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I still get a small thrill from walking to my mailbox hoping to discover piles of red, green and sparkly envelopes waiting for me. Some say that the best way to spread Christmas cheer is by sending Christmas cards.

Out-of-the-ordinary Christmas card ideas can mean a lot to the recipient, and can be lots of fun to send as well. We at times get in a bit of a rut, sending every one the same card from a box of 50, signing each card, then grumbling a bit about the time taken to address the envelopes and the cost of postage. We’ve sent cards like that, and received them too.

At one point, holiday greeting cards were an easy way to signal to more distant friends and family that you’re living in a new city, got a new job or just provide some sort of hint that you’re alive. It’s the most non-awkward way to let your loved ones know that you didn’t forget about them or reach out to your favorite high school teacher. It’s about acknowledging people who have had an impact on your life, and allowing them to know that they matter to you. Even if you only touch base once a year, it really does count for something.

Christmas cards serve as a charming reminder to be appreciative and acknowledging of friends and family at this special time of year. But in order to keep that special magic alive, we can’t lose sight of the love behind the process. When cards become a burden, they start to lose that holiday cheer. I truly believe that taking the time to write two or three thoughtful sentences can make all of the difference in somebody you love’s holiday season.

Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a funny photo Christmas card. Some folks like to put together a letter, often with a few photos incorporated, telling what they’ve been up to the past year. That can be a very nice greeting to get, and you can write a single letter, and send the same one off to everyone on your list. Since everyone is getting the same letter, it’s always nice to write a sentence or two at the bottom and address the recipient by name as a personal touch.

Where you used to have to choose among several not-quite-the best-quality photographs to work with as Christmas card ideas, the advent of the digital camera now allows you to take a gazillion photos to choose from. No longer do your friends get a photo of your family with either you or your spouse having one or both eyes shut. And if you have several small children you know the difficulty in getting them all to look at least partially normal for a split second.

Chevron Photo Christmas Card These Red, Green and White Chevron design flat cards feature a trio of your favorite photos and a personalized message. Great for sharing family photos this holiday season.

Snowflakes and Stripes Photo Cards Festive snowflakes and stripes form the perfect border for your favorite photo. Great for sharing that favorite photo with family and friends this holiday season.

Rather than spending a small fortune posing for the standard Christmas portrait in front of a tired, old backdrop at a professional photography studio, think outside of the box. Do the unexpected and pick a funny, if not unusual, spot to pose. Capturing a funny Christmas photo is by keeping your camera with you at all times. You never know when that perfect pose will present itself.

Flowerette Stripe Photo Cards A Green stripes decorated with a flowerette design gives your photo a festive look. These folded cards open to reveal your personalized message.

Include your pets. Pets have an incredible knack for turning an ordinary photo opportunity into a priceless piece of family art. So invite your pet into the picture frame, encourage a little playful behavior, and before you know it, you’ve got a great close-up shot.

Blue Greek Key Photo Cards An elegant Blue and White Greek Key border perfectly frames your photo on these traditional folded cards. Inside, your personalized message is printed in the type style and ink color of your choice.

Retro Snowflakes Photo Cards These colorful retro snowflake photo cards are perfect for sharing your favorite photo with family and friends this holiday season.

Look for funny photo opportunities. Not all funny Christmas photos must include family members or pets. If you are the artistic type with a keen eye for art, you just may find funny photo opportunities that are lurking around you.

Have everyone wear pajamas and slippers. Take a picture of everyone waving at the camera. Make a card by folding a 5-by-7 piece of card stock. Paste the photo inside. Cut a door shape on the front of the card. Glue down the edges of the card. Decorate the front as you wish. The Christmas card doubles as a photo frame. You can add a triangle of card stock to the back so that the card can stand on its own.

Redeem your bad photos of cranky or teary-eyed kids. Photos do not always turn out as expected when you have infants and toddlers. Use a photo-editing program to make a montage of the photos.

Take individual pictures of each member of the family. Shrink the images and line them up on the front of the card. This is an option for families with members who are in and out of the home — families with college-age children, for example.

Holiday Portraits Photo Cards Show off three of your favorite pictures on these vibrant holiday photo cards.

Peace, Love and Joy Photo Cards  Spread peace, joy and love this holiday season with these unique holiday photo cards featuring three of your favorite pictures.

Use the snow as a prop. Build a headless snowman for each person in the family. Have each family member pose behind the headless snowman, and take photos. Get a photo as the family comes down a sled hill, or shoot them making snow angels? Use a folded piece of light blue card stock. Paste the photo on the front. Secure the edges with snowflake stickers. Put your sentiments inside the card.

Use Santa hats to make your photo Christmas card. Plan ahead and take along Santa hats when you go on your summer vacation. Take a photo there, or if you don’t go out of town, capture your hat-wearing family at the ballpark or the pool.

Holiday Ric Rac Photo Cards Your favorite photo is framed by a festive Red and Green ric rac border. The card opens to reveal your personalized holiday message.

Take black and white photos for a different look. Or try changing a color photo to grayscale to see if it looks better. You can use photo-editing tools to add color to certain objects in the photo, such as red Santa hats, red lips, colorful mittens or scarves, leaving the rest of the photo black and white for a dramatic effect.

Black and White Photo Cards A dramatic Black and White border frames your favorite photo on these traditional folded cards. Inside, your personalized message is printed in the type style and ink color of your choice.

Use scrapbooking supplies to jazz up your standard Christmas photo cards. Use bows and ribbons, small stickers, dimensional objects like Christmas trees, ornaments or toys. Because these embellishments are meant to be used on a scrapbook page, they are flat enough to fit in an envelope.

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