Exploring the tradition of Christmas greetings

NIAGARA, Wis. — Last week, we explored the topic of family traditions around the holidays and how important they were to establish and maintain family bonds. One of our traditions is sending out Christmas cards with an annual letter enclosed. I started this after our fourth year of marriage because by then we had moved away from the family hub of Menasha and Ripon. As we prepare each year for the holidays and the task list gets long, my husband will ask, “When are you going to write the Christmas letter?” I groan inwardly, because in that moment, I cannot see a way that I am going to have time to write it. There is, however, no way for me to discontinue this particular tradition because if I miss a year, extended family worries that something may be wrong.

I always start the process by reviewing the year that is nearly over and listing noteworthy happenings for each family member. I have never eliminated the challenges or disappointments in exchange for only commenting on the fun things or accomplishments. Good comes in the form of a lesson learned, even if the event was difficult at the time. I think that my “all-inclusive approach” to chronicling our lives has been one reason that the letter is appreciated. It is not all glitter — full of trips, promotions and similar accomplishments. I have always included the ups and downs and struggles. Our families — especially the older generations — have always been able to relate, as they can remember similar challenges and be glad they are past the “lean years.” Younger family members may have learned from our mistakes. Whatever the reason, our Christmas letter has taken its place as a family tradition.

There have been two noteworthy side benefits of sharing this annual holiday letter. First, I now have nearly a 45-year history of our lives. It is a fun exercise — and almost a tradition in itself — to spend time rereading those old holiday letters. We are now part of the “older generation” who can rejoice in the passing of the more difficult years of our lives together. We are who we are, after all, because of them. The second benefit has been that we hear from extended family and old friends every year as they answer our card and letter. I know we would have lost touch long ago otherwise. So, even if it is only once each year, we still connect.

The history of the Christmas card is very interesting. The custom began in 1843 with Henry Cole, an Englishman who travelled among the social elite of the day and simply had too many friends. It was the custom at that time for friends to send holiday letters. That year marked the beginnings of the “Penny Post” — an expansion of the British postal system that allowed the public to send a letter anywhere in the country by affixing a 1-cent stamp to it. Prior to this development, postage was so expensive that only aristocrats could afford to mail letters.

It was also the custom to answer this holiday correspondence and was considered quite rude if the recipients did not reply promptly. Poor Henry worried about his reputation as he watched his daily correspondence accumulate; he had to find a way to reply. He and his friend, John Horsley, an artist, designed a single card with a festive holiday celebration taking place in the center. This picture was flanked by two smaller panels showing fellow Brits aiding the poor. They had 1,000 cards printed, and the first Christmas card was born.

The first Christmas card appeared in the United States in 1875 and was designed by a Prussian immigrant named Louis Prang. He owned a print shop near Boston and designed a card with a single flower and the brief message, “Merry Christmas.” The first generation of American cards was not what we typically view as representative of the holiday season, but rather vivid, artistic images of nature, animals and scenes that could have taken place in October or February. However, interest grew in these cards to the point where each year the new designs were reviewed in newspapers, like books and movies are today. While reviewers of the day greatly appreciated the artistic renderings on the cards, they found the written sentiments on the back to be greatly lacking

The birth of the modern Christmas card occurred in 1915 when a Kansas City-based postcard company started by the Hall brothers adopted a new format. The new card was uniformly sized at 4 inches wide and 6 inches tall, was folded once, and inserted in an envelope. The Hall brothers eventually grew to become Hallmark, and their new “book format” for the cards became immensely popular. The new cards combined colorful holiday images — both Santa and religious based — with well written messages inside that better captured the spirit of the holidays. Throughout the 1930s to 1950s Christmas cards became very competitive, and Hallmark and its competitors looked for ways to sell their brand. They went so far as to commission famous artists of the day to design the cards. Consequently, artists such as Salvador Dali, Grandma Moses and Norman Rockwell had their work printed on Christmas cards.

In 1962, the Post Office released its first Christmas stamp depicting a wreath, two candles and “Christmas 1962.” The demand was incredible. The first printing of 350 million 4-cent stamps was not nearly enough. A total of one billion copies of that first stamp were printed before the year ended!

Despite the growth of high-tech communication, the Christmas card tradition continues. Indeed, this tradition has grown to include the printing of cards for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and even the Winter Solstice. Granted, the stamps have certainly increased in price since the printing of that first one in 1962, but some things in life transcend their cost. Reaching out with a card — and maybe even a letter — in order to stay in touch with family and friends, from whom we have been separated by time and distance over the years, is simply … priceless!






Sunday: Scenes and sounds, noon; toss across, 1 p.m.; dunking donuts, 2 p.m.; church, 2:15 p.m.

Monday: Room visits, 10 a.m.; brouhaha, 11 a.m.; scenes and sounds, 11:30 a.m.; library cart, 1:30 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; ice cream social, 3 p.m.

Tuesday: Craft, 10:30 a.m.; scenes and sounds, 11:30 a.m.; reminisce, 1 p.m.; Kentucky Derby, 2 p.m.

Wednesday: Coffee kiosk with cinnamon rolls/secret Santa, 8 a.m.; scenes and sounds, 11:30 a.m.

Thursday: Reading buddy, 10:30 a.m.; scenes and sounds, 11:30 a.m.; Bible study, 1:15 p.m.; pokereno, 2 p.m.; “Lawrence Welk,” 4:30 p.m.

