What do you put in your Christmas cards? The annual photo of your kids dressed in their cutest Christmas dresses and suits? A photo of the dog wearing reindeer antlers? A printout of your family news, including a photo from your vacation and a list of what the kids have accomplished this year?
With Facebook now being the place for those vacation shots and a daily source of what's happening in your world (not to mention some recipients being turned off by a "here's how fabulous we are!" brag letter, as they might see it), a new trend is emerging. Christmas card senders are enclosing new items with inspiring messages, a dash of humor or seeds of good wishes.
"I get excited about all of the cards we receive, but I know that my Aunt Claire's Christmas card is going to be extra-special," says Melanie Birch, a mother of two. "Each year, she sends an amazing holiday poem that she's written herself, and that goes right up on the refrigerator as one of the most valuable gifts we receive."
Words are so important during the Christmas holidays. We sing the lyrics of carols, read aloud classic Christmas literature and absorb the messages of Christmas religious services. Now, add some meaning and emotion to your Christmas cards by enclosing a pretty printout of a poem that inspires or amuses.
First, stock up on colorful art paper at the craft store, choosing from a wintry light blue, a snowy silver or printable frosty-opaque vellum to make your words stand out even more. Print two or three to a page, and use a long-handled paper cutter to make perfectly straight lines, or cut your printed card edges with a scalloped-edge craft scissor.
Next, choose your poem for this year's cards. It's always quite wonderful to select a classic by a well-known author or philosopher. This one, written by Norman Vincent Peale and found on many free poem sites, is a favorite:
Christmas waves a magic wand over this world,
and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.
You're giving the gift of a feeling when you send a poem. It may be inspiring, deeply religious or more spiritual, whichever brand suits your style. To find free poems online, visit: PoetryFoundation.org, Poetry-Online.org, Poemhunter.com, Poetry.com or PoemsForFree.com, among others. Of course, you are free to pen your own poetry -- rhyming or not -- as a priceless holiday gift from your own being.
Using the same you-print-it-on-pretty-papers method, enclose a wonderful quote. It could be classic, Shakespearean, from your favorite author or celebrity, or whatever strikes you as this year's saying. Here are two from the free site QuoteGarden.com:
When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things -- not the great occasions -- give off the greatest glow of happiness. -- Bob Hope
Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time. -- Laura Ingalls Wilder
And then there's a humorous one, also from QuoteGarden:
Three phrases that sum up Christmas are: Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men, and Batteries not Included. -- Author Unknown
The stress of the hectic holiday season mixed with the financial strains of this economy means a good laugh could be the greatest Christmas present of all.
An additional free online resource for inspiring, religious, spiritual or humorous quotes is QuotationsPage.com.
Or you might purchase ready-made, laminated quote cards from the bookstore or card store to place in each Christmas card as a gift that each recipient can add to a wallet or purse and carry with them every day.
Together with a printed quote about growing seeds of love, you might enclose in each Christmas card a small packet of flower seeds. You might choose forget-me-nots in keeping with the season's theme of remembering loved ones, or wildflower seeds, or any number of simple sprinkle-and-grow seeds. In springtime, when it's time for planting, your gift takes root and keeps on giving.
No, not requests for donations to a cause -- including your upcoming 5k run, your child's book drive or any other "here's what you can send" messages -- but a printout that you have donated to a worthy cause in honor of the holiday spirit and your wonderful circle of loved ones.
"I made a donation to the Arbor Day Foundation for $20, which paid for trees to be planted in a particular national forest," says big-hearted gift-giver Danielle P. "And I did that in honor of everyone on our card list. So I printed up little cards to tell them that, in honor of them, new trees now grow out west to replace trees lost in forest fires." Her recipients were so touched at Danielle's announcement that many were inspired to make additional donations to their chosen causes.
And a new Christmas tradition was born.