Reusing Christmas Cards

Reader Contribution by Carole Coates
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Any of these cards would dress up a gift. Photo by Carole Coates

If you haven’t put away all your holiday things, hold on a second. What are you planning to do with those greeting cards? Don’t toss them. There are lots of other possibilities.

When I helped my mom downsize, I was delighted to find cards from many, many years ago. They told a story. Of course, pausing to peruse them slowed the cleaning out process, but what a treat to read those old messages! So, for posterity’s sake, I hold on to newsy holiday letters, family photo cards, and cards with meaningful personal messages. They go in a pocket in my photo album chronicling the year’s activities. They’ll help round out our family’s history for future generations.


Not all my cards go in albums. I learned another trick from Mom years ago. She cut the backs off cards that were especially striking and saved the front for the next year when it became part of her packaging. Instead of bows and ribbons, she used double-sided tape to adhere the holiday scene to her gift-wrapped presents. I find this practice especially helpful when bows are almost sure to get crushed—packages that must endure a long car trip, be mailed, or get packed in a suitcase. Besides, recycling old cards is much more environmentally friendly and lots less expensive than buying satiny bows for one-time use.

If you prefer gift bags, consider purchasing plain kraft paper bags (or making your own) and gluing on one or more cards to make your presentation spectacular. Everyday white liquid glue or a glue stick will do the job.

Scenes from cards can be turned into gift tags, as well. Use a hole punch to make a hole near the top, attach with a ribbon or twine, write the giver’s and recipient’s names on the back, and tie or tape to your gift. Voilà!

Are there little ones in your circle of family and friends? You can turn the front of a card into a puzzle by adhering it to card stock with white multi-purpose glue, then cutting it into interesting (but not too complicated) shapes. You might even enlist the child to help create this craft.


I’ve also turned cards into tree ornaments. It’s easy to trim the outline of a snowman, teddy bear, or many of the other animals or scenes often found on cards. I glued them to used manila file folders, which I backed with colorful paper also trimmed to size. (Wallpaper scraps or colorful card stock are other backing options.) I finished them off by gluing trim around the edges and looping it at the top to hang on a tree branch. Handmade ornaments make a tree both festive and homey. The old-fashioned look they create can’t be beat.

Some cards (often those from businesses) are particularly impressive. Consider framing them to hang on your walls as part of future years’ holiday décor.

Some card designs might lend themselves to bookmarks. You may want to laminate them for longevity. Punch a hole in the center of the bookmark about a half-inch below the top and loop a ribbon or thin piece of yarn through the hole to make the bookmark more decorative. Bookmarks would make nice stocking gifts next year—and it’s never too early to start thinking about next year!


Yet another possibility is to donate your used cards to a childcare center. Center directors are always on the lookout for craft ideas. The scenes on holiday cards create plenty of possibilities. Elementary schools or adult day care centers are other possibilities for card donations.

These simple ideas can start you on your path to finding new life for old Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or other holiday cards. You can do an online search for more inspiration.

Carole Coatesis a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts here.

You can also find Carole atLiving On the Diagonalwhere she shares her take on life, including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.

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