Monday, December 13, 2010

All the Christmas News That’s Fit to Print

by Susanne Dietze

There’s nothing like walking to the mailbox on a crisp December afternoon.
residential mailbox, United StatesImage via Wikipedia
Perhaps it’s because I’ve moved so many times and I miss so many people who live in other towns and states. But to me, a mailbox stuffed with colored envelopes (and perhaps even a package or two) is a hopeful thing, a message that I am remembered and wished good cheer by someone I care about.

Or maybe some folks just haven’t updated their labels and keep forgetting to take me off their Christmas card lists. In any case, I love Christmas cards. Well, most of them. Not so much the ones from certain businesses and services we use, which picture the office staff living La Vida Loca. But mostly, I love the cards I receive. I love the photo cards, which show how much the sender’s kids have grown, and I love the standard kind of cards, with artwork reflective of the sender’s tastes: angels or Santa or dark, starry nights looming over the silhouettes of magi.

Christmas cards with angels, scandinavian “nis...Image via WikipediaTrue, many of us exchange cards with people we may rather not keep up with, and yes, greeting cards are a multi-million dollar industry. Cards cost money, use up trees, and can be a huge task to complete when we're harried with dozens of other jobs this hectic time of year. Nevertheless, Christmas cards are, to me, a tether to a friend, a peek at the sender’s tastes and personality, and a reminder of who they are and how I feel about them.

For this reason, I also like Christmas newsletters, those mass-produced sheets describing what the author has been up to for the past year. Some people – almost 50% of us, by one estimate – hate these letters, and I can see that viewpoint. Newsletters are impersonal, and sometimes inappropriate or braggy (at least, some of the ones I’ve received have been). But no matter what is included in the letter, I think they often reveal the heart of the writer, shedding light on his or her treasure, whether it’s pets or travel or sports or politics. On the afternoons where I receive a scrap of Christmassy stationery tucked into a card, I sit down with my cup of hot chocolate (with a candy cane for a swizzle stick) and get lost in the swirl of the relationship I have with the letter-writer.

There’s etiquette on Christmas letters, of course. Emily Post (click here) says our letters should fit on one page and should neither boast about our family’s accomplishments nor bemoan our difficulties. They should be concise, cheerful, and focus on our highlights. And it doesn’t hurt if there’s a personal message added by hand at the beginning or end.

When done well, these letters can be true jewels. And I don’t mean 90-seconds of reading escape, but treasures that make us feel connected to each other from across the miles and fill us in on what we’ve missed.

One year, my friend Leslie sent a hilarious poem to describe her family’s activities over the past twelve months, from her husband’s fateful deer hunting trip to the kids’ performances in the Nutcracker. For the past few years, my friend Arlena includes a timeline of the past year in her cards, highlighting her family's milestones in snippets that pack a punch. Jeanie wrote last year about the places she’s visited and how she saw God at work from Bethlehem to Sweden. They were all different sorts of newsletters, each as enjoyable and unique as their authors, and each conveyed the events I’d missed in such a way that I felt like my friend was right there with me, sharing a cup of cocoa and giving me an update on her life.

In the age of Facebook and Twitter, holiday newsletters may dwindle in popularity, just as e-cards have replaced their paper counterparts in the hearts of some of my friends. But I’m a paper-type gal, with my books as well as my Christmas cards, and I like to get the full scoop with something I can hold and view again later in the light of the Christmas tree, when I need a fix of a far-away friend.

What do your Christmas cards look like this year? Do you send a letter out with them?

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  1. Haven't thought of Christmas cards yet. Need to get past a giant Sweet Sixteen party for my daughter this weekend first. Then maybe an email version.

    My pastor always does his yearly newsletter like a short story. Maybe the family members are all spies or super heroes or something. I look forward to those.

  2. I am such a loser. No cards out, so far, only one card "in". But I do love newsletters from people. I know they cause some to roll their eyes, but I appreciate them.

    I think I'll just write personal notes to people this year that I should have sent cards to. An unexpected card can be appreciated more than a rushed, obligatory one and I used to do those myself.

  3. Good morning! While it doesn't look a bit like a Currier & Ives card at my house today, it does resemble something out of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer: fog.

    Dina, I love the idea of a short story with the family as characters. Spies, pirates, fun!

    I hope you have a great time with your big party! Sixteen is something to celebrate!

  4. Deb, I love the idea of a personal note. I used to write those but I haven't really done that since I had kids.

    Letter writing seems to be a dying art. I have a box full of special letters -- from my husband, parents, grandparents, etc. But everything's email and text now. (I wonder what effect this might have, in a historical sense. Letters written by historical figures often give us unique insight into their lives. But we don't really write like that anymore.)

