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Here it comes: the big daddy of holidays, the jingle bell juggernaut, the elf-crafted extravaganza. Can we get a drumroll from those ten drummers drumming? It’s Christmas! Christmas reigns supreme in the holiday world; it’s not merely a holiday but its own genre of movies and music, its own flavor of cookies, really its own little universe which emerges the very second Thanksgiving is over. The volume of Christmas icons is nothing short of astounding; from reindeer to Red Rider bee-bee guns, snowmen to Jimmy Stewart movies, Charles Dickens to Charlie Brown, there’s a veritable army of season’s greeters armed to the teeth with mistletoe and eggnog. But even outside of the official Christmas canon of spokespeople, there’s a mountain of merriment generated simply by everyday people. Christmas parties, Christmas-specific decorations, carols, Christmas cards, poems for Christmas, and of course Christmas recipes are all part of the mix. And while Christmas has its roots in Christianity, it is celebrated by both the most dedicated believers and people outside the religion who nonetheless feel the need for a few tidings of comfort and joy. And while we all enjoy the latest round of Christmas songs and TV shows that come out every year, it’s always important to remember your friends with well thought out Christmas cards.
Christmas has a rich and well-studied two thousand year history. It is ostensibly the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the hero of Christian beliefs who naturally should be entitled to his own holiday. But there’s a catch: some modern historians have challenged the idea that Jesus was actually born on December 25, and that instead the day was chosen to coincide with the Roman solstice festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti. As their theory goes, Christmas gained popularity and eventually replaced the Roman celebration, since after all Dies Natalis Solis Invicti is a much harder name to remember. But the position of most theologians today is that no matter what day Jesus was born on, the holiday of Christmas exists to honor that birth. As the holiday progressed, modern traditions began to emerge. The holiday was celebrated as a feast in the Middle Ages, and despite attempts to thwart its celebration by Puritan rule in England, the holiday reemerged in the 17th century. It was during this time that the character of “Father Christmas” emerged, who would go on to influence the American “Santa Claus”, though for whatever reason the Americans decided to give him a name which was a strange mixture of Spanish and Dutch. The tradition of giving gifts, already popular before but suppressed by the Puritans, exploded in popularity afterward.
One of the more important traditions during Christmas time is the sending of Christmas cards. The tradition is a bit newer than some of the other Christmas customs, since after all the Roman Empire didn’t have a very good postal service. It began in the 1840s with the first industrially printed cards in honor of Christmas. The trend took off and spread to the United States in 1875, where the cards have been popular ever since. Christmas cards are commonly viewed as a way to keep in touch with friends far and wide. For families, Christmas cards often turn out as a detailed summary of the events of the year, sometimes even coming with an index and footnotes. But there are Christmas cards of every shape and size, with enough variety to fit every yuletide character. For the goofball, there are any number of funny Christmas cards with cheesy tag lines; for example: How many reindeer does it take to screw in a light bulb? Doesn’t matter, they use their noses for light! For the upstanding professional, there are business Christmas cards, which can be especially important if you accidentally drink a bit too much eggnog at the company Christmas party. For those who don’t know what to write in Christmas Cards, some come elegantly decorated but with blank inside. There are also patriotic Christmas cards, religious or specifically Christian Christmas cards, and cards with customized photos for Christmas. But no matter what kind of card you send, don’t forget how important it is to let loose with a little holiday cheer every year. Hey, if Santa can visit every house in the world, it shouldn’t be any trouble for you to send a few cards to your best friends and family.
It’s new to the Holiday Season lineup, but don’t let that trick you into thinking it doesn’t have any history. That’s right, we’re talking Kwanzaa! Kwanzaa was officially created as a holiday by Maulana Karenga in 1968 to celebrate the history and culture of all people of African ancestry, but particularly African Americans - so the celebration is as much dubstep as it is djembe. The celebration begins December 26 and lasts seven days, enough time to sing songs, get together with friends, give gifts, send Kwanzaa cards, and find the right size dashiki for the final day of celebration. So don’t forget to take a little time to send Kwanzaa cards or greetings to your friends and family; whether it be your heritage or your family, Kwanzaa is all about keeping in touch.
