For many years, I have designed and made our own Christmas cards. Each year, I send out so many that it moves beyond sharing the holiday spirit and into a production facility that could benefit from a few elves. The first year I sent Christmas cards, I made a BVM linoleum print, stringing the drying cards across the dining room of 32-fiddy. I was twenty-two at the time, and nothing says “young unmarried woman getting ready for the holidays” like a stylized hand-made print of the blessed virgin. That was the first and only year that I hand-printed the cards. Wonder why.
Then, in 2009 our family went through some changes, separating and moving, and I didn’t know what to do about the card. For the first time, the card would be for just me and the kids and it made me awfully sad. Not only would the card be different, but reviewing the holiday mailing list suddenly felt like a long list of mine, yours, and ours. Heavy with sadness and uncertain about what to do, I made a card and sent them out willy-nilly, mostly sending them to whomever I felt would be glad to get it. The card was so tricky that year because I was struggling with how to still cherish a past when I felt so sad about its current state and an unknown future. So, I put little bits of previous Christmas memories into that card, placing Christmas mix CD covers that I had made in the years we were married onto the wall like they were framed art. To me it meant they had happened, they were important, and I was dedicated to still loving Christmas.
Last year, I came up with my best card idea ever. Best except that it was the king of labor intensity, and I ran into a whole pile of technical issues. As a result, only about 10% of my intended mailing list actually received the card. I like to look at least year like it was a limited edition set. A very, very, limited edition.
Pine Scented! [see note about labor intensity!]
After all of the cards I’ve made and some reflection on the process, I’ve learned a few things:
- Based on the labor intensive nature of designing cards and getting them out the door, a person might want to start them earlier in the year. That person would not be me though, because I don’t FEEL like doing Christmas things until all of the Thanksgiving stuffing is gone and there is snow on the ground.
- It takes me awhile to land on just the right idea and design for that year. I usually toss around a few ideas, discard those that I can’t make look right or require both a helicopter and a professional photographer (but if I can ever line both of those up, I have the best idea ever).
- Even with my best intentions, sometimes the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas gets filled up with other stuff (like shopping, baking, wrapping, trying to decide which is better – Tom & Jerry’s or Egg Nog) and my cards don’t get in the mail ahead of the holiday. My personal cutoff is my friend Meghan’s birthday, which is in January. Whatever does not get out before that National Holiday, does not get sent. After that point, I feel like I have to write a disclaimer on each card and saying “Sorry I suck, and the lateness of this card is no reflection on how I feel about you” which takes away from the loving sentiment on the card in the first place.
- I love looking back at the cards we’ve sent over the years; they serve as a marker for what we looked like, what we were doing, what was happening in our lives, and provide proof that we made it through to another year.