Advent Calendar: Day 2 – Christmas Cards

christmas-card-280x170Initially I was disinclined to post again on the topic of Christmas cards as I wrote this story back in 2011. Then I started thinking about the background of card-sending and the potential importance to family history.

I’d guess that in most families there’s at least one person who writes to every member of the family as well as friends, each and every year. In my family that would have been my Aunty Mary who faithfully sent cards despite the ups and downs of her own, or the recipients’, lives that year. Certainly she was a family lifeline through some difficult years for me.

Grandmas address book_edited-1

A page from my grandmother’s address book.

Another distant, fourth, cousin also sends out masses of cards, keeping up the links with extended families both in Australia and overseas. This is the cousin who broke open my links back to County Clare with my 2xgreat grandmother Mary O’Brien. Nora’s family were master achievers of staying in touch with family and had all the oral history as well as relatively current contacts.

Nora is also the one who holds a vast repository of family and friend photos, just like the one I posted recently for Remembrance Day. This led, as chains of thoughts do, to the reflection that in days past families, and friends, would sometimes (often?) send family photos together with their Christmas cards. So, have you thought about who might have your family’s photos as a result of Christmas-card exchanges?

Aunty Mary's diary became her address book. What's interesting about it is that includes a list of saint's days in the front.

Aunty Mary’s diary became her address book. What’s interesting about it is that includes a list of saint’s days in the front.

When my Aunty Mary died I helped to clear out her house, and to salvage any genealogy-precious items like photos and certificates etc. Among her things was her own address book and a couple of my grandmother’s. These would have been their source when they started sending out their cards each year, just as mine is my memory-check. If you’ve been lucky enough to inherit a relative’s address book have you tried to identify who each person is/was? And maybe think about making contact to see if they have any family photos?

Christmas memories may be about our own and our family’s lives but they can also open the gate to further family history research. One idea I’ve taken away from reading various posts is that I want to write a Christmas card with a special message to each of my grandchildren, each year. I still have a couple of cards my own grandmother gave me, and it’s precious to have her greetings handwritten in my card. She had a quirky way of signing on cards – she always wrote across the corner, diagonally, on the inside flap. Perhaps because in those days cards were often used for craft.

Would you like to read my 2011 post on Christmas cards?

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at

Advent calendar of Christmas memories 2011: 4th December: Christmas Cards

Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers is encouraging us to celebrate the 2011 Christmas season with a series of posts called the Advent Calendar of Memories. This is today’s entry. Did your family send cards? Did your family display the ones they received? Do you still send Christmas cards? Do you have any cards from your ancestors?

My family sent out cards but then I think “everyone” did when I was a child, though perhaps not as many as some…we didn’t have a large extended family. And the received cards were always hung up on a tinsel string. Perhaps I have some old ones in my memory box -time for an excavation.

For years I faithfully sent cards but my preference these days is to ring my far-distant friends in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Because we don’t have many chances to see each other it’s a great chance to have a good chat, swap information and keep our friendship alive. However what I’m finding, especially among the older generation, is that they still want cards, so I guess there’ll be a small handful going out.

Probably like many of us, I send Christmas email greetings to my network of extended Kunkel family network and family history mates. With friends I’ll sometimes send a Christmas newsletter. I was vastly amused by (and empathised with) this post by Catch the Window which captures the essence of the worst-of circular Christmas newsletters. Still I like to hear what people are up to and I’d (mostly) rather a bit of OTT information than a simple: “dear You Mob, happy Christmas, love Us Mob”. Those cards make me feel so frustrated…I want to say, but what’s happening in your life, have you had a good/bad year etc but then I guess with our closest friends I already know that. One of the reasons that I sometimes sit down and write my Christmas news “Cass Capers” (often at the last minute having overcome my curmudeonly attitude), is that it’s a great way to remind myself of the year’s events and, in balance, count my blessings. I file a copy in my memory box so maybe they will survive for future generations.

On top of which there’s the Down Under problem of Christmas cards: decades of snow, fir trees, sledding, reindeers….none of those around here. In recent years there’s been more of a trend to generalised cards without the northern hemisphere influences. Mind you, I’m not sure all those “snow-white boomers”/kangaroos are much better than reindeers.

What about you? Do you love or hate Christmas newsletters? Do you send out notes with your cards?