Kwanzaa was founded by Karenga in order to “give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history,” and possibly because the food served for the other holidays was a bit too bland. Creating a uniquely African American holiday in the 1960s was in keeping with the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement which still coming to pass during that era, and it was also a fulfillment of the idea of Pan-Africanism. The celebration itself centers on the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, with each day being dedicated to a different principle. The principles are: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, collaborative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith – though the theme of kicking back for a good celebration runs throughout. The celebration concludes with a karamu or celebratory feast. Don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate your heritage this Kwanzaa, but also keep in mind to send a card to your family for Kwanzaa. There’s no better way to send a traditional greeting of “Habari Gani” than a good Kwanzaa card, and they’ll enjoy their karamu more if they know you’re thinking of them.
Get your streamers and pointy hats ready, and be prepared to look up the atomic clock for the first time since last year. It’s New Year’s Eve! New Year’s Eve is that one day every year when we celebrate only having one day left in that year, usually by resolving to try for that big breakthrough next year, but not before first breaking out a bottle of bubbly. For the adult crowd, New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest party nights of the year, with posh New Year’s events filling the clubs in New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, and other major cities in the US and around the world. But for those more inclined to pop open a Martinellis than a Mums, there are plenty of family friendly traditions for New Years Eve as well. Some families prepare special New Year’s Eve recipes, and observe other customs for luck in the coming year. And for those who can’t make it to family gatherings, it’s traditional to send a New Year card or greeting for the holiday. For the truly generous, you can send the New Year card along with a bottle of champagne – just make sure it doesn’t get too shaken up during the delivery.
In a way, New Year’s Eve is the oldest of all holidays, since there have been new years since the creation of the planet. But even the celebration of the New Year is something that people have been doing ever since the concept of years was developed, though ancient societies had a lot more difficulty replacing their calendars each year since they were made of stone. Can you imagine trying to send a New Years card of stone? The timing of New Year’s Eve became standardized after the development of the modern calendar, and traditions for how to celebrate this event began to form around the world. In the US, the New Year is celebrated by the lowering of a giant glowing ball and the customary confusion as to how the heck Dick Clark manages to do a TV broadcast of this every year. But it is certainly a time to remember friends and family as well; poems, cards, and greetings abound. So as you’re watching the ball drop, don’t forget to also drop off a New Years card for your friends and family – in return, they’ll be sure to keep you in their resolutions.
It’s a holiday as sweet as heart shaped candy, a day when we all hope that that special someone will say “I luv u”. Yes, Valentines Day is known the world over as a day for couples to do something romantic for each other, as well as a perfect opportunity for prospective Don Juans to court that special someone, though it helps if they play guitar. There are all kinds of ways to celebrate Valentines Day (also referred to as V-Day if you’re really cool), many of which involve doilies and a lavender scent. Popular gift ideas for Valentines Day include flowers, candies, and chocolate; adventurous revelers have experimented with all manner of chocolate covering imaginable with wanton disregard for the cleanliness of those around them. But of all the V-day traditions, the most important is a well selected, heart-felt and perhaps heart shaped Valentines Day card. In addition to being less messy, it’s the perfect way to show you care.
Oddly enough, the history of Valentines Day traces back not to any romance but rather an unlikely bromance, between Roman emperor Claudius II and a Christian martyr named (of course) Valentine. As the story goes, Valentine raised so much hell as a Christian activist that he was brought before the emperor Claudius himself. Claudius was actually impressed with him, treating him as a friend and attempting to convert him to paganism. However, the honeymoon ended quickly as Valentine refused to convert and Claudius ordered him to be put to death. Valentine solemnly accepts his fate, but also finds time to cure the daughter of one of his prison guards of her blindness. While this story seems remarkably unromantic, it was alluded to in a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer as a day of great romantic celebrations and has been recognized as such ever since.
