Christmas Card Craze

Your quirky Alaskan relatives might include with the card a family snapshot of everyone posing in the snow with their swimsuits on, just to get a well-deserved reaction. You'll anticipate the annual update from your favorite college roommate whom you otherwise rarely hear from. And you'll put off reading the three-plus page marathon letter that actually arrives in November. Amongst the entertaining, prompt, and thorough Christmas card senders are those of us who always intend to get cards out, but never manage to get it together. Read on, my friends, I have some suggestions for all of the above. Let's start with the bigwigs. For all of you with big families, big callings, big time-consuming lives that only get busier during the holidays, I sympathize with you, but there is hope. There's always hope at Christmas, and I think you can squeeze cards in this year if you really want to. I admit, I'm new at this. I've only been a Mrs. for three Christmases, and I just have one tot to tow, but I've heard the moans and groans, and I want to help. "I'm terrible," my friend whined last year. "I don't know why I can't seem to get it together, but I'll get them out--they just might be a little late." "You've got eight kids! It's okay if they don't arrive until Easter," I promise. "People understand and still love hearing from you." Sure enough, January, February, and March passed, and I received the most beautiful Christmas card from my determined friend. She filled each hand-made card with mini snowflakes so when I opened it I got snowed on (in April!). After that fun, I went on to read a well-written letter and enjoyed a snapshot of all of her kids, everyone smiling even. Ah, Christmas card perfection--almost. After all, she was tardy. *On-Time Chime* Here's how to make it happen on time. Start before all the Christmas chaos picks up. One way to put together a simple newsletter is to go around the dinner table at Thanksgiving and ask what three things everyone is most thankful for and jot down the answers. Often kids will be thankful for what's happening in their lives such as winning gold on the balance beam. There's nothing like heartfelt gratitude for Dora the Explorer from a little one, or your social butterfly being thankful for their friends. Prep them in advance so they'll be thinking of what they want "published" in the Christmas letter. If Thanksgiving Day is too hectic, it can always be a Family Home Evening activity held in a low-key month like October (although I don't know if there is such a thing as a low-key month when you have a big family). Anyway, set aside some time. You won't regret it. For those who want to let their friends and family know they care, but don't want to spend the money or the time putting together a traditional card, has beautiful online Christmas cards you can email to your friends for free. You can even upload a picture into your card. Perhaps that's the secret to timeliness--an e-card that spares you the trouble of addressing a stack of envelopes, printing off a bunch of photos, and paying for all the stamps. As much as I love receiving cards in the mail, I have to admit that giving them comes with a headache. Those who feel a migraine coming on at just the thought of it should try an e-card. *Mail Manners* Now I've got some basic Christmas card etiquette for those of you who write newsletters that are too long, too informative, or too boring. Nothing fancy, just some pointers you can agree or disagree with. I like to think there are a few of you out there that will agree with me. First and foremost, spare your readers a travel log. I know growing up at my house we sometimes received newsletters that were covered front and back in the tiniest print legible describing every place people went and every single thing they did that year. Bor-ing! I don't think I ever sat down to read those letters, but I was anxiously reading over my mom's shoulder when the letter talked about how my old friend was the most graceful dancer in her ballet class. So stick with the year's highlights. Readers want to hear about how you've changed, what you've accomplished, and what you've been up to. Don't try to cram in everything that happened to you that year. Instead, pick three things with the details focusing on people, not places. Another pointer is to try not to embarrass your kids. It can be tempting, and it might not seem embarrassing to you, but be careful. I remember reading a newsletter one year that said something like, "Grace just turned fourteen and is ecstatic that she's old enough to hit the dance floor; she also recently got contacts so she can even see the dance floor." All of you adults reading this might think to yourself, "What's so embarrassing about that?" Well, to your fourteen-year-old this reads, "I'm a nerd whose been counting down the days 'til my fourteenth birthday so that I can go to dances, and until just recently, I was a four-eyed geek." I have to commend this person for writing an entertaining letter that had a humorous vibe; she had me glued, but being a teenager at the time I just had to wonder if Grace was as embarrassed as I was for her. Just be careful. It often depends on your child's age and personality. You'll know to change it if your child is strongly opposed to what you've written. It is not the purpose of the Christmas card to embarrass your children, unless the theme of the letter is most embarrassing moments and your children get to write the blurb about you (Hear that kids?!). Then again, if they're at the age where everything is embarrassing you might just have to do your best. There's a fine line between funny and embarrassing. You be the juggler. Some kids are impossible to please and are embarrassed about everything. Oh, and definitely stick to your immediate family. I know there are letters out there that detail the lives of their extended families too, publishing who lost 30 pounds, and other potentially embarrassing info. Definitely stay within the bounds of your own family. Next tip of etiquette: unless you're writing a personalized message to everyone in your address book, type up your letter. And unless you've got twelve kids to talk about, keep your letter to one page and twelve-point font. You want people to want to read what you've spent so much time crafting, so don't intimidate them with a novel. *Scrap It* Now for all of you perfectionist types. You're the ones who hand-make pristine Christmas cards that arrive promptly in December, with a gorgeous family photo and an award-winning newsletter that has the perfect mixture of humor and holiday cheer. Well, just so you know, women all over the world are jealous, including yours truly. But even I have a suggestion for you wonder women. What are you doing with all the leftovers? Everyone usually has a few extra pictures, a few extra newsletters, envelopes, and cards. Or cards occasionally get sent back to you because people move or you accidentally write their address down wrong. Well, I came up with a fabulous idea for what to do with the leftovers. It came to me when I was thumbing through my small, empty Christmas scrapbook. I didn't want it to be full of blank pages because I love it. It has funky pink Christmas trees on the front and black paper inside. My mom gave it to me for Christmas a few years back. Retro, I thought then. I wonder what I'll use it for. Being the unmotivated, amateur, and overwhelmed scrapbooker that I am, my first impression was to stick all the Christmas photos I get every year in it and call it complete. But then the right side of my brain started speaking to me. It said, Why not cut the stars and Christmas trees out of the 10 left over Christmas cards and use them as scrap-deco in your retro book? I gave a silent nod. Next I eyed the family newsletter I'd just written. I saved a copy for us to keep and thought there was no better place for it than in the scrapbook. Walah! Suddenly, my funky Christmas scrapbook became a family journal of sorts. It will only have one entry every year--the Christmas newsletter--and I decorate the pages with leftover cards we have, as well as with the Christmas cards we receive. I'm not the type that hangs onto every Christmas card forever (sorry guys), but I now cut them up and use them to decorate the pages in my scrapbook so I can keep a little piece of all the Christmas wishes I receive. It's a cheap, if not free, way of scrapbooking that actually uses scraps and only takes a few hours a year to keep on top of. And best of all, there's a journal entry that sums up your family on an annual basis. Now that's my kind of homemaking slash journaling slash scrapbooking--my gift to you. Merry Christmas, everybody! h3. Christmas Card Do's: * Do write three things about each person * Do keep the newsletter to one page * Do mail the letters in December * Do write the letter in October or November * Do type your letter * Do focus on people * Do send the card even if you can't get it in the mail until after Christmas * Do save the leftovers for your Christmas journal/scrapbook h3. Christmas Card Don'ts: * Don't try and embarrass your kids * Don't write a travel log * Don't get discouraged * Don't focus on places * Don't write about families other than your own * Don't focus on all the places you went that year * Don't think everything I say is the law
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