The Story Behind the Christmas Card (Because There Always Is One)

December 20, 2018

Everyone loves a good Christmas card. Especially me. Even if you hate to send them, you always love getting them. While I always love receiving them and have kept them in boxes, I particularly love the ritual of creating one and sending it out.

Since I was little, I loved the photo Christmas cards. My mom did them, and now I do them.

The only rule I’ve ever placed on my Christmas cards is that I don’t HAVE to send one out each year. It’s just too much pressure. Once that pressure was taken off my plate, the full enjoyment of the Christmas Card has been mine. Of course my favorite part of the card is figuring out the photo. But this year was different . . . .

Usually, the perfect time for us to get a Christmas photo is around Thanksgiving. (I’m driven to wait as long as possible in the year in the chance that my older son will decide to cut his hair.) However, not only did Drew not cut his hair, he would also NOT be home until December 9, so I decided that this was a year of the No Card.

But, ugh—I’m a card person. It’s what I do. I couldn’t not send one. With Mike on a business trip from December 10-13, I had no choice but to do a photo without the parents.

But where would we take it? What would the boys wear? These things were important when you were putting together a piece of “high art,” at least that’s what Drew once called it, no kidding. I chose to believe he was not being sarcastic, by the way.

We’ve utilized some great spots in our backyard in previous cards, so I moved to the front yard. And there it was.

My vision.

We recently had to cut down two gigantic trees from our front yard, leaving stumps. I wanted to keep the stumps, in case I thought of something cool to create with them. Well, now, I knew. They’d be the foundation for the Christmas Photo.

We had exactly between 4:10 and 4:20 when the lighting was decent and the boys were both home. I shouted, “White T-shirts and jeans. That’s easy. Everyone looks good in white T-shirts and jeans.”

Drew replied: I have no jeans.

Me (incredulous): You have NO jeans?

Drew: Not here.

Me: You have jeans in Hawaii?

Drew: No, not there, either.

This could not be true. I scoured his room, then Tate’s room for good measure. Not a pair in sight. I was losing good sunlight.

Me: Fine. Wear whatever pants you can.

In my head I thought, the picture will be black and white, maybe it won’t be noticeable. (It was.)

As we walked out to the front yard, my Canon around my neck, I told them the plan. “Okay, so first I will take a picture of you each on separate stumps, and then I will get one with you together with Tate on Drew’s back, like he is helping you fly.”

Tate: That’s NOT happening.

He shook his head, too, and used his I’m-so-annoyed -I-might-just-leave-voice. And there were the eye bullets, like he was trying to kill me, or at least maim me.

My whole vision was that the boys, as they are beginning to fly from the nest, are first not far from the ground –thus, the stumps. THEN, the Moment Picture would be them laughing together as Tate throws his arms out to his side, while on the back of his brother, who is holding his legs in a I-got-your-back kind of way.

So there. Maybe my vision was not realistic. Maybe it made no sense. Maybe it would have looked ridiculous. But it was my VISION, and they wouldn’t even try to consider it. And yes, I stomped my foot, but only because they wouldn't even TRY it, not because it was an awful idea.

When I attempted to photograph them on separate stumps, they wouldn’t fit in the (damn) camera lens. By this time, I was as done with this photo shoot as they were. And we had barely started.

Looking at the shadows and the sun fading into the horizon, I said, “Get on the same stump. Just do it. Yes, you will both fit. Just do it.”

And here it was.


There was a better picture of Drew where he actually looked sort of happy, but Tate looked like he was intentionally trying to make an ugly face so it had to be cut.

I now look at this card titled “Happy Christmas” and I think, Yes, it IS a happy Christmas. Despite wardrobe flaws and hairstyle choices and faces that are either grimacing or irritated or  . . . mocking?

So I did what every desperate card maker (or mother) might do: Throw out a second picture of them on the back when they were so cute and adorable that whatever else was there, well, it didn't really matter.


They may not look much happier as babies, but believe me, whether young babies or old teenagers, they were indeed happy on the inside. They were just annoyed with their mother who sometimes tried too hard. (Wait, what?)

May you all have a very blessed Christmas and New Year! I will be back in the new year with more of everything—cards, blogs, and videos—but hopefully a little less of the irritated teenager.


  • Some how I missed this, until this morning. I love receiving Snail Mail Christmas cards. I put them up on our wall. After Christmas I put them in a basket, which is placed on our dining room table(when there is room). Each day look thru the cards. Say a prayer for that family, for a Blessed year. Sometimes I also do the Not this year! This year I did New Years cards….I remember when Davis and Laura were little(?), Gary and I had a say in what they would wear for the Christmas pictures. Then, as they got older, let them wear whatever they wanted. As I love that they were their own person. Had their own individual style. I was just happy they showed up for the picture. Without rolling of the eyes! I hope when they have a family of their own they realize how important these pictures are/were to *Mom. Hope they follow in the tradition. They grow up so fast. Nice to sit down and look at past pictures, and smile(maybe a few tears). *Way back when, Our family never took ‘Family’ Christmas pictures. Most of them were when I went to visit Santa. I wish we had. I have very few pictures of Mom and Dad.

  • I love the photo and your description of how it was taken!!! Oh, Amy. How blessed these two young men to have you as their mother. You have inspired and encouraged me (without knowing it) throughout this year. It has been somewhat “rough” going but God’s grace was ever more evident and REAL in my life. Have a wonderful Christmas and may you and your loved ones have a creative and exciting New Year – in good health and inner peace! Love always, Olga

    Olga Friesen
  • I love this card. It amazes me how mature they are. Men no longer boys!! Merry Christmas to you all. This is my “no card” year!

  • I save my Christmas cards of families pictures. I am pretty sure I have this one of the boys little with no shirts. So fun to bring them out and see how the kids have grown and the progression of families and life!! Love you and your family Amy❣️ Have a blessed Christmas!! xoxo Sheila

    Sheila Hendrickson
  • Thank you for sharing. I feel your pain. Merry Christmas


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