Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Art of the Christmas Card

I try to make my Christmas card a small gift to the person receiving it.  I don't understand why you would go through all the trouble to send a Christmas card it you are just going to have some company imprint your name on the card and send it using a mailing label (but if that is you, no guilt, okay?).  I know I am a bit old-fashioned when it comes to correspondence, but I think just a little effort shows not only your own personality and style, but also makes it a meaningful communication.

Here are a few tips to make your Christmas card a special gift....

1.  Select your card by thinking about who you and your family are and what your interests and beliefs are.  The card should resemble your personal brand.  I know that sounds a little trite, but you really should consider sending something that speaks to your heart about the season and makes the receiver think about you..

2.  Always include a photo.  Whether you use an actual photo card or if you only tuck in a photo with your card, it's nice to show "something".  I have a tendency now to enclose a photo of my grandchildren.  If you have gone on a special trip or have a terrific family photo, or even one of your pets, including it adds extra zing to your "gift".

My grandchildren's photo from last year's card - Madeline, Marina, and Brodie

3. Several years ago I started to do an annual Christmas letter to inlcude with my card.  I know much fun has been made of families doing holiday letters, but they are all terrific in one way or the other - good or bad!  I have seen many holiday letters cross our mailbox.  We used to have one family member who would send out the most detailed letter telling of every little thing they did, in a bit of a bragging way.  Well, a lot of a bragging way, actually.  It got to be so comical to all the other members of the huge extended family, sometimes we would gather all together and read it out loud and roar with laughter, it was just so over the top and ridiculous!  Then we had another family member who did the most intentionally hilarious letter each year, regaling us with all their "troubles", but in a very funny way.  We always adored getting that letter.  I try to do a one-page "update" on what our year was like and try to do it with a bit of humour.  I love looking back on our past letters as a bit of family history.  Most people are generally interested in what has gone on in your family's life.  So take a stab at it and see what you come up with!

Now that you have put together an interesting "gift" for your loved ones to open, it's time to "decorate" the envelope....

1.  I look at the envelope to see what color pen I need to address the envelope.  I want the envelope itself to look festive.  I usually have a stash of red, green, gold, and silver pens on hand, but always check to see if anything needs replacing.  I try to use my best penmanship and add a bit of flair.  One of my goals is to learn calligraphy because that would be so beautiful!!  One of these years I will finally take that class, but in the meantime, I will do it the best I can freehand.

2.  I pay close attention to the stamps.  I know you can now design your own stamps.  I haven't ever done that, but it sounds fabulous!  Annually I await each year to see what the postal service has come up with.  Sometimes I am not very impressed.  I like the stamps to match in some way.  Sometimes I really  luck out and sometimes not so much. 

3.  I like to use stickers on the back on the envelopes to replicate sealing wax.  I have actual sealing wax with an initial thing that you press into it, but frankly, I have never had much success.  I am also told that the postal service doesn't like you to use those.  Now I either buy some kind of pretty holiday sticker, or I have also seen some very pretty, elaborate ink stamps at Michael's Crafts that look like they would work well.  Which ever way you chose, it's nice to have something on the back of the envelope to please the eye when you are opening it.

4.  For return addresses, I like to have them either printed on the back of the envelope in the ink color you are using on the front, or to have specially made return address labels made to match everything.  Of course, handwriting your return address is always acceptable.

Please do NOT feel judged or inadequate by all of this.  Whatever you can do, is what you can do.  These are just ideas. One year I was so busy and overwhelmed, I gave myself permission to skip doing Christmas cards altogether and that is okay, too.  We all need a little break sometime.  Doing Christmas cards is something that you should look forward to and enjoy as an expression of your creative self, not as a big chore that you have to just get through.  You will be surprised at how much joy doing Christmas cards can bring you, if you put a little effort into it and then can imagine the joy that the person receiving it is going to get when they open it.

As a "receiver", I like to make a presentation out of opening the Christmas cards we get.  I remember a very old friend of mine, who was so elegant and graceful, would tell how she would put all her mail on a silver tray and take it into her living room to open it and relish what was inside.  I could always totally envision that scene.  It was SO civilized.  Now I try to save the Christmas cards out of the everyday mail to open together with my husband after he and I have finished dinner and believe me, we always look forward to the ones that are little gifts".  

Happy Christmas card writing!

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