Of all the modern traditions for Valentines Day, giving a card to your significant other is considered one of the most important; failure to do so can lead to physical injury, or in some cases sleeping on the couch. For those Casanovas in training who are a little short on Valentines Day card ideas, there are plenty to choose from. Valentines Day Cards often have sayings or poems, or be funny or light-hearted. They generally feature fancy designs and elegant shades of red or lavender. For those willing to go the extra mile, there are artisan handmade Valentines Day cards, which may be even more impressive than that romantic dinner you had planned. But the important thing is that Valentines Day cards should always come from the heart – otherwise, they’re just too hard to stomach. So this Valentines Day, don’t forget to get your special someone a special card. It’s the only gift that is as fragrant as roses, as sweet as candy, and more romantic (and healthier) than the fanciest restaurant
Whether it be the year of the dragon or the year of the mouse, Chinese New Year is always a time of great fortune – and great fortune cookies. Chinese New Year is a 15 day celebration during which people of Chinese ancestry let the good times roll by cooking up plenty of eggrolls and by sending Chinese New Year cards. Chinese New Year is observed with impressive celebrations within China, as well as internationally in cities like San Francisco, New York, and London. While the food may leave you hungry in an hour or so, the celebrations will stick with you forever. But don’t forget to send a Chinese New Year card or greeting to friends and family – just make sure to send it in an envelope and not a fortune cookie.
The history of Chinese New Year goes back to ancient Chinese mythology. Chinese villagers sought to avoid attacks from the giant monster Nean, who like most monsters had a big appetite and a bad temper. Eventually they found that by leaving a small child dressed entirely in red, the beast would lose interest. The villagers were so happy that this highly improbable strategy actually worked that they created a 15 day celebration to commemorate it. While you don’t have to send a Chinese New Year card on each day, it’s a great idea to send a few to friends and family during the new year celebrations. Today, the holiday is celebrated with songs, dancing and a healthy dose of “Gung hei fat choy”. The traditional festival begins with a family dinner, during which some believe it is bad luck to use knives – though it is still possible to use very sharp chopsticks. Each of the following days of the celebration is then used to honor varying figures in Chinese mythology, or to visit specific family members. At the end comes the traditional “Lantern Festival”, in which friendly spirits are invited into the homes of each family with candles, colorful lanterns, and if that doesn’t work, tasty rice dumplings. With all of the family-related celebrations, it’s always a good idea for those too far away to visit to send a Chinese New Year card or greeting, though you probably shouldn’t put “in bed” at the end.
Festivus is a secular holiday celebrated on December 23, and celebrating it with a Festivus card is a great way to laugh this holiday. The holiday was created by writer Dan O'Keefe and introduced into popular culture by his son Daniel, a screenwriter for the TV show Seinfeld, as part of a comical storyline on the show. The holiday's celebration, as shown on Seinfeld, includes an unadorned aluminum "Festivus pole," practices such as the "Airing of Grievances" and "Feats of Strength," and the labelling of easily explainable events as "Festivus miracles". Sending festivus cards to those Seinfeld fans in your life is a surefire way to loosen up and forget the holiday stress.
Celebrants of the holiday sometimes refer to it as "Festivus for the rest of us," a saying taken from the O'Keefe family traditions and popularized in the Seinfeld episode to describe Festivus as "another way" to celebrate the holiday season without participating in its pressures and commercialism.
The name "Festivus" has also begun to be used as a general term for any type of December party not affiliated with the season's other events. So toss out the yamaka, forget the christmas tree, setup a pole, and start off this season by sending out a few funny festivus cards.
Chrismukkah is simply the merging of interfaith households where due to the parents different cultural background, both Christmas and Hanukkah are celebrated to expose the children to the heritage of both parents. It can also be celebrated as an alternative holiday, much like Festivus. So for those friends and family that you’re not quite sure what type of greeting to send, go with a Chrismukkah card or an interfaith holiday card to show your love and respect.
