if anyone who reads this wants to send me their right address, I'd love it!

Mia said...

I love love love to receive Christmas cards. I put them all up on our fireplace mantle or in a basket on the mantle when there is no more space. I personally like to receive a letter and a picture. But in return I am a bit of a slacker. Of the (counting this one) 5 Christmases we have been married two of them have been overwhelmed by a newborn baby and those years were a wash. But the rest of the years I have done a short letter and sent a picture of the family (2 years) and just the kids (this year). I agree that the picture should be of the whole family and for as much as I complain about not being in the picture, I am not sure why I chose to send one of just the kids this year. This year I cheated. All of our names 42, because we mostly just send to family, are in an excel spread sheet that we turn into a mailing list and print off onto mailing labels. Then I bought really pretty cards from Costco. For a few of them they got actual pictures from the studio, but just siblings and parents. The rest of the people got a business card, instead of a letter, that I designed in publisher. Half was our current address, phone number, and blog address and the other half was a picture of the kids. I did the colors of the business card in the colors of my blog.

Jenny said...

I am so glad you asked this question. I always wondered what people do because I feel the same. I have a file of cards, wedding annoucements etc. Filed away - out of site out of mind. I need to get a place to display the cards we get. We put the immediate family and close friends on the fridge. Brad and I were talking about cards this weekend. I still have everyones from last year on the fridge. I think we are going to try and send our first picture card this year. Our working lives are too boring to write a letter for this year. Maybe next.

Disco Mom said...

I just did a quick Google search for "use for old christmas cards" and it was not as productive as the stocking stuffer one. The main uses everyone has are:

gift tags
homemade tree ornaments (some pretty cool ideas for these)
decoupage (not on your life)

I might bring a stack to Colorado with us and make a collage with Hazel one day if we're looking for something to do. Maybe next year we can start a tradition of making an ornament from a card each year.

One other idea was to cut pictures down to size and put in a small photo album, thus creating a picture book of the Christmas story. It might take awhile, like more than one year, to collect pictures for each part of the story, so that could be an ongoing project.

Most of these uses are to do with children, so if you don't have any, I'd say keep a few pretty ones but just recycle them.

Disco Mom said...

Jenny, I'm glad you're sending out a picture this year - we're looking forward to it!

Margaret said...

I read about a lady in a magazine who turned a few of her favorite Christmas cards each year into recipe cards for her recipe box. Then when she looks through her recipe box she remembers past Christmases.

Maren said...

I have tried to be very good about sending cards out each year because we used to move so often and I knew that if I wasn't quick about getting our new address out, we might never keep in touch with some of our old friends. Our list is down to about 70 now, plus church friends here, but it has topped 100 at times in the past.

I used to sacrifice my napkin holder each year to hold the cards, but this year I'm taping them up all around the woodwork between the kitchen and the family room. That way we can see them better. I always save them- they get put in a labeled ziplock and stored in a box. It is fun to look at them from time to time, plus I'd like to make a Treasures of Christmas book for each kid someday and will need some materials. But most people send letters and pictures, not cards, so I'm not sure if they will really come in handy for that.

I am a card fan, myself. We've done it all different ways, and this year is a letter (written by Quinn- a first, I think) with photos on it (which ended up being expensive to print ourselves, rotten printer), and next year it will be different. I have always felt like my purpose in sending out cards is to inspire people to think of Christ, not of me. We always try to include a short news letter and a family picture, but I really like buying cards which are beautiful, and hopefully have some religious scene or message inside. As I said, though, this year's is not so religion-centerd, but more family-centered.

When we do cards, I sign each one with an individualized wish, and hand-address them. My filing system is archaic: index cards in a recipe box. Oh well, it works for me. Someday it might be worth it to type it all into a program, but not yet.

Disco Mom said...

I think it's a good point about cards being inspiring, but how do you have time to write personal notes? I got a couple of old boxes of blank cards from Grandma's stash in the old house, so I used those to put my letter and photo in, but I didn't write anything personal inside. There were only 50 of those cards so I just did the letter & picture for the rest. I loved your (Maren's) card last year, it was beautiful. Maybe while I'm hunting down discounted ornaments after Christmas I'll look for cards for next year, too.

Maren said...

Yes, the time to buy cards is after Christmas! I have a whole stash I was going to use this year, but they can wait. I don't even feel like eveyone has to get the same design, either. The personalized note isn't very long and sometimes isn't super-personal, just a wish for that particular family or individual. I love getting things that have been written on by the actual friend, though I have broken with my tradition of hand-writing notes this year. I try to start the cards near Thanksgiving and work on them slowly (in the evenings) for a week or two.

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