Relationships

I Send Thanksgiving Cards To Let Loved Ones Know I’m Grateful

Photo Credit: Nur Yilmaz/Pexels

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Every December, my mailbox is bombarded with holiday cards sent from people around the world. They are nice, sure, but there’s something that feels so generic about this tradition, it’s become somewhat of a turnoff for me. 

I don’t want to be a Grinch, however, so I started my own tradition in the same vein: I’ve started sending out Thanksgiving cards. At first, it was an extra way to celebrate my favorite holiday (I’ll take stuffing my face any day over Christmas presents), but as I’ve kept it up the past five years, it’s become a special practice for myself, my friends and family, and the start of the holiday spirit as the year comes to a close.

The idea is simple, and makes a big impact: I make everyone their own card, and each card contains a message crafted especially for the recipient, stating why I am grateful to have them in my life.

Some of them are short and sweet: “I’m grateful we get to spend time together and explore the world on our fabulous vacations.” Others are longer or more specific, depending on my relationship. 

I find the practice therapeutic, not only because handwritten notes are making a comeback, but because holiday cards used to be such an enigma to me. Before the age of the internet, people used holiday cards to bring friends and family up to speed on their lives. Some were genuine and from people I cared about; others, however, were more of an excuse to brag. 

“Johnny is 6 and loves playing basketball, Cindy just started learning the violin. Bill had a great 4th quarter and with his bonus, we closed on a beach condo in Delaware. We are looking forward to warmer days ahead and wishing you a happy, healthy new year!” On the back was a typical posed family photo in matching sweaters from the latest Sears catalog.  

I hated those kinds of cards, mostly because it felt more like a competition to see whose life was better and less like an actual reason to connect with people. As email and social media began to capture these life moments in real time, I thought the holiday card phase would slowly die off, but ironically it seemed to come back with a vengeance — digital companies like Snapfish made it easy to create a collage of precious moments. Matching Snuggies replaced matching sweaters, and “Like and subscribe!” replaced “Sincerely yours.”

What I enjoy most is writing personalized messages to the people I care about. I make these cards less about me, what I’m doing, where I am, and more about what makes the recipient such a special part of my life.

 

Yet I couldn’t tear myself away from the holiday card craze entirely. There was something nostalgic about the sending and receiving of sentiments in the physical mail, especially when it was so easy to send a few emojis in a group text to convey what a carefully chosen drugstore greeting card used to say. I wasn’t ready to kill off the tradition completely, but something needed to change.

I remember the pressure and anxiety that went into creating holiday cards as a kid. My mom would sit on the floor of our living room, licking envelopes and stamps while watching prime-time sitcoms. She hated it, mostly because of the urgency involved.

“We have to send our cards out first!” she’d explain with exhaustion. “Otherwise it looks like we’re only sending cards to people because they sent us a card.”

It didn’t make any sense, and I didn’t know why she cared so much, but I did remember how exciting it was to receive that first holiday card in the mail. When I got older, I kept that aspect in mind for my Thanksgiving cards.

I start writing my cards the first week of November so that I have plenty of time to craft my messages, collect addresses, and design or purchase cards if I need. There are usually plenty of styles to choose from and plenty of cards in stock, which is a huge advantage. I also like that I can choose a card that isn’t strictly winter or holiday-themed and instead choose something that calls to me.

I aim to complete at least five cards each night. It’s an easier and more reasonable assembly line, and also relieves the pressure of having to complete so many personalized cards at one time. Plus, if there are too many recipients and I don’t get to all of them by Thanksgiving, it’s okay to send the rest out later, and still have it “count” during holiday time.

But really, what I enjoy most is writing personalized messages to the people I care about. I make these cards less about me, what I’m doing, where I am, and more about what makes the recipient such a special part of my life. Thanksgiving is the perfect time because I am genuinely grateful for the people in my life, and I think it’s an opportunity to let them know in a tangible way.

The responses I receive from the cards are also genuinely heartwarming. I love knowing I made someone smile, or that I brightened their day. It's not the reason I send Thanksgiving cards, but it’s definitely an unexpected perk.  

I hope to continue this tradition as long as my hands are able to transcribe my thoughts and feelings for those I care about. The holidays can be some of the loneliest days for people, but maybe my cards can help those I care about know I’m thinking of them.  


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