5 tips for the family Christmas card tradition

by Matthew Worwood

I’m English, and sending a Christmas card with a winter image on the front and a warm message inside is a significant part of our Christmas tradition. This article offers 5 tips for the family Christmas card tradition.

Before social media, we used the phone and letters to connect with friends and family. However, Christmas made things a little more complicated; there weren’t enough hours in the day to communicate with everyone. Christmas cards helped address this problem. They offered a simple way to send good wishes for the holidays. This practice began a tradition in England that has endured without too much change (see a little more about the history here).

SEE ALSO: Making Christmas Cards: My lessons Learned

When I moved to the U.S., I realized this tradition had evolved a little differently; it was all about the family picture on the front. I’m not criticizing this tradition, but I did tell my wife that I want a family picture that has a little festivity and captures our little ones’ personality. However, sometimes this wasn’t possible, and we ended up with the summer family vacation photo or the official family photos taken during the Fall. 

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A few years ago, we were in the U.K. for Christmas, and I was super worried about how our Christmas card would go down with the family. A few offered me the, “oh, that’s a nice picture” comment, but there was one family who just hit me up with the banter and jokes about the perception of that perfect family image – which, as we know, doesn’t exist. 

Fast forward a few years, and I’ve identified 5 tips for the family Christmas card tradition, which I think offers an appropriate balance for my American/British children. 

With my youngest, I find it helpful to go over his drawing in blank ink before he begins painting.

With my youngest, I found it helpful to go over his drawing in blank pen before he began painting. We used YouTube to find things to draw. Somehow we ended up with a Unicorn (it’s not a reindeer).


5 Tips the Family Christmas Card Tradition

  1. The weekend after Thanksgiving, we transition into the festive spirit by painting pictures for our Christmas Cards. We use paints because they make this activity extra fun and produce a nice vibrant image to capture with the phone. It’s a great way to get Christmas started!
  2. I identify the Christmas card template before we begin painting; this helps determine if the boys are painting landscape or portrait. It also allows you to identify the best Cyber Monday sales.
  3. We blend the U.K. and U.S. tradition; we include pictures of the family and homemade festive pictures. This strategy reduces the need to find a festive picture of the children, which can’t exist in November.
  4. We let the kids paint freely; this creates a nice balance between perfect family pictures and messed up drawings. However, I do require that they are Christmas images, and they draw in pencil before we get to the paints. I’ve also found the “how to draw” videos on YouTube to help the two youngest. (so perhaps it’s not a total free frenzy)
  5. This year I’ve also taken up my Mother’s tradition of writing an annual family update to share with close friends and family that I only connect with over the Holidays. I see this as a great way to record a yearly journal, which I’m now storing in Google.


There’s nothing original about these tips; I’ve seen other families with similar traditions. some even make the cards, which is taking it to a whole new level. I’ll also add that although it can reduce the pressure on securing a perfect family picture, it does require time for the activity. However, this activity is now part of our tradition and provides some cool annual paintings for the boys to store in their safe keep box. Just avoid making this activity too complicated; it should be fun and festive! 

Oh, I’ll add that the family who gave me the banter, they sent me a family Christmas card this year, which in good English humor was a fully American style Christmas card. I’ll be watching them carefully to see if this becomes a trend in the future.

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Matthew Worwood
Matthew Worwood is an educator, Creative Studies scholar-practitioner, and co-host of the Fueling Creativity in Education podcast. He is a professor of Digital Media Design at the University of Connecticut and a husband and proud father to three young boys.

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