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9 Steps to a Perfect Christmas Card

I love Christmas cards. Like, I LOVE them. A lot. They’re basically my favorite activity of the entire year. And yes, mine are Christmas cards. I know some people are politically correct and send Holiday Cards. But not me. We celebrate Christmas and we’re proud of it, so I send Christmas cards. If you’re offended by that, we’re probably not friends anyway so you won’t have to worry about getting a card from me in the first place.

Christmas card suppliesMy husband teases me because our Christmas cards are quite a production. How much of a production can it really be to send out a few Christmas cards to friends and family, you ask? It’s not. All it takes is these 9 easy steps:

Step 1. Family Photos – Sometime prior to Thanksgiving, I have to schedule a photographer and get everyone assembled and organized for our yearly family photos. Sometimes we do this in the summer. Other times we wait until the very last weekend in October. Because sometimes, planning is not my strong suit. This is probably my husband’s least favorite part of the Christmas card ordeal because, well, family photos cost a lot of money. But I can’t just use any random photos. I can’t. It just won’t be the same. I need good photos of each of the kids. And I need a nice looking photo of all of us together. And that’s not going to happen unless we pay a professional and force our hand into looking presentable and all doing our best to look at the camera in unison.

Totally regular. Lots of people do this.

Step 2. Wait for Family Photos to Be Ready – This step isn’t as grueling when we do photos in August. But when we wait until October 30 and it then takes four weeks to get the photos, I start to sweat. In the end, the photos arrive before December 1 (my self-imposed Christmas card start date), they are amazing, and I love every one of them.

Also totally regular. I think.

Step 3. Write the Christmas Letter – This is really the nuts and bolts of the whole thing. The card isn’t anything special. But the letter. The letter is my favorite thing to write. I think about it all year. It’s a letter wherein I give a brief summary of what our family has been up to all year. There is a paragraph dedicated to each child, one for my husband, one for myself and then one detailing any traveling we’ve done throughout the year. This letter is my absolute favorite. My husband likes to tease me because of how proud I am of my Christmas letter. It’s not sappy and sugar coated. It’s real. I try to give an honest account of what our lives are like. It’s really fun. And people love it.

Most people don’t do this step, but I wouldn’t consider it an ordeal.

Step 4. Go Online and Make the Card – I order my cards from Costco because they’re the least expensive without looking cheap. The card must include a single photo of each of the children and a photo of us as a family. That’s it. No more, no less. The card must say Merry Christmas. I won’t have a Happy Holidays card. It won’t do. I prefer if the card also says the year, but if it doesn’t, I’ll just add it to the signature line where I include everyone’s name and the children’s ages. The card must be Christmas-appropriate colors. Blue is not a Christmas color. Neither is pink. Red, white and green. Those are Christmas colors. Snowflakes, trees, snowmen, etc. are also acceptable as decorations on the card.

OK, maybe some of my requirements make me seem a little nuts.

Step 5. Order Cards – You would think that with my years of practice and experience, I would know exactly how many cards I need. But I don’t. Because I never count. And I can never remember from one year to the next how many I used the previous year. You’d think I would write it down. But you’d be wrong. So instead, I guess. There have been worst-case scenario years where I’ve run out of cards. Most years, however, I go the other direction and order several hundred more than I actually need. You know, just to be on the safe side.

This is an area that could be fine tuned, I’ll admit.

Step 6. Order Photos – Because we’ve gone to great lengths (and cost) to get good pictures of the kids, I take this opportunity to send out photos of them, along with the Christmas cards. Similar to my approach to ordering the cards, I also have no accurate count on how many photos I need, so I buy a zillion of each. Then I painstakingly hand write each child’s name, age and the year on the back of each photo so that when they are cleaning out Grandma’s basement in 20 years, the kids will be able to know who is whom in the pictures. Marking the pictures with names, dates and ages takes no less than 1,100 hours. Oh, and wallet sized pictures come in sheets of four, and those suckers have to be cut by hand, one by one, so that’s extra fun. Don’t worry – not everyone gets a card plus additional pictures of the kids. I’m not so insane as to think that every person I know wants a wallet sized snapshot of my spawn. Only family and special friends get envelopes stuffed with these extra goodies.

This is just efficient use of postage and time. I’m already mailing everyone, so I might as well throw in some pictures. Crazy? Crazy efficient, I’d say.

Step 7. Wait for December 1 to Arrive – I never send out cards prior to December 1 because, in my mind, that is the official start of the Christmas countdown.

Maybe this is a little silly.

Step 8. Have Something Go Wrong – Last year I didn’t have any Christmas return address labels. I must have Christmas return address labels. I can’t use regular ones. They must be Christmas-themed (and yes, blue is still an unacceptable color choice). I had to order the labels and then WAIT for them to arrive. It took what felt like forever. This year I ordered the wrong cards from Costco (I ordered their “premium” cards, which take longer to be ready). They told me they wouldn’t be ready until December 6. I had to wait six whole days! I may have been stalking the Costco Photo counter on December 6 as I waited for the day’s shipment to arrive.

Alright, I maybe I have a problem. But it’s just a tiny one.

Step 9. Sign, Stuff, Address, Stamp, Label & Send – The dining room table becomes my work zone. I have a system all worked out. I line everything up so that I can stuff each envelope in an assembly line fashion. The kids aren’t allowed anywhere near the table, lest they touch all the pictures with their grimy little mitts and mess up the system. I hand sign all our names (there are six of us) on each of the letters. In some instances, I write a short, personalized note also. I also hand write the address on the envelope. Because I think it’s more personal that way. I like to send a Christmas card to pretty much every person I’ve ever met. Each year I add more and more recipients. I only work on them in the evenings after the kids are in bed, so it takes me the better part of a week to get them all ready to be mailed. And, because I feel bad for the end-of-the-alphabet people, I always send them in reverse alphabetical order.

OK, so I obviously have a serious problem. But you know what? I don’t even care! Hooray for Christmas cards!

*This post originally appeared on Latched Mama.



About Anna Thornley

Anna Thornley
Anna Thornley is a Jersey Girl living in the Wild West with her husband, their three children (with another one on the way) and two dogs. She desperately misses the beach and humidity but tries to remember to appreciate the beauty of the mountains. She works full-time outside of the home and is generally frantic in her attempts to keep everyone (and everything) moving in the right direction. Her house is a mess, but everyone in it is happy and loved—so she considers it a success. Anna spends almost all of her free time doing laundry. Her family loves to spend time together watching football and playing outside. Anna is still trying to come to terms with the fact that her family expects to eat dinner every single night. Follow Anna on Twitter to keep up with all her family’s antics: @rudeytudeymama

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