It is our tradition to announce and open our annual Christmas card exchange during our Christmas-in-July festivities each year. In advance of that we thought it best to share with you some tips for preparing for the sending and receiving of approximately 100 cards from around the world as part of the exchange.
Many of us have done this now for over a decade. In a time where the world has seen a decline in the practice of sending cards we have merrily clung to the tradition for many reasons. For many of us the joy of receiving this mail throughout the season far outweighs the efforts to participate. We take great joy in holding in our hands something that came from one of our Christmas friends online. And the decorative element it adds to our homes is a somewhat unpredictable part of the overall festive equation of Christmas.
But it is a job and one that can sneak up on you if you’re not prepared.
I don’t always pull it off successfully. In fact, truth be told, I’m often displeased with what I send out. I prefer to select just the right card, to spend time writing them out in a personal way, and to send them off in plenty of time for them to be enjoyed during the season.
Stuff always gets in the way though. The months from August through December are so packed for me I most often find myself on Thanksgiving weekend rushing to get my cards sent out — if I get them sent out at all. One year I found myself hopelessly up against the week of Christmas and my cards were not even started. I knew that with all I had left to do that it just wasn’t going to happen that year. I was embarrassed and disappointed, to say the least.
Since that fateful year I’ve done better and I have learned to organize myself earlier. It is from this sad experience that I offer these tips for participating in the Christmas card exchange:
1. Deal with the expense now. — For some, sending so many cards, especially with folks around the world, gets a little expensive. Some manage this by sending to only a few on the list and staying within a budget. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I prefer to send something to everyone and that usually means an expense of $75 to $100 in just postage alone. Having just dealt with a wedding and sending out hundreds of invitations to the closest friends of the bride and groom I can tell you I know all too well how expensive all this feels. My experience has taught me to spread out the pain — and spend about $5 a week buying postage between now and the end of October. Those collection of stamps actually adds to my urgency in getting cards out. And by the time I do my cards the expense is an after-thought.
2. Buy your cards AFTER Christmas and on sale. — Many people focus on new trees and light sets as part of their post-Christmas sales shopping. I tend to focus more on Christmas cards. In fact, I’ve put myself into a position where I could go several years without buying any cards at all. I have boxes and boxes of cards that I’ve bought for 70-90% off at one time or another. (July is an AWESOME month to shop for Christmas cards — they are discounted deeply). I also have a great habit of inheriting the built up collections of others. When my mother passed away more than a year ago I came across her built up stockpile of cards with some boxes that were as old as 30 and 40 years. These are brand new cards — and reflective of Christmas card styles long past. I’ve judiciously selected from these stock piles in sending these cards out — and the rarely fail to get some sort of comment. These selections are a way of personalizing your cards in a unique way. For whatever reason, I’ve never considered the acquisition of cards to be an expense in all this — and maybe because I’m years away from exhausting my supply. I consider it now something of a sport to keep my eyes out on unique cards that I like and can get for a bargain. That’s the beauty of NOT having to buy anything.
3. Prepare the cards you know you’re going to send NOW. — Some people are on the list every year. There’s no shame in preparing and personalizing their card now. In fact, I prefer to do that because a card written in July or August or September is more personal and less rushed than any card written in November. If you know you’re going to send a special individual a card no matter what there is no reason to wait on getting it ready.
There are many other tips we’re sure others can share on the Merry Forums about sending cards — especially for those cards that need to travel a great distance over seas. Be sure to visit there often and ask.
Nothing is better than participating in this exchange. I may not remember what I receive for Christmas every year but I do remember all the cards that come for nearly a month and from all over the world. I love the comments I get from neighbors who come to see all the cards put up in my living room. And I love especially the comments from my mailman who wonders just who we are to have so many friends sending Christmas greetings from around the world.