Let's talk about holiday cards. We love to get them. We love the idea of sending them. What we don't love... paying for them, ordering or making them, trying to get our kids to all smile at the same time for a decent picture, addressing envelopes & buying stamps.
Being honest... holiday cards (Christmas cards for most of us) are a real pain in the, well, you know. Purely from an organizational standpoint, it might make sense to cut them off your to do list in order to free up your holiday time. But I just cannot bring myself to recommend that. I love them too much.
And let's look at it from another perspective. Yes... we should be keeping in touch with our friends and family all year. Yes, we should be sharing pictures of our kids and our pets and ourselves regularly. But we don't. Some of us are better at these things than others, but in general, when it comes to navigating through the daily routines, sometimes staying in touch with those people you really adore but who aren't in your immediate area gets pushed to the bottom of the list. The holidays give us a chance to take a break and acknowledge those people and let them know that even though we may not have a chance to talk as often as we'd like, we're still thinking of them. In that way, holiday cards are actually a bit of a solution - send a little "love note" to all those you care about but save time by buying cards in bulk!
But if we're going to do it, let's make it practical.
1. Review your list.
You don't need to send a card to every person you've ever met. You don't need to send a card to everyone who attended your wedding. You probably do need to send a card to your best friend from college, your favorite aunt and your grandmother (even if she lives next door - grandma's never get tired of getting cards from their grandkids!) Feel free to pare down the list. Decide on a number that's practical for you (for me it is 75 - for you it might be just 10 or 20) and make your list fit that number.
2. Be flexible with pictures.
Don't have time to snap a family photo in front of the Christmas tree? Dig out one of those pictures you still have stored on your camera (but haven't uploaded to the computer) from your summer vacation. Let your friends see your family on a day when your family really was having a great time.
And yes... your friends really do want to see a picture of YOU - not just your kids.
3. Skip the picture!
If you really don't have any family pictures, just skip it! Even a simple postcard that says Merry Christmas! and has your signature and a personal note will be appreciated. Or you can add the kids school pictures to the envelope.
4. Get the kids involved!
Now moms... I know you want to do it all yourself because your 4 year old just wouldn't get it right. But please give yourself a break and delegate. Got a budding artist in the family? Let them design the card. Scan it in to your computer and have it printed.
Or at least let the kids help with addressing the envelopes. This year my 2 & 3 year-olds put the return address labels on the cards (so if you are getting one from me, don't be surprised if the label is askew or upside down). They don't look as neat as if I'd done them myself but it saved me probably 5 minutes of time and they had a lot of fun.
(Tip... if you're worried they won't get the return address in the upper left corner, have them put in on the back flap of the envelope.)
Kids also like affixing stamps. Just make sure you have them put it in the right spot.
5. Divvy up the writing.
Do you send cards to both his side of the family and hers? Let your husband write/sign the cards for his family. Or... let the kids help. I bet your great aunt would love a personal note from your 10 year old.
6. Order your stamps online.
Yes, you can buy stamps at every grocery store these days. But most stores only carry the standard Liberty Bell Forever stamp. If you want a special stamp - like Evergreens or Madonna & Child - you have to get them from the post office. But don't make a special trip. Take 3 minutes after you read this and hop on over to USPS.com and order them. For $1 shipping and handling they will show up in your mailbox in just a few days.
7. Have FUN with it.
Make the holiday card process fun. Pick a night and have the family gather at the table to do the cards. Make cocoa (or uncork a bottle of your favorite wine for you and your better half), pop some popcorn (unbuttered - you don't want buttery fingers on your pretty cards!), turn on the Christmas music and enjoy thinking about all of those people you care about.