Thursday, December 15, 2011


 “In some of your holiday decorations, plan to use the greeting cards you’ve saved from last year. Maybe you kept them because they were handmade and carried a very special message for you. Or, perhaps they were just too pretty to throw away. Whatever the reason, seeing them will bring back memories for you, and give everyone who steps inside your door a chance to enjoy them.

“Endless are the ways in which Christmas cards can be used. The six ideas here are only a start, but you can see how attractively they can trim a door, wall, table, or stairway. After NewYear’s, paste the choicest cards in an album to look at all year. Or select several of the most attractive, frame, and hang for year-round enjoyment.” Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Ideas, 1954

I was supposed to keep the cards? Display them next Christmas? Put them in albums? Frame them? I didn’t know . . .

When I was growing up, the cards were a very special part of Christmas with my parents. (I’m sure I’ve written about this before.) The routine at our house was for my dad to make the daily trek to the post office. When he brought in the holiday mail, the Christmas cards would be separated from the remainder and set aside. After supper, we would open and read the cards together. Mother would update the address book as we went along. Then the cards were handed to me to be displayed. I taped the first cards to door frames, and when that was accomplished, I started up the stairs.

After Christmas, it was my job to take the cards down and sort them. If the card could be re-used as a package tag or in making ornaments, it was saved. The others were tossed. Yes, I know!!! --What were we thinking?

I know exactly what we were thinking -- that we just couldn’t save all that. Back in that day, my parents received many Christmas cards! Postage and cards were inexpensive, and people sent cards liberally. It was an age when you remembered anyone of your acquaintance – well, almost – with a card. And there were cards from special friends they had known earlier in their lives.  Perhaps I never would have known much about their past experiences if it hadn’t been for this time of sharing.

Sending cards was a big event for almost everyone, I think. They were properly hand addressed, and many people included personal notes and letters. A few people sent blanket letters. I remember a piano tuner and his wife – both blind – sent an exceptionally interesting letter. As we opened each card, we read the message on the card itself and as well as letters.

I remember this quiet activity with my parents as a very special tradition. When I left home, things changed quickly. Gradually the volume of cards decreased. Mother put them in a basket and invited me to look through them. Just wasn’t the same. And I was never able to duplicate this tradition in my own home either, though I have always displayed the present year’s cards as they come in. KW

[My mother clipped the "lady with muff" from a card but never used it. It's just the kind of image Mother loved. The "mailbox" is just the front of a '50s card, trimmed to serve as a tag. Mother embroidered the nativity and finished it as a card. And "Peace" is actually a recycled card made by a friend of mine from "previously used" cards.]


Chris said...

I remember cards as an important part of our Christmas decorating, too. Everyone we knew displayed their cards!

I loved reading them, too, although we didn't do it formally. I'm afraid it's becoming a lost tradition, and it's sad. Saying "Merry Christmas" on Facebook just isn't the same. I love to reread the letters after all the hubbub is past.

drMolly, the BeanQueen said...

Alas it is a lost tradition. I send cards to my family and to close friends. But we don't receive as many as we send. Even worse, we get those awful non-personal what we (or more like brag about what our children or grandchildren have done)have done during the year. I really do not like those things. What is wrong with a simple card, even a simple signature?
I display our cards and I save some of the nicest ones to use for tags or some sort of other use, too.

Kathy said...

Yes, I agree with both of you -- becoming a lost tradition. One of my sisters told me last year that she sent 75 cards to people on her ongoing Christmas card list and received barely 35. My daughter (almost 30) loves to send and receive cards but admits that she doesn't get much response for her efforts.

The electronic age has an unseen impact on history, I think. When "hard copies" disappear, what's going to be left?

I'm going to be more alert to saving cards as well, though I find I do have some. What I only began to consider in recent years is that card designs change subtly from one era to the next, and that says a number of things.

Hallie said...

I'm proudly displaying the few cards I've received this year. I think it's too bad more people aren't into it...I love to see the different designs. My cards this year aren't my favorite that I've ever had, but I like them best out of the choices I had. You'll see!

Kathy said...

That's the way I feel about the card I chose, Hallie. The choices were slim amongst the type I wanted.

Leah said...

Here's the story of my Christmas cards. I began making our cards by hand in 1961. We had money for the stamps (4cents) but not cards. So I wrote a poem of 8 stanzas about Christmas at our house. I was a stay-at-home mom and on my portable typewriter, I typed the poem on 67 pieces of paper, 8½ x 11, folded in half. Then I folded the "card" in half again. On half of the folded paper, I made a tree and candle out of letters typed into these shapes. Before computers (and clip art), we made designs in a more creative way

Sending cards that I made by hand began again in the mid 60's. I cut out little pieces, pasted them on a background shaped like a snowman, angel, crown, tree or gingerbread man. It was much more expensive than buying cards and the time involved was enormous. But I loved it and so did our friends & family. These folk art cards ended up on people's trees year after year and I realized that I made a bright spot in people's lives for a brief moment. My son just loved them. Not so, my husband. Our kitchen table was covered with my project pieces for weeks before Christmas as I cut out and assembled them. Felt, sequins, pipe cleaners and ribbon were everywhere. I would send 100 cards each year during this time period.

When I stopped (after the ginerbread man's buttons stuck to the envelopes), my son was heartbroken. He was 17 at the time. He begged me to keep doing it. "No one makes hand made cards. They are so special" he pleaded. Burt I was just plain tired of the hard work & knew that my heart wasn't in it any longer.

I told Brian that even though I don't make hand crafted cards today, they are still uniquely my own creation. I found a place on the internet that allows me to choose my own greeting. Then I add a special message at the bottom (which they print on the card). Their selection of cards is outstanding, although very expensive.

I now send 75 cards each year and receive around 40 to 45. I am not disappointed that I don't receive as many cards as I send (although I love getting cards). Some people just don't send cards and that's okay. I send my Christmas cards as a gift to each person. It is to warm people's hearts and remind them that I think of them.