Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Kattomic Energy Christmas Card Buying Guide

Cardinal in snow, photo by Rob Tomlinson

In my parents' generation, sending out Christmas cards was a big deal and a husband/wife project. My parents never put together one of those awful Christmas letters (and in fact mocked their relatives and friends who did send them out) but the sending of the cards was a project that consumed at least one night in the pre-holiday run-up.

They'd divide up the writing chores although my father's handwriting was barely legible--I was the only one in the family who could read it--and my mother had art school handwriting that was as precise and readable as machine print. They had different signatures depending on who the card's recipient was, "Mickey and Tom" for their friends, "Mildred and Parrish" for his relatives, and so forth.

They always bought special Christmas stamps to use on their cards and they had two different kinds of cards--some kind of religious theme for the relatives, more general holiday cards for their Jewish friends and colleagues. They probably sent out a hundred cards a year and got at least as many in return. The cards were displayed over the mantle and on top of the bookcases and gave the house a really festive air.

Nobody I know does that any more--that wholesale mailing of Christmas greetings to the universe. These days, when you can get wonderful e-cards for nothing, sending cards via snail mail is kind of quaint.  Some people still do it (I do) but really it's more common to simply buy individual cards for special friends and let it go at that. The problem is, if you rely on card stores and the card sections of bookstores and grocery stores, the selection of cards just isn't that individual. Some of the cards are beautiful--Papyrus cards especially--but it's a lot more fun if you can match a card specifically to a person.

And that's where the artist communities come in. Don't stand in line at Bookstar when you can browse RedBubble and Etsy and Zazzle and CafĂ© Press and DeviantArt and eBay. Yes, the cards are sometimes a little more than something you could find in a regular retail store, and there is postage that has to be added, but if you look around, you will find the perfect card for every single person you know.  
My brother sells cards with his photographs on RedBubble, and every year at Christmas he sells some of his lovely cardinals in the snow photos. RedBubble has Christmas cards for every taste (almost 40,000 different designs), from whimsical animals dressed up in Santa togs to classic and beautiful cards featuring original photos and illustrations. RedBubble is where I found the Imperial Storm Trooper card by Emma Harckman for my Star Wars geek friend.I also found a card perfect for my friend who is one of the producers of Hawaii 5-0, a  photograph of the Old Lahaina Light hung with a Christmas wreath. I also found an elegant blue "Night Before Christmas" card by Johanne Brunet for a friend who collects different editions of The Night Before Christmas.
Over at Etsy, there are 121,000 different Christmas cards on offer. There's the
"Samta Doesn't Like Skanks/He prefers Ho, Ho, Hos" from FunGirlsCards, to a lovely die-cut pine cone design card by Two Hermanas.  There are plenty of silly animal options (and seriously, if you have pet lovers on your list, it's hard to go wrong with cute animal cards. This one (by Square Paisley Designs) with the Christmas doxie is going to a friend of mine who works in animal rescue and has mad love for silly little dogs. I also bought a package of 10  cards from Crafts by Simply Sarah. At $15 for ten, they're a bargain and their clean design is both whimsical and elegant.
Zazzle is my go-to place for all kinds of stocking stuffer gifts, and they have a huge selection of cards as well. (an overwhelming selection, actually, with almost 3000 pages of them. If you're looking for a Bigfoot Christmas card, they've got one.  They've got snarky cards up the chimney and vintage Victorian Santa images galore. If you're looking for a card that expresses your support for veterans and your appreciation for their sacrifice, there's a haunting card by KahunaLuna that features a section of Arlington National Cemetery decorated with wreaths on every grave. (This is definitely not a card you're going to find at your nearest card store. With all due respect--and my parents are buried in Arlington--this card kind of creeped me out. Nothing says Christmas like a freshly decorated grave?  Seems like this would have worked better as a Veteran's Day/Remembrance Day card. But there might be someone on your list this card would be perfect f and that's why we love the Zazzle.)
Over at Cafe Press, they have individual cards and boxed sets in every price range. Need a skull candy cane greeting for your favorite Goth cousin? You are in luck!
Want a card featuring a photo of an adorable Westie dressed up like Santa?  They've got it.
Want a card that's a little naughty? Take your pick. (I was amused by the "Nice Balls" card.)
Somewhat surprisingly, their selection of religious and inspirational-themed cards isn't so great. My favorite design was a card inspired by a medieval manuscript. You can buy the design individually, in packs of ten and in packs of 20.
Finally, there's eBay where artists auction (and straight sell) their wares directly to the public.  These are one of a kind offerings, some of them so lovely they're suitable for framing. Some artists have permanent stores while others have items that are just up for auction for as little as three days. The category you want to search is Art: direct from the artist.
If you want to buy boxes of cards, consider buying from a source like Unicef where your money will go to a good cause and you will get stunning cards. will direct you to 200 different organizations that sell cards that help fund their charitable work from the Alabama Wildlife Center to the LA County Museum of Art. The card below benefits the Connecticut Children's Medical Center.
 This card sells for $1 a card, which includes sales tax and your choice  of three pre-written greetings or your own (if you buy i quantity). 
I don't send that many Christmas cards any more but when I do, I prefer to send something that I've chosen just for the recipient.
(If nothing else, searching card sites is a most excellent way to spend an hour (or two).                                         

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