It’s one of the top four Jewish new years celebrations out there: Tu B’Shevat! Tu B’Shevat (also spelled Tu B’Shvat or Tu Bishvat) marks the fifteenth day of the Jewish month of Shevat, which usually occurs in mid-January on the Western calendar. It is known as “The New Year of the Trees,” perhaps because in the holy land there are still a few trees with leaves in January. Tu B’Shevat is often celebrated with a formal feast or seder, which is seen as an opportunity to go nuts – that is to say, eat plenty of traditionally prepared almonds. But there are plenty of other ways to celebrate the holiday as well, including Tu B’Shevat crafts, activities, and festivities. But if you can’t make it to the seder with your family, it’s always a good idea to send a greeting or card for Tu B’Shevat, since after all it’s important to remember your roots during the New Year of the Trees.
Tu B’Shevat has its origins in the Jewish teachings found in the Mishnah; its name derives from the month of Shevat and the Hebrew letters Tet and Vav. These letters correlate to the numbers six and nine, which add up to make fifteen as the day is celebrated on the fifteenth of the month. Fortunately, this is the only major mathematical calculation involved in the celebration of Tu B’Shevat. Jewish tradition holds that in addition to eating almonds for the seder, ten types of dried fruits should be consumed in a specific order in addition to four types of wine in order for the rest of the year to be blessed. Of course, the year will be a lot more blessed if observers of the seder ritual refrain from using box wine during the ceremony. Owing to its reputation as the New Year of the Trees, Tu B’Shevat is also viewed by some as a Jewish Arbor Day of sorts; environmentally conscious observers can opt to be more environmentally friendly by buying carbon offsets for the seder. Another good way to partake in the environmentally friendly spirit of Tu B’Shevat is to send your family environmentally friendly, 100% recycled cards such as the ones found here at Card Gnome. That way you can help create a more blessed year for the rest of the world too.
In the United States and the rest of the northern hemisphere, the first day of the winter season is the day of the year when the Sun is farthest south (on December 21st or 22nd). This day is known as the Winter Solstice.
January 18th is the birthday of the wonderful A.A. Milne--the creator of Winnie the Pooh and his fabulous friends. Today is a great day to celebrate this honey loving bear by sitting on a log outside of Mr. Sander's house and "think-think-thinking" your day away.
What’s brown and furry and pops up every February 2nd on our calendars? Groundhog day! Yes, it’s one of the few holidays in the world to be named after a rodent, but it commands a level of respect much larger than its cuddly namesake. The holiday derives its name from “Punxsutawney Phil”, a groundhog in Pennsylvania who is said to know whether or not winter will last longer based on whether he sees his shadow. But even if he doesn’t it’s a great time for you to make sure your friends and family are doing well with a card for groundhog day – just don’t look for your shadow on your way to mail it.
Groundhog Day, modeled after a creature with unusual but fascinating behavioral patterns, gets its celebration tradition from another unusual but fascinating set of behavioral patterns – the customs of rural Pennsylvania. In this region, many towns and villages have strong ties to German ancestry and customs. Thus, many of the celebrations have a distinctive German vibe, though mercifully no one ever attempts to turn the groundhogs into schnitzel. Some families even observe the tradition of speaking German the entire day; for anyone who says a word in English, a fee of 5 cents must be paid. Unfortunately, this often just results in a string of less polite English words afterward. But all of these traditions are secondary to the main event – the groundhog’s shadow watching. While Punxsutawney is the most famous place for groundhog gazing, various other cities across the US and Canada hole up in hopes that their local groundhogs will grant them a shorter winter. And while there’s no guarantee that even the noble groundhogs of the continent can put an end to the bitter winter frost, a friendly greeting or card to your friends and family will be certain to warm their hearts.