I didn’t grow up in a Christmas card family. But I married into one. And it wasn’t long before sending a Christmas greeting became part of our holiday routine.
Then, after we added a third child to our fold, I folded on our Christmas card tradition. I sent out a combination birth announcement and Christmas card when Daphne was born. By the time Christmas came around the next year, I decided not to mail cards, in hopes of saving time, money, natural resources, and, mostly, my sanity.
Instead of sending cards, I switched to digital greetings. I shared Christmas letters and photos in blog posts. Truth be told, writing a Christmas letter was much harder than simply sending a card. You’d think that, for a writer, penning a Christmas letter would be easy, but I struggled with what to include, what to leave out, finding the fine line between sharing accomplishments and bragging. Writing Christmas letters is its own art. Now, I’m so glad I wrote those letters, because they are a joy to re-read.
This nostalgia helped prompt the revival of our Christmas letter tradition – along with the sage words of my friend Suzanne, who wrote in her early holiday letter:
“If you’re thinking of skipping the work of sending a Christmas greeting, please reconsider; it’s often all we get for the year – one small glimpse into each other’s lives, but it does serve to encourage and strengthen our long-distance relationships with you. At least I can say with confidence that in the whirlwind of our busy lives, we appreciate knowing that we are still somehow connected to you.”
And, then, as if Suzanne’s first paragraph wasn’t enough of a gentle nudge, she signed the letter with a more substantial nudge: “Love to hear from you guys!”
It didn’t take long for me to make up my mind. The shift in our society towards digital-only connections has left me feeling more and more unconnected. The allure of an old fashioned, tangible letter won over my time-constraint based hesitation.
It helped, too, that we had actually had a nice family photo to include with a letter. Glen’s sister needed a photo of us for a project, so she took several pictures for us one Sunday afternoon. Before that, we hadn’t done anything or gone anywhere in nearly 12 months that had required us all to look presentable at the same time.
Glen and the kids agreed that sending a Christmas card felt like a good idea. Monika offered to help with stamping and addressing envelopes. Glen asked each of our children to write down the best parts of 2020; he and I made lists, too. In a year when so much was postponed or altogether canceled, those lists helped us look back at all of the fun things we did; to see all of the goodness that happened, despite all of the challenges.
I assembled all of the lists into a letter – one that I’m sure I will enjoy reading when I come across it in the future. (If you’d like to read our letter, I did post it on my blog, as well – www.dairygoodlife.com.)
The next step in the card sending process was updating our address list. I definitely did not budget enough time for that task. After eight years of collecting dust, our address list was significantly outdated. You don’t realize how many moves and life changes happen in the lives of our family and friends over the years until you edit them all at once.
When cards and envelopes arrived and letters were picked up from the printer, Monika got to work stuffing envelopes and affixing stamps.
One night while I worked on Christmas cookies, Monika worked on addressing Christmas cards. With nearly every address label that she applied, she asked the same questions: “Who is this? How do we know them?”
This was the only part of our Christmas card revival that I did not expect. Many of the friends on our mailing list are connections from other times in our lives or other places we lived. I’ve kept them on our list over the years because I value our connection – even if it’s been years since we connected in person. But I didn’t realize that our kids have never met some of the friends and family on our list, except maybe through the Christmas cards they send to us. Answering Monika’s questions was a poignant reminder for me of all the wonderful people we call friends and family. It was also a family history lesson for Monika about all of the places we lived and jobs we held before we bought our farm.
I took one other tip from Suzanne’s letter. Instead of collecting the Christmas cards we receive in a basket on our table, as I’ve done in the past, I strung the cards up along a wall in our kitchen, bunting-style. The smiling faces of the friends and family we hold dear are still decorating our kitchen now. I may just leave the cards up all year, so that we are continually reminded of the people who enrich our lives.
Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have three children – Dan, 13, Monika, 11, and Daphne, 7. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com.