Christmas Cards

I have been thinking about the tradition of writing, mailing or giving Christmas cards lately. In some ways it seems so 1950’s. I remember my mother keeping a list of names inside the cover of a large Christmas card box, so she could check off each one as she signed it. No Christmas letters for mom, no long notes, and no expensive cards, just a simple box of different scenes.

I love receiving cards, especially cards with notes in them, but truth be told it has been years since I have taken the time to send very many. Some years I have simply sent cards to people as I received theirs, or limited my card sending to immediate family.

Melchior, a special gift. Crafted by Carmen Dewey Toby, painted by Carmen and Donna Lynn Vaux

Two years ago, I gave out cards at church as “Epiphany Cards” because I couldn’t get them done until after Christmas. For me, the big factor that determines what “fun” Christmas activities I do, depends on my having the Christmas Eve Services ready to go. And in the years I served as a Student Pastor, my final papers had to be written and turned in before I could plan the Christmas Eve Service.

Back to Christmas cards though, if I were to restart the practice of sending or giving cards to everyone I care about, something else would have to go. I am pretty sure that rising postage costs have limited the number of cards that people mail, but many church folks have found a way around that. They write cards to church members and bring them to church.

Some churches have a special card box and one or two members take responsibility for sorting through them and putting cards into stacks that can then be handed to people, or folks have to wander up to the front rows where no one in their right mind sits during worship (excuse the sarcasm). Some folks just hand them out. And then there are those e-cards that people send. And the infamous Christmas letter.

Time is, or should be, a determining factor for many of the pursuits we choose to pack into the month of December. I don’t know anyone who can take time off of work to shop, wrap, bake, party, travel, visit, and decorate and all of that without factoring in seasonal concerts, plays, special services and cleaning the house to get ready for company. Even travel restrictions during COVID, which I could not have envisioned last year when I first wrote this post, do not diminish the huge list of “shoulds” and “wants” we try to juggle this time of year.

Although my children were grown and on their own before I became a pastor, I still feel that time crunch. I write from the perspective of one who loves all of those things, the “trappings of Christmas.” And I write with one who longs to keep the Season of Advent as Holy, and wholly other. The truth is, in our culture, the Season of Advent and the Christmas Shopping Season are enmeshed. Held together with an almost indiscernible but strong thread.

But I have learned to be choosy, even if some of the things I choose take a lot of time. For instance in the years that I have not been in school (can you say life long learner?) I have spent some significant time playing with gingerbread. I don’t make complicated houses, I am not that talented. But I have taken great delight in making large amounts of gingerbread dough and hosting gingerbread house workshops at church, especially for the youth.

So, here is a question I want to raise: what about you? Do you still send or give Christmas cards? Why or why not? And, what do you think about the tradition of the Christmas letter? Perhaps an even more important question I have to ask myself, and so I ask you, have we lost something in abandoning this tradition of writing notes, signing and sending Christmas cards?

Photo by KoolShooters from Pexels

There is so much pressure on us today to hurry, to fast food, to self check out and online buying with as little human contact as possible, all in the name of efficiency, or expedience. What if buying, signing and sending (or giving) Christmas cards to people you care about and appreciate is a simple act of rebellion against the impersonal bent that characterizes life in December 2020? Does it have to be this way? What do you think?

Not holding back the tide,


Published by msomerville2014

About: Michele Somerville is a wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. She lives with her husband and their dog Sheba. Sheba is their fourth rescue dog in 30 years. She is a retired ordained United Methodist Elder and serves two churches part-time in North Central Pennsylvania. She obtained her Bachelors’ Degree in 1999 from Mansfield University and her Master of Divinity in 2004 and Doctor of Ministry in 2016, both from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. My Doctor of Ministry Thesis was:” Prophetic Words of Grace: Biblical Storytelling in the Local Church.” Michele began writing and performing character monologues for worship in 2008. She began by asking the question about nameless characters in the Bible, “What would they say if they could speak for themselves?” and then using her theological education and experience of the human condition to attempt an answer that is both academic and creative. Much of what you will read here are memories from growing up in a tourist town, in a bar, in the 1960’s, shaggy dog stories about our rescue dogs, life in a small town, and stories of faith and hope. Throughout her life she has lived in many states, including small towns, large towns and cities. She lived in Rota, Spain, for nine challenging months. Despite all the places she have lived since moving away from home in 1970,Michele is at the heart of all things Jack and Maggie’s daughter, and a beach girl from Onset, Massachusetts.

5 thoughts on “Christmas Cards

  1. For me, while this year and last year almost didn’t happen, it’s a chance to let people I don’t see often know that I think of them and love them. I do think something is lost I nb the fact that we no longer write personal notes and letters. Having said that, I don’t hold it against others who do not. I understand that time is a premium that not all people have the luxury of spending on Christmas cards. For me, I love receiving something in the mail that isn’t junk mail or a bill, so I hope that my cards bring a smile to people’s faces.


  2. Michele, the fact that it would take you a long time to write Christmas cards to everyone you care about says a lot about you. You must have a wide circle of loved ones! I am in the I-send-cards-to-everyone-who-sends-me-one category. There are a lot of drawbacks to technology but one of the pluses is that you can give far-flung friends and family a quick call (no long-distance charges any more) or shoot a quick text to stay in touch throughout the year, rather than sending a Christmas card. There are also the environmental consequences of sending cards to consider. All of those cards wind up in the landfill after Christmas. This year, I have sent exactly ONE card so far. I do wish I could attend your gingerbread workshop. I love making gingerbread houses!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laurie, as always thank you for your kind and thoughtful words, and for taking the time to write and comment. You are right about the landfill. I used a post from Facebook that came from England about using alternate sources for wrapping Christmas presents, for a similar reason. I used it for a Messy Church Moment in worship (that’s a whole other conversation), but the info came via Messy Church in England. (Briefly, Messy Church is an intergenerational, international movement) I haven’t sent any cards yet, but I did bring the boxes of leftover cards down to the first floor. In theory, I could write them while watching tv tonight, but Blue Bloods gets all my attention, and by 10:00 p.m. my brain cells are not running on all cylinders. I posted a picture of last year’s Ginger Bread houses on one of my last two “Stronger Than the Cookie” Posts, probably the last one. I had thought about making gingerbread house pieces and sending them to my daughter for the kids, but she thinks they are still too young. Blessings, Michele


  3. I’ve always loved Christmas cards and the newsy little updates that a lot of my friends included in theirs. BUT with the advent of FB and email etc it seems that we already know everyone’s news – babies, grandbabies, weddings etc all appear immediately with photos, so there’s nothing to put in the Family Christmas Letter. With postage charges and the fact that nobody bothers anymore, my Christmas card sending has slowly dwindled down to nothing this year – I guess it’s a sign of the times we live in.


  4. I haven’t sent any yet. Last year, I only sent them to family, and evn then, not until i got them. I do sometimes use Facebook or email to send greetings, but I don’t really care for e-cards. Old fashioned, lol, or just old. One major shift that we have made in the last several years. Although my husband and I generally give each other special cards, and laugh over which ones are funny, or romantic, I stoped buying special expensive cards for the kids and siblings. I’d rather put any extra money into a gift than into a card. Not sure how the dollar values compare, US to AU and NZ but here postage is $0.50 per letter or card, and the average special family card can run $4.50 on the low end to $7.00 Okay, now you can call me old and cheap! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Blessings, Michele


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