Christmas Cards

Today I am embarking on the yearly Christmas Card Ritual. Addressing cards, writing notes, signing names, putting in photos, sticking on stamps… A time-consuming and hand-cramping past time.

Card Birds Still, I like the tradition. It’s a way to keep in touch with people I might not otherwise connect with, especially with those not on Facebook or other social networks. I also find some of the artwork on the cards to be beautifully evocative of the Christmas spirit.

1936 - HS Warren & Clara McFarlinWriting Christmas cards also connects with a long tradition—and anyone knowing my genealogy interest knows I like tradition. So I was pleased to find several Christmas cards sent out by my great-grandparents, Harold Stites and Clara Warren, among papers given to me by my relatives. All the cards displayed in this post are theirs.

People these days are creative with their cards, enclosing newsletters about their year in review, and customizing the photos on the cards. A writer friend of mine composes a newspaper with stories of the goings-on at the North Pole, pulled from the major news stories of the year. While I enjoy getting the photo cards from my friends and family—and my aching hand would welcome not having to write so many notes and sign so many cards—I am old-fashioned. I like my handwritten cards.

As I have gotten older and lost people I loved, I have come to cherish the fragments of handwriting I have from them. Handwriting is so individual, so personal, that seeing a familiar script is as powerful as hearing their voice. There is a life to handwriting that is lacking in printed text—even though the printed text is often more legible, especially after the first 20 or so cards!

For me, nostalgia pervades the act of Christmas card writing. As I look at these cards from my great-grandparents, I see a reflection of who they were. They were stylish dressers, as demonstrated by the nattily dressed candy canes on one card.

Card Top Hat

My great-grandmother played piano and organ, as well as composed music and hymns, as shown on the card of the angel playing the piano. In fact, my great-grandmother’s apartment grand piano sits in my living room right now.

Card Piano

Card BallsThe cards they chose reflected my great-grandparents’ taste—beautiful, elegant, and joyful, full of the things they cherished most: home and family. Maybe someday I will try the new-fangled customized photo cards and give my hand a break, but for now I choose to follow the tradition of my great-grandparents.

And maybe, if I am lucky, some of my cards will be found by my great-grandchildren among the precious papers saved by my descendants.

Card Doorway

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