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21 Days to a Simple Christmas: Day 8 & Update

Join the 21 Days to a Simple Christmas Challenge

It’s Day 8 of the 21 Days to a Simple Christmas Challenge! And today we’re talking about Christmas cards.

As a child, one of the highlights of Christmas was receiving all the Christmas cards and letters from friends near and far. We’d keep the letters in a basket, string the cards around our living room, and put the family pictures on the refrigerator.

Sometimes, the Christmas letter was our only real communication with friends from our past. But it kept us up on their lives and gave us a small sense of connection, even though our paths had drifted apart.

It was always exciting to hear of marriages, babies, grandchildren, trips, new jobs, and exciting adventures. It was fun to see how the family pictures changed over the years. And it was always somewhat of a thrill to see how many strings of cards we’d be able to hang up.

Many people opt not to send Christmas cards or letters any more. There are many valid reasons given: “We’re too busy living life to take the time to write about it.” “We can’t afford to mail cards since postage has gone up so much.” Or maybe, “We didn’t get a decent family picture.”

I definitely think that Christmas cards and letters are an optional aspect of Christmas and I totally respect people who have chosen not to send cards in order to keep Christmas simple. That said, I think that we’ve become so used to texting and Facebooking and emailing, that sometimes we forget the joy of sending and receiving real physical mail via the postal service.

Creative Christmas Letter Ideas

If the thought of writing a detailed letter is overwhelming to you, here are some creative Christmas letter ideas:

Put together a Top 10 list from the past year.

Make a graph of some interesting facts from the past year.

Create a newspaper-style letter with short stories and tidbits from the past year.

Other Simple and Inexpensive Ideas

If you’ve decided that sending a Christmas letter isn’t your thing or mailing out a lot of cards or letters is outside your budget, here are some other ideas:

::Send photo cards.

We’ve skipped sending a letter for the past few years, but we have sent out photo cards. It’s a very simple way to send a Christmas greeting and share pictures of our family with dear friends and those we don’t get to see often.

::Send out your letter as a PDF via email.

Can’t afford to mail your letter? It’s perfectly okay to send it out as a PDF attachment via email. Be sure to include some sort of teaser in the email you send out so that people will be sure to open the attachment and read the letter! 🙂

::Post your Christmas card on Facebook.

Jenae’s family decided to post their Christmas picture/card on Facebook in lieu of sending out a Christmas card. This might not work for everyone–especially if most of your recipients are not on Facebook–but it’s definitely an inexpensive option!

Day 8 Project & Update

1. Read the above post or chapter 5 from Celebrating & Savoring a Simple Christmas. (Did you sign up for your free copy yet? If not, click here and fill out the form to be emailed a copy.)

2. Decide whether or not you’re going to send Christmas cards this year. If so, what types of cards are you going to send? Are you going to send a letter?

My Update: After some thought and consideration, we decided to streamline and keep it simple this year and not send Christmas cards. This is the first year in awhile that we’ve not sent cards, but it was a big relief to decide to simplify things this year and skip this tradition. And we’ll probably pick it back up next year. 🙂

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  • Need A Nap2 says:

    We haven’t sent out cards the last couple of years. Though sometimes I miss it, it’s very freeing (stress, time, money) not to do it. 🙂 I was planning to try to do it this year but it may be a Happy New Year card (so we don’t have to deliver before Christmas).

  • Diane L. says:

    I love to send/receive Christmas cards and letters, and it is something I eagerly anticipate every year. My photo cards just arrived today, so I’ll spend the rest of the evening getting them ready to mail. I hope sending Christmas cards never goes out of style!

    • Lana says:

      I am with you! It makes me sad that this tradition is going away.

    • April D. says:

      I with you…I love sending out cards and letters of our year. We are not on facebook so for our extended family and friends they really get to see and hear about our year thru the cards we send every year.

    • Cathe says:

      I think it’s sad, too. The extended family is a rare thing in our culture, and sometimes that once-yearly card or letter is the only communication. Perhaps people could make a few exceptions for those elderly family members to whom these things are a blessing — or for other distant relations who are not on Facebook.

      I work with elderly people, and sometimes Christmas is the only time they hear from their extended family!

    • Heather says:

      AMEN! I have a large extended family and many cousins across the country that I do not see often. I figure the money I spend is my way of maintaining some contact with them, even if I don’t hear back in return. I buy cards when they are 75% off in big boxes (I think I paid .75 for boxes of 30 cards last year), we print a 4×6 with free coupon codes and we write a letter that is printed on plain paper that I then stamp to make a bit more festive. The only real cost is the stamp. We send out over 100 cards, but I don’t think we spent more than 60 dollars to do so. I love the letters, I love the photos, I love hearing from those who we love, but do not have much contact with.

