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Keeping Christ in Christmas cards

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From near and far, both big and small, envelopes filled with tidings of great joy will soon be filling mailboxes around the world. It’s a favorite tradition, and for many, it’s a way to spread the spirit of the season while doing a bit of evangelizing.

For those who want Christ on their Christmas cards, finding a variety of religious-themed Christmas cards can be a challenge in most retail stories. Thankfully, Catholic stores such as Pauline Books and Media in Alexandria, Joyful Spirit Gifts in Arlington and Pascal Lamb in Fairfax sell boxed and individual religious-themed Christmas cards, including some for priests, religious sisters and brothers. 

“It’s difficult enough in this society to really profess your faith. I think sending religious Christmas cards does a really good job of doing that.” Cecilia Balog

“It’s difficult enough in this society to really profess your faith. I think sending religious Christmas cards does a really good job of doing that,” said Cecilia Balog, co-owner of the Pascal Lamb.

The Pauline Book Store in Alexandria, run by the Daughters of St. Paul, starts getting their card inventory in September. While the cards aren’t on the shelves until later, the sisters have several customers who can’t wait to get their cards as soon as they can so they can mail them to family overseas. It can sometimes take weeks for cards to arrive in some countries.

Many Knights of Columbus councils sell their signature “Keep Christ in Christmas cards” outside churches after Sunday Masses as early as October. Last year, the Alexandria Knights sent cards signed by students at St. Mary School to seniors in area nursing homes. 

Families often find as their list gets longer, the time to get the cards signed, stamped and addressed gets shorter. It’s the same problem that Englishman Henry Cole faced in 1843 when he ordered and sent the first Christmas cards. These days, sites such as Snapfish.com let you design and order cards that you can mail, while others, such as bluebirdcards.com, will stamp, address and mail the cards for you. 

While more families choose online cards, they may be disappointed with the lack of religious themes. 

Christmas Cards_SQBoxes of Christmas cards (at left) feature Nativity scenes at Joyful Spirit Gifts in Arlington. ASHLEIGH KASSOCK  |  CATHOLIC HERALD

“Christ will be on my Christmas card, thank you very much,” said Shelly Marstall, moderator of the Nova Catholic Mamas Facebook group and a parishioner of St. Agnes in Arlington. “I would love it if a company or religious order would start a similar online store. I would drop Shutterfly in a heartbeat.”

Beth and Michael Collins try to keep the tradition itself prayerful and Christ-centered. Their children enjoy stuffing their photocards into the traditional cards they order from the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles sisters in Gower, Mo. They make a paper chain with the names of the recipient on each link, and every night during Advent, they pray specifically for those people. 

If you are feeling a bit behind this season, don’t worry. There is still plenty of time to send out cards. Even mailing them on Christmas Day will see them arrive before the Baptism of Christ Jan. 8, the last day of the Christmas season.

Once the cards are sent, it’s time to sit back and watch the mailbox fill. Some families gather the cards in a special box to open on Christmas. Others like to use them as decorations, adorning the mantel or decking the halls. Marstall recently bought a wire card wreath that she fills during Advent. She also has a basket of cards from years past, neatly grouped by year for easy reminiscing.

While the process of sending cards can be a hassle, the joy it brings is worth it. This season, remember to say a prayer for the people on your list, that they might have a Christ-filled Christmas and a mailbox full of cards.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017