    Months ago I wrote a post about my friend Susan, whom I met in a hotel swimming pool. We've been writing to each other since we were 11. She and I decided to continue to handwrite letters rather than jot emails to each other, and I've got to say, I love it when there's a real-life letter in the mailbox.

    Thanks, Deb!

  5. Susie, thanks for the reminder. I still have to get mine out. Last year I didn't send any. The most I've ever mailed was 28 and over the years that's dwindled down to about a dozen via snail mail.

    Yesterday when I walked into our small country church, I saw the Christmas card piles. There used to be only 8 but now there's 19 or so. A pile for each family lined up along the ledge above the stairs.

    I've sent out 2 parcels so far with cards in each. Will have another one ready to go today. I'm supposed to be doing the rest in the evening while watching TV but have been on my computer doing email instead.

    But I really like the Christmas cards, especially the Victorian, Nativity and Country church or mailbox ones. :)

    Great post, Susie.

    Anita Mae.

  6. I'm terrible about hand-writing notes. I love the idea, but somehow never get around to it. In fact, I don't even e-mail or facebook as much as I should. It's just so hard to make it a priority when there are other concerns jostling for attention.

  7. Lisa, seeing as how I expect you to publish before me, I agree. You have important issues to attend to.

    Speaking of Currier and Ives...Is there any nice weather out there on the continent? Mexico, perhaps?
    I noticed it was snowing in NC this morning...

  8. I have no clue what I'm doing this year. We've done store-bought cards, handmade cards, photo cards, newsletters, even a DVD card with a Powerpoint movie of family pictures for the year.
    This year, I just don't feel like taking the time to do all the Christmas stuff...

    Deb, it's quite lovely here in Colorado right now. Strange.

  9. Anita Mae, you are so organized. Good for you for getting your parcels out already. Today is (supposedly) the busiest shipping day in the US. I just spoke to someone who stood in line for 30 minutes this morning to use the automated machine at the PO. Ugh!

    I like Nativity and Victorian Christmas cards, too. :-)


  10. Lisa, this is such a hectic time of year. I think life in general is pretty hectic and I am always amazed by how much you and other young moms get done. I feel like I'm constantly deciding what can get cut and what has to get done. Christmas cards and little notes are definitely on the cut list.

    You're definitely a better Facebook-er than I am. :-)

  11. Deb, I hear it's like spring in southern California. Someone I know and love is sitting on her porch, basking in the sun, right now. Sigh. I'm wearing a turtleneck and wrapped in a blanket.

  12. A DVD movie with Powerpoint, Niki? Wow! That's impressive! Handmade cards are a lot of work, too. You're a creative person.

    I truly feel like Christmas is sneaking up on me. The tree is up, but little else is done and the house is a disaster. I just realized I should probably start thinking about a Christmas menu. So I can actually go to the store before, say, next Friday.

  13. I love getting cards, too, and enjoy getting a glimpse at the senders heart and activities. But even without a note, I'm still so thankful that someone thought of me.

  14. I'm with Susie - really Niki - a DVD? Sure, show us up. LOL

    And Susie - I only sound organized. I sent out the 2 US bound parcels while I was in North Dakota last week, but I still have to send to my mom. And yes, my house is a wreck. I've a little of everything done... boxes everywhere... only a couple baked items in the freezer to show for the past few days.

    Karl - That's a wonderful way of looking at it. I'll have to remember the blessing of the Christmas cards and what it means to the receiver as opposed to what it feels like to me. Thanks.

    Anita Mae.

  15. Hi Karl! Thanks for coming by today. You're right about being a blessing. I think cards and letters are a tangible way to lift someone's spirits, offer encouragement, or show them friendship. I'll try to keep that in mind when I send out cards. I appreciate you visiting today.

    Anita Mae, someone asked me today if they could stop by the house. Normally, my house is untidy but I figure, if I waited until it looked good, I'd never have anyone over. But today, I actually gulped. I need to get into gear around here and get Christmassy without being ChristMESSY.

    I am so impressed that you've actually baked something *and* sent packages! You're way ahead of me!

  16. I found you from Adventures of the Grigg Boys. I love your site. I’m going to poke around a little bit, but don’t worry I’ll put everything back where I found it!!

  17. "Christmas cards are to me a tether to a friend"..... I LOVE that!!!

  18. I love Christmas cards, Susie. I must confess, Christmas seems to oftentimes (most times) sneak up way before I'm ready. So often, my cards are sent out in time for New Year's instead. I love the old-fashioned cards that look like they came from the 50s or 60s, with all the glitter and chubby-faced kids.


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