      For me Christmas is about Jesus and family and friends and Christmas cards are one way to stay connected to family and friends. I’d rather give up some holiday baking or shopping for gifts or the zillion other activities that pop up this time of year than not get cards from those I love. May people not simplify Christmas so much that the people in our lives get left out!

      Sorry to soapbox and I know the expense is too much for some, but I just think it is really important to so many people out there! I’m definitely one of them 🙂

  • Ashlee says:

    For those with a costco you can get cards printed same day – my local costco cost is 14.99 per 50 pack. For that price you can’t beat sending them. Another way to help is we also always take our picture in October during a family weekend getaway. It makes for less stress around the holidays and everyone loves our woodsy mountain style picture! I pray that Christmas cards will remain in style for a long long time as I love sending them and receiving them and keep them from years past to make a yearbook of sorts to see how our friends and family have changed!

  • Christine says:

    It makes me sad that so many people don’t send out Christmas cards anymore! For our family, it’s one of the more meaningful Christmas traditions…. to make the time to hand address Christmas cards and write a quick note, to let our friends and family know that we’re thinking about them and care for them. It also provides an opportunity to pray for each of those families as their card is being addressed. Admittedly, it IS time consuming and a little costly, but the small “sacrifice” of time and money hopefully communicates our love for those who God has placed in our life. It takes us a full day, but as my children help me by stuffing and sealing the envelopes, as well as putting the stamps on, we have so much fun reminiscing and sharing fond memories of the recipients.

    As a side note, I wonder if sometimes the reason that sending out Christmas cards can be so stressful is because of the increasingly common pressure to present an image of the “perfect family”??? Where did that come from anyway?! Erma Bombeck once said, “If holiday newsletters are to flourish, they should at least have some integrity… and occasionally tell the truth.” 😉

    It also seems as if one of the purposes of sending out Christmas cards has become a means of boasting – about achievements, financial state, travels, etc., etc…. kind of looses the “Christmas spirit” which used to be to exalt Christ. 🙁

    • Diane L. says:

      Christine, I love your comment: “It also provides an opportunity to pray for each of those families as their card is being addressed”. I will start doing that as I send out the remainder of my cards. Thanks for the idea!

        • Monica says:

          Same here. I remember about 4-5 years ago when I’d receive about 30-35 cards. Last year I only received 13. I’ve been sending Christmas for the past 15 years. Our Christmas tradition of sending them will continue, even if friends/family have opted out over the years.

  • angel says:

    You dont have to give up cards completely, maybe just every other year instead.

    Gospel For Asia challenges families to not send cards for 1 year and use that money to help the less fortunate.

    I always used online deals to get my cards free but was spending $40+ in postage (we have a LARGE family and as a military family lots of friends in different places).

    • Christine says:

      So great to make personal sacrifices in order to bless those who are less fortunate – truly the heart of Christmas!!!
      I tend to think though, that if we don’t send out Christmas cards, it’s not really us that made the sacrifice… it was our friends and family, as they were the ones who did not “receive” – not sure if it’s the excitement of opening the mailbox to find Christmas greetings that puts a smile on their faces, or it’s the updated photo of our crazy family to see how we’ve all aged 😉

  • Mrs. Waste Not says:

    We are passing on Christmas cards this year. It is sad, but the time I spend doing it is going towards helping my 8 yr old come up with and execute her own hand made gifts. Plus I helped organize a Christmas caroling get together in my neighborhood. I have given up
    One tradition this year but picked up two new great ones.

  • Diana says:

    Yeah, we’re not doing cards this year because 1) we didn’t get any (much less decent!) family picture yet and 2) my little guy loves to scribble on anything I’m writing on and I don’t want to devote 3 naptimes to addressing them. I need my naps too! 🙂

    But I’m definitely planning to do the PDF/email version just as soon as we get that photo. I love hearing from our friends and family so I always have wanted to do my part to stay connected in that way.

    Great tips, and thanks for no pressure to do it all! 🙂

  • Elizabeth says:

    I love sending Christmas cards! My mom would always keep all the ones our family received. I would go through every so often and re-read…it was fun to look at the photo cards and see how people change, or read the letters to see what cousin Brian was up to in 5th grade!

    I must admit that I toss all Christmas cards after the holidays but I keep all the photo cards and letters!

    • Mary says:

      I keep the photo cards too and try and find crafts using the other ones. For a long time I just threw them in a box and have now discovered cards from grandparents and other relatives who passed away. Priceless!

  • We had to cut out doing Christmas cards this year. There just isn’t money for that. We are sending an e-mail card/newsletter instead. For the few family that doesn’t have e-mail, I will just be printing out the letter and mailing it to them. I also have less time this year. I have an Etsy shop and Christmas purchases are taking up a lot of my time.

