Photo Christmas Cards: Why They are Awesome

by | Dec 12, 2013 | Christmas, December, Things I Think | 23 comments

I’ve been working on our Christmas cards this week.  Every year, sending and receiving Christmas cards is one of my favorite parts of the season. We have friends all over the country and all over the world from the various stages of our lives: childhood, college, Marine Corps, business school, Chicago, San Diego, Palo Alto, Los Angeles. I’m friends with some of them on Facebook, but for the majority, these are people I really care about, but that I’m unlikely to run into face to face. I love that I’m able to see them again and watch their children get bigger each year.

And what better time to celebrate the relationships that bind us together than at Christmas? 

Easter is the most significant and triumphant time of our Christian year, but boy with Lent and Holy Week it can be an exhausting and emotional time. Advent and Christmas don’t feel that way to me. Advent is a time of joyous and mindful preparation in our home. A time of making time for friends and family. A time of inviting people into our home to share prayers or a meal. 

that’s my dad on the lower right

And, for our out of town friends, who unfortunately we cannot see in person, we lovingly prepare a Christmas card in which we share photos and stories from our year.

My family has always done photo Christmas cards. My parents have an album of them on the coffee table and I can page through it and see our family grow year by year. My dad’s parents always sent out a photo Christmas card, too.

that’s me on the lower left, in my grandparent’s card

I can just imagine the cards Mary might have sent to their friends:

Or, ya know, something like that.

Now back to work . . .


  1. Danielle

    A perfectly timed post as it's my goal to have ours printed by this weekend. Your cards from the holy family put a smile on my face. Mary would probably have been so good at keeping up relationships and would've had quite a long list of friends to send them to! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Kelly M.

    C'mon Kendra! Mary would've been sending out Hanukah cards not bragging all about her son's birth. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Seriously though, I cracked up at a few of those. If I send out cards at all, which I hope to do this year, it's usually religious designs I've found at the dollar store (which are very nice actually.) We did photos cards the year Addie was born and after that it was all downhill.

  3. Anonymous

    LOL….Mary sending out Christmas cards…the very FIRST ones too!

    I love photo cards. I love Christmas letters even know..those nice newsy ones that have lots of fun tibits and information about all the family members in them.

    Your grandparents card is too cute…with all the kids and dogs and cat. LOL

    We don't do photo cards through the mail (because I'm cheap and lazy) but I have started making a Christmas video (usually of my kids singing) and taking pictures and sending out a fun, newsy letter with video attached via email to all my friends and family. Everyone seems to love it and we've moved around a lot and don't live near family,so it's a great way to keep in touch.

    And, I love looking back over my mom's old Christmas letters. They are always hilarious with fun little tidbits like "Amelia is in 2nd grade and so far has the best handwriting of the family. This year, she won the 4-H foods show and entered our adorable mutt Cuddles in the 4-H fair. Alas, Cuddles didn't win anything, but she was a very well-behaved dog." And she writes something like that for every one in the family.

  4. Cristina

    I love the idea of a collection of old photo cards in a book! We've sent out photo cards since the children started arriving and I know our friends and family like to see pictures of them for all the reasons you said. This year though, I started to feel like the cards felt a little impersonal and mass produced so I had the brilliant idea of handwriting a little note on each one too–I've only gotten through the "family" section of my address book and the message has already degenerated into me scrawling Merry Christmas (again) on the back of the cards. At this rate they'll be finished by Valentine's day…..and don't even get me started about trying to keep up with all the address changes I have to deal with when the majority of our friends pick up and move every other year too ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Bonnie

    Oh my gosh, Kendra! I love the cards!
    And I think you're dead on right about the cards with pictures. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Rachael

    I just loved looking at the cute photo cards from the 50s — so cute! I see a strong resemblance between you and your grandfather. I just ran around my house and rummaged up every photo card from years past, and I'm going to make my own album. I'm only missing one year. Thank you for the idea!

  7. Christine

    How great to have all those old family photos from your dad!

    Continuing to think about this issue….

    I see how the store-bought Christmas cards – like any store-bought card – can suffer from the problem of being impersonal, and seeming thrown together (which, let's face it, when I have an enormous list of recipients – many of whose new addresses I have to hunt down – I'm more or less just trying to finish up the cards quickly, and get on to one of the thousand other pre-Christmas tasks!). In order to avoid sending greetings which are impersonal, perhaps when my kids get a little older, we can put together some *very simple* homemade cards instead…or if one shows a talent for drawing, he/she could create a nice Christmas image that gets copied and pasted to the front of each card. I've seen families do that, and it's very nice.

