Christmas Cards – So Much More Fun After Christmas

accm_badgeOntario 1970’s

Mum took our cards and hung them up on lines of string in the dining room.  When the strings were full, she took six-foot strips of thick gift ribbon, taped the cards to the ribbons then hung the ribbons in equally spaced pairs down the length of the pantry door and the outside of the bathroom door.

All these cards were interesting to me, and by the time I was 11-years-old I could look at the card’s picture and figure out who sent it (with 95% accuracy).

It was really very easy.  There were only a few varieties of Christmas cards back then.

Oh, those personalized photo cards?  Yeah, they existed but were limited to a picture of your youngest one screaming bloody-blue-murder in the burly arms of some red-suited STRANGER, because she didn’t care about some stupid picture with Santa Claus, she just wanted her Mommy!

The different varieties of Christmas cards were:

  • Religious themes: angels in prayer or with trumpets, the Nativity, the Magi, etc
  • Santa Claus: in his sleigh, unloading his pack under a tree, eating milk and cookies, reviewing his naughty/nice list, etc
  • Wintery landscapes
  • Cartoon novelties

My father was raised in a very strict Catholic household.  So, cards from his mother and his brothers’ families contained the Nativity, the three Wise Men (Magi), and praying angels; but the cards with the trumpet-playing angels came from my dad’s only sister, who happened to be a nun.

The wintery landscapes came from Mum’s aunts and uncles, most of them farmland owners – the brothers and sisters of my maternal grandmother.  Mum’s sisters and brothers sent us the cartoon novelty cards – Mickey MouseTM, dancing reindeer, animals making a snowman, etc – as they had young children at home too.

Cards with Santa Claus normally came from our family doctor, the dentist and our school teachers; but, the most memorable cards always came from our pharmacist, who was a nice old Jewish gentleman.  His cards usually had the Menorah (9 candles) on them and always looked so pretty, because they were so different from all the others.

After New Years, Mum would take down all the cards and go through them.  She would record all the address changes into her phonebook, take all the photographs that were enclosed and add them to her album, reply to any narrative letters that were written inside and then toss them all away!

It bothered me, when she did that and I didn’t understand why she did it.

Alberta 2001

It was my fiancée’s and my first Christmas; and it reminded me of so many Christmases from my youth.  The cards we strung up in the living room were all too familiar, but with slight differences.  (MiLady and I married in 2003).

Cards with Santa Claus and cartoon novelties came from my siblings, MiLady’s siblings and her parents.

The winter landscapes came from my mother, her sisters and brothers, and our employers; and, the religious themed cards came from my wife’s Catholic aunts and their families.

And like my Mum, MiLady sifted through the cards after the holidays and recorded the new addresses, tucked away the pictures in the family album and e-mailed replies to the narratives before giving the cards to me, along with a pair of scissors and an old coffee cup.

Now, I do not know the proper name of these things that I have been making since 2003, but I have called each one “a memory ball.”

I tear the cards in half, keeping only the picture halves – unless there is a picture on the back too.  When I have 22 unique pictures, I look for images that can be captured within a circle the size of a coffee cup and cut them out — sometimes I can get two circles from a larger-sized card.

This next step, I usually wait until I have enough circles to make at least two memory balls – so, a minimum of 44 circles.  You need white glue, a regular pair of scissors, a small pair of scissors, a couple small paint brushes (the type from a paint-by-number kit or model kit) at least 60 bulldog clips – paperclips work, but I found they left rust marks if they got wet from the glue; and a bottle of Advil/Tylenol for the headaches you’ll get trying to put the first one together.

[1] Using a special pre-made template, take a ruler and score an equilateral triangle so that all three points touch the edges of each circle.

[2] Organize the circles, picture side up, into three rows of 5, 10 and 5.  The only trick is the triangles have to alternate in the middle row only

[3] Fold the three flaps you have created, using the ruler to keep your fold on the lines you scored, facing the flaps out (towards the picture).  Try and keep your flapped circles in their order and rows, it will help a lot later – trust me.

[4] From the first/top row, take two circles and glue their touching sides together. Use a bulldog clip to hold the glued flaps together, lining up the score lines on the plain backsides. Repeat until you have all five triangles together, they will form a crude circle.  If you feel creative, you can thread a small piece of ribbon through the circle’s point from the inside.  It is wise to do this, especially if you want to hang the memory ball from the ceiling or some other spot overhead.

[5] Repeat Step [4] with the bottom row forming another crude circle.  Once again, take a small piece of ribbon put a large knot in one end and thread it through the circle’s point from the inside.  When the memory ball is dry, you can tie a decoration to it to hang under the ball – Donna likes a sprig of plastic mistletoe.  When I made these, one each for MiLady’s siblings, I hung a small To/From card from the bottom.

[6] Glue the alternating triangles of the middle row.  It will form a ring.  Wait two or three days for the glue to fully dry. Remove the bulldog clips and take the small scissors and trim the white excess that shows beyond the glued flaps.

[7] Now the fun part begins – you might need the Advil/Tylenol to get through this part.  Link the bottom to the center link – you will notice that your center link has five flaps on the bottom and five flaps on the top, that should line up with the flaps on either cap you have built for the top and bottom.

[8] After everything dries, remove all the bulldog clips and take the little scissors trimming the excess white that shows beyond the flaps that you glued.  When finished, you can take plastic beads that look like pearls and glue one in each of the points where the triangles meet – because it hides the little and-not-so-little holes that you will notice when the glue dries.

This activity can be done with birthday cards, wedding anniversary cards, postcards  — you are only limited by two things: your imagination and your patience.

The picture below is of the very first one I made – it has survived all these years.  I have made larger ones (using larger circles), am tempted to build one with five rows, but not just yet … I do not have enough cards.


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