I’m participating in The Nester’s 31 Days Challenge, so for the month of October I’ll be writing each day about 31 Days of Christmas: plan a little now to enjoy it more later. You can see all of the posts here.
When I shared our “don’t miss list” on Day 3, Matt and I had included sending out Christmas cards. While this is one of the more time-consuming Christmas projects, it’s also one of my favorites. Since I was little, I have loved getting Christmas cards and pictures from loved ones. I love hearing what friends and family far away have been doing during the year. I love recognizing the return addresses as soon as I get them out of the mailbox, seeing the pictures and reading handwritten notes.
Each Christmas we all have to decide whether or not we will even send Christmas cards. Matt and I choose to because we love the tradition and the sentiment; it helps us feel feel connected to family out of town and it lets them know that we’re thinking of them. I know that there are a lot of reasons to NOT mail traditional cards (cost, environment, time, etc.), so of course I don’t think it’s unsentimental or inconsiderate to forego this activity.
Please remember that nothing about Christmas should be a burden. The activities that that we do…the things on that “don’t miss list“… they should move us toward a Christmas that we have envisioned, not weigh us down. If sending Christmas cards is just a burden for you, don’t do it! Skip the rest of this post… just come back tomorrow, ok?
I sub-titled this series “plan a little now to enjoy it more later” and Christmas cards are one of the best examples of how some up-front planning can save a lot of stress and frustration later!
If you’ve decided that you will send Christmas cards, the next step is to decide what type of card. You can send e-greetings, photo cards, handmade cards, or traditional cards. You can choose to a include picture or to not send a picture. You can write up a newsy letter about everything that’s happened this year in your life or just let the photo or card say it all. It’s all up to you!
Maybe it’s because I spend most of my days on a computer, but to me there is something extra-special about real cards that you can hold in your hands. I’m not ready to switch to e-greetings yet! (That being said, some of my favorite Christmas cards are emailed newsletters – I look forward to them every year!) And as far as letters… I think that newsletter-type updates are better for families with more news to share; I just don’t feel like I have that much to say! Matt and I decided to do a photo card because we like pictures and photo cards are simple. Easy enough explanation, right?
After deciding the type of card comes the photo. Few things bring so much joy and yet so much chagrin. It’s hard to get a photo that everyone agrees on, right? If you are going to take a group picture, make sure to take time to plan the details of that picture that will live in
infamy everyone’s memory; talk through it with your family to decide what everyone will be wearing, who will take the picture, when and where you’ll take it, etc. While a posed family photo is still the classic go-to, I tend to lean towards the ones that tell the story of the year in pictures. For example, last year Matt and I used a black and white picture from our wedding -
This year, we want to use a few different pictures to capture what we’ve been up to since last Christmas. We’re going to include one of us at Hurricane Ridge from our trip to Seattle, one from a mud run (this weekend we’re doing our third for the year so we’ll try to get a
muddy good picture then!), and maybe a couple of others depending on the layout. We’ll pick a design/layout together later on, but for now it’s encouraging to know that we have a general plan and we’re on the same page.
One of the easiest things that we can start working on now is our recipient list. I started storing all of our addresses online when we were using a massive Google spreadsheet for our wedding planning last year; after the wedding I copied our guest list (with addresses) into a new spreadsheet and now I have an electronic address book on my Google drive. Through the year as we’ve gotten updated addresses or I’ve thought of people we should add to our Christmas card list (new friends, new coworkers, etc.), I’ve been able to quickly make the changes to the address book. I realize that not everyone in that address book will get a Christmas card and on the flip side I’m sure I’m missing people who will get a card, so Matt and I need to go over the list together. Once we’ve agreed on who will get a card,we can see if we are missing any addresses. If I can get a solid list, it will save me from frantically trying to find addresses on December 23rd…or after Christmas…guilty!
Later in November when we have a final recipient list and our photo cards ready to print, it will be easy to see how many cards to order. I try to order extras in case we realize we’ve missed someone on the list. Last year we got our cards from MyPublisher, which I loved. Their quality was excellent but they definitely weren’t the least expensive alternative so we’ll have to weigh the choices against our budget this year. I’ve seen great designs on Snapfish, Shutterfly, and Tiny Prints. There’s always the option of designing your own cards, and don’t forget that you can print pictures at Walgreens, CVS, Wal-Mart, Target, etc.; I think that they have card templates too! If you’re printing a Christmas letter, I don’t have suggestions on where to go except to say that FedEx Office was incredibly helpful when we had some printing to do for our wedding. Basically, whatever your budget is, I think that you can find something that you’ll love!
Speaking of budget, don’t forget to consider the cost of postage. I just checked and you can order Christmas stamps from the USPS website and all of them are available now! The shipping is very inexpensive, too. When I checked, mine was only $1.25! This is money well-spent in my opinion since the Post Office close to us is always busy and s l o w.
Once you have your cards and postage in hand, you still need to address the envelopes, add your return address, stuff the envelopes, and add the stamps; obviously you’ll have fewer steps if you go with postcards. If you choose to add a handwritten note to each card, that’s going to require more time, so make sure to plan accordingly. You may want to save time by using labels for the addresses and return addresses. Matt and I got a return address stamp after we got married, so I’m relieved to not have to write that out anymore; I wrote it out enough for two lifetimes between our wedding invitations, RSVP envelopes, and thank-you notes! I like to assemble the cards over an evening or two while we watch Christmas movies, although I admit that I tried to do them all in one night last year and it was not ideal.
The timing for sending cards can vary – I’m hoping this year to send Christmas cards out closer to Thanksgiving than Christmas so I won’t be scrambling to get them sent. On the other hand, my family has often sent a New Year’s letter instead of a Christmas letter, which keeps this process from being squeezed in before Christmas. I think that this is a great idea if it works better for your family!
I hope that this helps you think through what you’ll be doing for Christmas cards this year. Remember that this should not become a stressor or a burden. There are so many different ways to show people that you love them around Christmas, and cards are definitely not the only or even the best way! If sending Christmas cards is something that you enjoy and will make your Christmas more special, then do it! Otherwise, be more concerned with showing your loved ones that you care through the rest of the year and let go of the Christmas cards this year.
What is your favorite card that you’ve sent? Received? Any embarrassing Christmas photos?