Christmas Cards–Keeping in Touch and Losing Track


I’m all in with Christmas cards. Even in these days of emailed Christmas letters, I still do the cards and the enclosed printed letters and the personal notes.

I know. There are other simpler ways to do this. And yes, the price of international stamps has gone up to $1.15. But I like sending out (and receiving) Christmas cards. And you have to admit, it’s less fattening than baking cookies.

I like choosing cards from the UNICEF catalog.

I like summing up my year in a few paragraphs.

I like carrying the cards, one stack at a time, to the mailbox.

Most of all, though, I like keeping in touch with those friends and relatives I may not see all year, even in some cases for decades.

My senior year of college five of us girls (We called ourselves girls back then) roomed together in an off-campus apartment. Over the years since then, Mary and I have shared our lives in Christmas letters and emails, and a couple of times in person. Unfortunately we’ve lost track of the other three. For me now, Annie, Gail, and Madeline remain frozen memories from the days before our 1965 graduation. I wonder what their lives have become. I wish we’d kept in touch.

When you’re an expatriate, as my husband and children and I were for many years, people come and go a lot. And when they go, it’s usually to some distant place. You can make new friends, but they don’t really replace the old friends.

Like Doreen. She and I were friends in Manila for many years. Our kids grew up together; we vacationed together and partied together. It would have been a shame to lose track of her when she moved.

After she left Manila, Doreen lived in Singapore and India, in London and again in India. Still, it’s easy to keep track of someone like Doreen, Christmas card or not. If you knew her, you’d know what I mean.

I could go on and on about the people on my Christmas card list. But the mailman just came, and I want to go check my mailbox to see if there are any Christmas cards among the bills and advertisements.

About Nicki Chen

About Nicki Chen Nicki Chen is a writer living in Edmonds, WA. Her first novel, Tiger Tail Soup, is set in China during the Japanese invasion and occupation, 1937-1945. She's working on a second novel set in Vanuatu, a South Pacific nation where she and her late husband lived in the early '90s.
Christmas, expatriate life, holidays, Philippines , ,


  1. I’m totally with you, Nicki. In the day of emails and Facebook, there’s something so special about sitting down each year to write Christmas cards. As long as I’m able to hold a pen, I’ll continue the tradition. I still receive quite a few each year, but not nearly as many as in years past.

  2. I don’t send as many cards each year, but I send some. I’m trying to get better about sending letters to people. Not Christmas letters–I don’t do those. But a handwritten note every now and then.

    Merry Christmas, Nicki!

    • It’s always a pleasure to receive a handwritten note from a friend. I hope the practice continues in the future. One good sign: My grandchildren still send me handwritten thank you notes. I love reading them.

  3. I love the cards with the notes in them. I don’t care if it’s that epistle that says everyone is wonderful, I still like it. Keeps the connection more real. What I don’t like is when people don’t sign or identify if they send pictures. We got a card from a gray haired woman named Linda. I didn’t know her so I assumed she was my husband’s cousin who I’ve never met. He spent some time examining the card and determined it was the widowed wife of one of his college friends (that’s 50 years ago!). A last name would have helped (somehow the envelope got discarded) and it would have been nice to know who the young people were in the pictures. Children? Grandkids? Street urchins? I have a friend who does a long chronological calendar of all the events she did all year. It’s a bit of a yawn but in between the “I went here and I went there,” I can pick up news. Sadly I found out that an old friend of mine passed away this year (somehow that’s the other news that happens at Christmas no matter when it happened in the year). She died in May. She had moved out of state 20 years ago so I didn’t find out until now.

    • I try to make my Christmas cards and letters the kind I like to receive. I realize many (or most) people don’t have time to write personal letters to everyone, especially before the Christmas holiday. But I always appreciate a few personal words. The cards I like best contain a picture or two of my friend, not too tiny, and not too many people in it that I don’t know. I would say I like to receive a good Christmas letter, one that’s not too long and boring, and that’s informative, maybe even humorous. But I know how hard they are to write. So I’ll just say, I appreciate any Christmas letter at all. As you said, “It keeps the connection more real” when we share our news.

      • We received a great card last week from my husband’s niece. It was a photo of the family with a one sentence status on what they were doing. Short, concise and to the point. She had them printed and it was easy for her too.

  4. Holiday best to you.May your friends and relatives stay forever in your thoughts.

  5. It is nice to get a real card, but it’s not exactly environmentally friendly. So I compromise. With my older friends/ relatives that I don’t keep in touch with on social media, I send real cards. Everyone else gets an e-card.

    Or maybe nothing. It’s been that kind of a busy year.

    • One of my daughters sends out a Christmas letter every other year more or less. This year, with their daughter having graduated from college, they had some news, so they did a letter. My daughters are so much busier than I am. I think if I were in their shoes, I probably wouldn’t get around to doing Christmas cards, certainly not every year.

  6. Mary Huskey

    What a wonderful surprise to see that picture of our wonderful roommates from 1965! I hate losing track of people so really love that you and I have been able to share ups and downs over the past 50+ years. I love writing Christmas notes to friends and hearing details of their lives when they write back. Have a lovely, WARM Christmas with your family!

    • When we graduated from college, we all headed off in different directions, our heads filled with ideas and plans for our futures. I’m surprised we were able to keep track of each other, but I’m glad we did.

  7. There’s nothing like the drop on the mat

  8. I haven’t done anything about Christmas cards this year . . . I don’t enjoy receiving cards that are “downers” (e.g., mom died, Tigger died, etc.), but I also don’t enjoy receiving newsletters overflowing with an aura of fake enthusiasm (“2018 is gonna be the BEST year ever!”).

    I haven’t found the right balance for 2017 . . . so maybe no news sharing this year is good news for all. Instead, just a simple message:

    May your holidays be Merry & Bright . . . filled with Love Laughter & Light.

    • It’s hard to get a Christmas letter just right. There have been years that have especially hard for me. As you said, you don’t want either a downer letter or a fake cheerful one. I like your concluding poem.

  9. I used to write Christmas cards when I was a child (to my uncles, aunts and cousins on the other side of the country) but I haven’t done it in years. Hope you receive a lot of Christmas cards!

    • Thanks, Marta. I have received some nice cards and messages. We’ll see how many it turns out to be. I think you’re not the only one who has stopped sending Christmas cards.

  10. I’m with you, Nicki! I send holiday cards to a few close bloggers who over the years became friends 🙂
    It’s more than a tradition to me. Handwritten wishes are carried from one to another. There is little I enjoy more that finding a card from an old or more recent friend in my mailbox.
    Hope you will receive a lot, Nicki!

    • We get so much mail, both regular main and emails, and yet most of it is impersonal–an obligation to look at and then throw away or pay a bill or whatever. It’s a delight to find a message from a friend in your mailbox instead. In a similar way, it’s nice to read comments to our blogs from other bloggers or readers.


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