Jennifer Fulwiler is a writer and speaker who converted to Catholicism after a life of atheism. She’s a contributor to the books The Church and New Media and Atheist to Catholic: 11 Stories of Conversion, and is writing a book based on her personal blog, ConversionDiary.com. She and her husband live in Austin, TX with their five young children, and were featured in the nationally televised reality show Minor Revisions. You can follow her on Twitter at @conversiondiary.
One of my favorite holiday traditions is sending out Christmas cards. Pretty much all the dedication and skill I lack in every other aspect of homemaking is concentrated in this one area: I might ignore mud stains on the couch, regularly forget to buy key ingredients for meals, and occasionally count a viewing of Dora the Explorer as our homeschool culture lesson for the week, but when it comes to Christmas cards, I don’t mess around. When I think of December, some of my fondest memories are of writing personalized notes to each recipient of our meticulously designed family newsletter, a glass of eggnog to my right, a fire roaring in the fireplace to my left (on the nights when it’s not 70 degrees, anyway).
I know some folks are tempted to skip the whole thing, and I can understand why: It saves times during an already-busy season, it saves money on printing and postage, and we’re all in regular contact with one another anyway thanks to social media. But as the self-appointed spokeswoman for the tradition of sending Christmas cards, I’m here to convince you that it’s still worth the time and effort. I believe that it will bless you and bless others to keep this time-honored ritual in your family repertoire, and here’s why:
1. It gives you a chance to reflect on your year: When I sat down to write up our Christmas newsletter, a humorous one-page summary of what’s been going on with us over the past twelve months, I was amazed at how much God has done in our lives in a single year! As I scrolled through my memories, starting with January, I kept asking my husband, “Was that this year?” If it weren’t for writing our Christmas letter, I don’t think I would have ever taken stock of what happened in our lives in 2011.
2. It’s easier now than ever: There are tons of businesses like Shutterfly and Snapfish that let you create Christmas cards online for a reasonable price. If you weren’t able to get everyone together for a family portrait, there are also plenty of options for cards that bring together individual photos to form a collage of family pictures. It usually takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish, and then you’ll have custom cards and envelopes delivered to your door.
3. It lets others know what’s going on with you: Printing out a brief summary of your family’s year is a great way to give others a snapshot of the most important things going on in your lives right now. Sure, they may have seen the individual mentions on Facebook, but it’s nice to have it consolidated in one place.
4. It keeps your address book up to date: I often hear people say that they don’t do Christmas cards because they don’t want to hassle with getting everyone’s current addresses, but I think that this is a big point in favor of the practice. I’ve been surprised at how often it’s come in handy to have an updated address book: One time I felt moved to surprise an old friend a heart-felt birthday gift, and I was able to keep the element of surprise since I already had her address. On another occasion we sent a card of condolence to a husband whose wife died, and it was nice to be able to send it off without bothering him to get his address.
5. It gives your friends and family something to display: I love it when I go to other people’s houses during the holidays and I see pictures of their friends and family all over their mantles. In my own home, we have a special wall holder than can display up to 50 cards, and every time I pass by it I think of how blessed we are to have such wonderful friends and family members.
6. It blesses people who aren’t tech savvy: One of my favorite Christmas card stories is when we accidentally sent a card to the old address for some friends who moved. An elderly lady had moved into the house, and she sent us a long, hand-written note about how lonely she’s been since her husband died and how much it blessed her to receive our card. Ever since then, we’ve exchanged cards every year. Keep in mind that there are still plenty of people out there who don’t spent a lot of time online, and who deeply appreciate receiving notes the old-fashioned way.
7. It’s an opportunity for evangelization: Every year we receive a surprising amount of positive feedback about Christmas cards: In particular, many of our non-Catholic friends remark about how interesting it is that we seem to have joy-filled lives, even though many aspects of our Catholic lifestyle go against what the world tells you you need to be happy. We don’t usually talk about our faith in an explicit way in our cards (which is slightly disappointing to my husband, who would probably prefer to see our newsletter end with an all-caps call to repent and join God’s one true Church), but simply letting folks get a glimpse into the lives of a practicing Catholic family can be a powerful witness in and of itself.
Now, what are you waiting for? Go get started on your Christmas cards!