My Christmas Card Address List

A year-end review in cut and paste

Kate Bracy
Crow’s Feet


An aerial view of a writing desk, with a pen, a feather, several holiday cards, a teapot and cup of chocolate and a bowl of berries all arranged together.
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

It’s time for my yearly ritual of sending holiday greeting cards. Over the years, I have not become more parsimonious about the cards I send, but rather more expansive. No saving all the freebie cards sent by organizations I contribute to. No looking for after-Christmas sales of boxes of cards — which leads to sending Rudolf puns and “Feliz Navi-DOG” cards for several years in a row, thinking “Yes, they were cheap, but what was I thinking?” (Though there have been years when I was glad to have both sets of bargain cards.)

Nope. Now I order lovely photo cards with plenty of room for text on them. I prep the cards with carefully selected pictures representing my year and spend time writing the message — hitting just the right note of optimism and nostalgia as I recount the year’s events for the letter inside. I have the envelopes printed with our return address so that when the cards are delivered to our door it’s an efficient little assembly line of holiday spirit. A small note on each card, wishing something good for the coming year. I peel off the address label, and another little winter bird is ready to fly to its recipient.

By the time I’ve finished, I feel rich. Rich in connections and people who would care to hear from me. Rich in memories and hope for the coming year. I am filled with amazement at the various factions of my life that come together — writing friends next to clogging friends next to cousins and colleagues and neighbors, not to mention most immediate family. High school classmates sit in the pile next to commuting buddies. And, I’m convinced, everyone would like everyone if I had a way to bring them all together. But this will have to do.

A folded greeting card on top of another card with the inside message displayed, with an envelope under both.
Photo from Author’s collection

I promise trips to see people, dinners for local friends, and other “this year for sure!” aspirational plans. I remind people that I am thinking of them through their crazy or lonely or grieving time, so they know I understand that holidays can be hard and that I am still here — call anytime! I tell people what I appreciate about their photos on Facebook or the recipe they sent me months ago. I find a hundred ways to say “I see you. I love you. I’m glad we are connected.”

The condensed version of all this is making the address list itself. There is the crossing off and the adding on. The “will I or won’t I?” of friends who have fallen away, or shown their colors as harmers more than helpers. So many reasons to remove them from the fold. There are the hangers-on, who were on my parents’ list and added in when Dad came to live with us. (Dad is gone, and I fret each year over whether his friends look forward to hearing about our family, or have trouble remembering who we even are.) There are the dear souls we’ve lost this year (a cherished mentor, a long-ago lover, a dear and former mother-in-law) and I pause when I highlight those names. They will not hear about our trip to Minnesota. They will not see how much the grandkids have grown. They are beyond that now, as I will be one day. I ponder this as I move each name to the bottom page — the “Do not send” page that I keep at the end because I cannot bear to let even their names be lost.

But, too, there are new ones, added to the “Send” pages. New friends who seem like old ones, newly discovered relatives (thank you Ancestry!!), and colleagues who’ve reconnected after years — even traveling over to our island to visit.

And last, there are the changed addresses. One who finally moved to Michigan because it was always home. One who moved into a senior living place and who may not know us next year. Another who finally made good on that retirement plan to be somewhere warm. My daughter’s friend who has moved back here to be near family. So many changes. Life moving on. Life changing constantly.

The list is a blunt reminder that “this, too, shall pass.” But for today, for this holiday season, for this moment in my lucky life, we are connected. I cherish the bonds and the life that has afforded them. I will finish this list, mail the cards, and wait eagerly to hear from those who send out their own accounts of another year on the planet.

This ritual cleansing of the list is my treasure. It is the breath of life. The breathing in of new friends and dear ones. And the breathing out and letting go of those who are no longer in my world. As I have written before, it is a ritual that invites me to acknowledge the time passing and to treasure those who are still in my circle. It is a pause: This is what has happened. This is who we are this year. This is what we carry forward into next year.

May the coming year bring us closer to peace and closer to one another. May we find a way to remind each other that life is better because we have circled, for whatever small time, in each other’s orbit.

Happy Holidays. Write soon.

A collection of outdoor mailboxes lined up, each one different from the others.
Photo by Mathyas Kurmann on Unsplash