National Christmas Card Day

Today is National Christmas Card day!

The world’s first Christmas Card

The history of the Christmas card tradition can be traced back to Victorian England in 1843 when Henry Cole (a patron of the arts who would later help found the Victoria and Albert Museum) commissioned an artist to design and replicate a card that he could send to all of his correspondents (at the time, it was considered rude not to reply to a letter, but he was very busy). For more details on how the tradition has developed since then, read this piece from the Smithsonian.

Today, generic greeting cards are typically made with chemically processed and dyed paper, and if they contain glitter, foil, or bows, are made from photo/glossy laminated paper, or are the “musical cards” that play a song when you open, they can’t be recycled.

If you send cards around the holidays, consider making your own this year instead of buying them. It makes a great activity to do with kids or you can make it a social event with friends (and perhaps with something festive like hot cocoa, eggnog, or cookies!). Lastly, handmade cards add a special personalized touch for the recipient.

Below are some ideas for reduced-waste DIY cards.

Happy crafting!  

~~The paper~~

If you’re going to be adding/gluing items onto your cards, you probably want to use something a little heavier than traditional computer paper, like cardstock or blank pre-cut cards. If you can find this heavier paper made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper, even better!

  • Want to repurpose those recyclables you’ve probably got at home? Consider cutting boxboard or cardboard to card-size, painting it white (or whichever color you like) or wrapping it in computer paper, and decorating from there. Keep in mind that cardboard might require additional stamps if you’re mailing it
  • Want to make a completely compostable card to brighten up the recipient’s home come spring? Consider plant-able seed paper. Search online for “seed paper” and tons of options will come up for purchasing or, if you’re feeling really crafty, check out How to Make Plantable Seed Paper

~~The envelope~~

  • Don’t want to buy a pre-made card/envelope set but don’t have an envelope in the right size for your project? Check out this tutorial to make your own envelope!

~~Paint chip card trees~~

  • Have paint chips leftover from your last art project? Cut out Christmas tree shapes and create a forest on a card to mail
  • Don’t have any paint chips? Visit your local hardware store (they’re free!)
  • Got acrylic/watercolor paints? Make your own “ombre” Christmas trees by mixing varying amounts of white paint in with a color. For watercolors, just use varying amounts of water

~~Handprint Christmas trees~~

  • Great for kids! Trace and cut out the handprint, glue to a card, and decorate as desired


  • Send unusually shaped cards that the recipients can also use for home holiday decorations. This tutorial includes instructions and templates to make garlands shaped like snowmen and trees

~~Bakers Twine Cards~~

  • Have extra twine or threads at the house? Check out this tutorial for using them to decorate cards

~~Fabric Scraps Ugly Christmas Sweater~~

  • Turn extra fabric scraps into an ugly Christmas sweater card

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