    As much as I enjoy getting and giving Christmas cards, it just wasn’t going to happen this year. I had to give myself some grace on that to not feel guilty about that. I honestly feel relieved to not have to dish out that much money and time when I don’t have either.

  • I used free card deals, photo prints, and reward prints to get all of our Christmas cards for free. I know our grandparents especially appreciate physical photos and cards, so it is wonderful to be able to get them for no cost.

    Since we are out of the country mailing them ourselves is cost prohibitive, but our family graciously hand them out or includes them in their own Christmas letter envelopes for us.

  • Charity says:

    I’m not doing Christmas cards this year. At first I felt guilty at this decision, but I’ve come to realize that in this season of life (5 littles, 7yrs and under) I just can’t do it all. And that’s ok 🙂

  • Becki says:

    Some years we’ve done cards. Some years we haven’t. This year, I am passing on everything I possibly can so that I relax and actually get to enjoy the celebration of my Savior’s birth. Cards were quickly cut from the list.

  • Michelle W. says:

    I created a “Year in Review” infographic type letter this year. Had a lot of fun doing it…after I found a website that would allow me to create what I had in mind. 🙂 We’ll mail to a few people, give to our church family and friends, and post on our private fb page for other friends. All in all a pretty inexpensive process this year.

    • melissa says:

      Do you mind sharing that website? I’d love to do a newsletter type thing as shown above, but I have no idea where to start or if I even have the capability on my Mac.

  • Christine Howieson says:

    I totally understand why people don’t send cards anymore. However, my husband is a letter carrier and we appreciate it when people DO send cards, it keeps our livelihood going! 🙂 We also appreciate it when people send real “snail mail”. Warm someones heart and send a card to someone who really needs it, and might not be expecting it. You can’t believe how much it might mean to that someone, because it does take a “little” extra to send a card, instead of a FB message or e-mail.

  • Sarah says:

    Another option is to just order regular prints with a holiday border that says “merry christmas from our family”. I ordered such prints from snapfish at 60 percent off the regular price of prints. So, yes, it’s going to be a little smaller than a true photo card, but the savings are worth it.

  • Stacy says:

    I think the ideas offered here for Christmas updates are nice…however, how does creating those make Christmas simpler? It seems like that’s way more work :-).

  • Kim N says:

    I was planning on sending out cards this year but have decided to use that money to help someone in need this Christmas.

  • 1. We send a family update newsletter in May in honor of our wedding anniversary, instead of an update at Christmastimes. WAY less busy in May than in December!
    2. We use the Christmas cards we do receive to pray for our friends – one family/person per day throughout the month of January. A fun way to spread the peace and goodwill of Christmas longer, into the new year and everyone always appreciates knowing that they are being prayed for.

  • Jen Krausz says:

    After a car accident in which thankfully no one was hurt, but the car was totaled, we did a Facebook Christmas card this year and had to streamline a few other things as well. Replacing a car is time consuming and some things simply had to go!

    This is our card, which was free on!

    • Emmy says:

      Jen, I’m glad your family is okay. Thanks for the tip on creating the Lego mini figure family Christmas card. OMG, you can get a pretty good likeness and it is really fun to put together and share…

  • I am working on a simple newsletter to send to our friends and family, and I hope it goes over well. I love that Christmas Letter graph though!

  • Chris says:

    Funny article here “From Us to You” about the hidden agenda of the family Christmas letter:

  • Shelly says:

    I’m going to do a Christmas letter this year. This will be my first attempt at it but I’m going to give it a try since I didn’t get around to taking a photo for our Christmas card this year. I was thinking about not doing it at all but we have a big extended family and some of them are older now and they enjoy getting the cards and letters.

  • Jenn says:

    I so hope the this tradition continues. We have sent and received Christmas cards as a wonderful element of the holidays for many years. I am always sad to throw them away after Christmas. However, I found a way to repurpose some of them by using pinking shears to cut out the beautiful scenes on traditional cards to use as gift tags for the next Christmas or other fitting occasion. If you decide to try this, just be sure there isn’t any writing on the back of the scene you choose.

  • Teresa Baine says:

    I almost decided to not send cards this year. Things got a lot harder in the past couple months. But I am happy I decided to go on and send them out. Like Cathe said,
    we have elderly family and friends that we don’t get to see very often and they really enjoy
    getting a card from us. Just happy to be able to design my card (a real card) saying exactly what I want it to say, and then send it out from my computer, saving me lots of time this year.

    We are sending out cards with our family picture on the front (so family members that live far away can see how the children have grown) tand verses about Jesus and Christmas, and a note to them to remember the important things in life on the inside.

    I really enjoy getting real cards in the mail and the post office loves for us to send them.

    Merry Christmas Everyone!

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