  8. Kim

    Ok–well I guess I agree with the other blog post. I personally would prefer a religious image. Looks like I am in the minority here. Sometimes, I just find it very showy when people will have their perfectly matched family at like Disney world or something as their Christmas card. But, what i actually prefer is a religious image with a personal picture inside of the family who sent it. That way, I can still have a nice card and then choose to file away the photo or frame it or whatever…that's just me though. I did think your old cards were very neat though and think your dad looks like your kids!

    • Tamara

      I'm with you Kim. I love the religious Christmas card with a personal picture tucked inside. We didn't do that last year but that's my plan thia year. And I prefer not to send the card until it is actually Christmas, or very close ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Margaret

      Kim, I totally agree with you! I am grateful for beautiful cards to help decorate the house and always enjoy a family photo tucked inside. Nicely said!

  9. Anonymous

    Mary sending out cards! Laughing so hard!

  10. Jenny

    As a kid, I always bugged my dad about when he was going to write the "annual" Christmas letter that was typed up and sent out inside a Christmas card to family and friends (sometimes with a taken-at-home-smile-kids-or-you're-in-trouble type of picture). I loved reading what he had to say about our family and our highs and lows. He's a great writer and sometimes he would write very creatively (from the perspective of our pets). I can only hope that my parents thought to save some of those letters for posterity, because it really is a treasured snapshot of "who we were in 1992" or whatever year.
    And I like the "original" Christmas cards. Reminds me of this video that went around a few years ago:

  11. MarianneF

    I see both sides, I guess. I am sometimes put off by the braggy cards with photos of vacations and accomplishments. I've gotten cards with sports trophy pics, cruise pics, ski vacation pics, pictures with everyone in expensive matching clothes in front of a magnificent stairway under a chandelier, ect…A simple family photo is nice, especially if it shows personality and isn't overly produced, so to speak. But I agree with Christine that Christmas cards should ideally be about Christ, not us. Some of these cards have such a secular feel, and I am sensitive to that. Then again, heavily religious cards don't seem appropriate to send out to Jewish friends or family members who have openly abandoned the church and have issues. I have sent generics to people like that out of sensitivity.

  12. Nanacamille

    I love photo Christmas with messages about the past year but not too detailed. We have friends all over the country also and love to see them, their kids, weddings and grandkids. It's the way we share their lives since we can't be with them. For years I have saved all of the photo cards and watched the kids grow up and parents grow old and see new generations arrive. I think photo cards embody what Christmas is all about…new life for us all in Jesus Christ and sharing with family and friends. Keep those photo cards coming at all stages of your life but limit the message to one page. Nanacamille

    • Anonymous

      I agree with Nana Camille!

  13. Kris

    I agree with you totally. It's my favorite time of year. My family (immediate and extended) is scattered all over the country. I grew up in a military family, so I have friends all over – some that I will probably never see in person again, but still treasure. I love the pictures from year to year. I struggle every year with whether or not to write a letter, because I don't like the whole braggy thing. But I do put something together to send to people that we don't see. I will say that my grandfather wrote a family letter every year that my dad was growing up, and into my childhood until he died when I was in high school. After he died, my dad photocopied all the letters and put them in binders and gave each of us (my siblings and me) a binder one year for Christmas. It was the best present I ever received. I also keep all our annual letters in a binder, and I'm planning to do the same thing for my kids when they are older.

  14. Amanda

    LOL, I just love the Holy Family Christmas Cards you made up, well done ๐Ÿ™‚

    I for one also love photo Christmas cards. We've moved so much for my husband's job and it's lovely to see how everyone has grown and changed and read about any recent hobbies/moves/new family members. We keep our photo cards in a bin and I saw a great idea recently to file them on index cards and use them as prayer reminders for the year during family prayer time. It's a nice way for kids to really see who they're praying for.

  15. Emily Q-F

    To be honest, I did not read the blog post. But from the part you quoted I can say it feels like another case of, "You're not doing it right". I love blogs. And the internet. But this probably wouldn't even be talked about in a real world situation. I mean, really? A photo Christmas card isn't holy enough? So now on top of picking out & addressing cards, I can also worry about people judging me if I send out a photo card or a card that shows us on a vacation? I get what Christmas is about. And despite knowing what Christmas is about, I personally love, love, love when people do family letters & photo cards.

  16. Vidacoco

    My husband likes the religious cards, so we send those out. Personally I LOVE the pictures we get from all of our friends and family – I secretly want to send cards out with our pictures too ๐Ÿ™‚ But I figure that since I make the decisions about so much around Christmas time he can have this one LOL!

  17. Anonymous

    I had just recently been thinking about this! Thanks for pushing us over the fence. And I LOVE your Holy Family cards. Great. ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. catlanz

    Brilliant! We LOVE receiving people's family Christmas cards (especially when the WHOLE family is pictured, not just the kids)… and I particularly enjoyed the Holy Family cards you created ๐Ÿ™‚ Merry Christmas Eve!

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

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