Friday: What’s cooking? 11 a.m.; scenes and sounds, 11:45 a.m.; parlor games, 1:15 p.m.; happy hour, 3 p.m.

Saturday: Meet and greet, 10:30 a.m.; daily newspaper, 11 a.m.; scenes and sounds, 11:30 a.m.; oldies but goodies, 1 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; evening news, 6 p.m.

Iron County 

Medical Facility

Crystal Falls

Sunday: One-to-one church visitors, 8:30 to 11 a.m.; room visits 9 to 11 a.m.; How do you feel? 10 a.m.; bingorama, 2 p.m.; Church of Christ, 3 p.m.

Monday: Memory books, 9 to 10:30 a.m.; exercise, 11 a.m.; room visits, 1 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; Sunshine Club, 2:30 p.m.

Tuesday: Book club, 10 a.m.; Catholic Mass,10 a.m.; travel film, 1:30 p.m.; animal kingdom, 2 p.m.; Christmas movie, 6 p.m.

Wednesday: Coffee social/current events, 10 a.m.; exercise, 11 a.m.; Christmas bingo, 2 p.m.

Thursday: Puzzler, 9:30 a.m.; bowling, 10 a.m.; Bible study, 1 p.m.; wildlife film, 1:30 p.m.; Presbyterian church, 2 p.m.; happy hour, 2:30 p.m.

Friday: Crafts, 9 to 10:30 a.m.; exercise, 11 a.m.; room visits, 1 p.m.; monthly birthday party with music and cake, 2 p.m.; musical movie, 6 p.m.

Saturday: “Price is Right” board game and hang man, 10 a.m.; geri-gym, 11 a.m.; intergenerational social hour, 2 p.m.; card club, 6 p.m.

Manor Care


Wet your whistle: 9:30 a.m. Sunday through Saturday except Wednesday.

Exercise: 10 a.m. Sunday through Saturday except Wednesday.

Popcorn Day: Every Friday

Sunday: Just jokes, 10:15 a.m.; company’s coming, 1:30 p.m.; Protestant church, 3 p.m.

Monday: Christmas fun facts 10:15 a.m.; music with Bob Larson, 2 p.m.; pokeno, 5:45 p.m.

Tuesday: Christmas traditions, 10:15 a.m.; Christmas party, entertainment by Paula D, 2 p.m.; movie and manicure, 5:45 p.m.

Wednesday: Christmas social, 9:30 a.m.; Christmas bingo, 2 p.m.; movie, 3:15 p.m.

Thursday: Crosswords, 10:15 a.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; crazy for cards, 5:45 p.m.

Friday: Pokeno, 2 p.m.; movie, 3:15 p.m.

Saturday: Current events, 10:15 a.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; movie, 3:15 p.m.

Maryhill Manor

Niagara, Wis.

Rosary, 8:30 a.m. Sunday through Friday.

Sunday: Help your neighbor, 10:15 a.m.; penny ante, 1:30 p.m.; Protestant service, 2:30 p.m.

Monday: Spelling bee, 10:15 a.m.; Christmas party, 2 p.m.; Chaplet of Divine Mercy, 3 p.m.

Tuesday: Protestant service, 9 a.m.; current events, 10:15 a.m.; Christmas movie and popcorn, 2 p.m.

Wednesday: Catholic Mass, 9 a.m.; Christmas trivia and hot cocoa, 10:15 a.m.; Christmas social/bingo, 2 p.m.

Thursday: Catholic Mass, 9 a.m.; board game — Scattegories, 10:15 a.m.; jokereno, 2 p.m.

Friday: Exercise, 10:15 a.m.; trivia and hot cocoa, 10:30 a.m.; happy hour with Jim D., 2 p.m.

Saturday: Baking, 10:15 a.m.; crafts, 1:30 p.m.; pamper and polish, 2:30 p.m.; bingo, 5:45 p.m.

Victorian Pines

Iron Mountain

Juice time, 10 a.m. Sunday through Saturday except Wednesday and Thursday.

Exercise, 11 a.m. Monday through Friday except Wednesday.

Shopping days: 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, must sign up.

Sunday: Bible study, 1:30 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Monday: Music with Crystal, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.; football: Packers vs. Vikings, 7:15 p.m.

Tuesday: Left-center-right, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.;

Wednesday: Merry Christmas.

Thursday: Communion with Deacon Don, 10 a.m.; birthday party, 2 p.m.; rosary, 3 p.m.

Friday: Bingo, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Saturday: Movie and popcorn, 2 p.m.

Florence Health Services

Florence, Wis.

Morning news, 6 a.m. daily except Wednesday.

Beauty shop open Tuesday and Thursday.

Snack cart, 7 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.

Sunday: Bingo, 10 a.m.; movie with snack, 2 p.m.; Pastor Miller, 3:30 p.m.

Monday: Bingo, 10 a.m.; coffee and chat, 11 a.m.; music with Larry J., 2 p.m.; football: Packers vs. Minnesota, 7:15 p.m.

Tuesday: Christmas jingo, 10 a.m.; eggnog party, 2 p.m.; reminisce, 6:15 p.m.

Wednesday: Open Santa gifts — Christmas morning; Christmas jingo/Christmas word games, 2 p.m.

Thursday: Pastor Jason, 10 a.m.; music with Crystal, 10:30 a.m.; coffee and chat, 11 a.m.; manicures, 2 p.m.; social hour, 3 p.m.

Friday: Catholic church service, 10 a.m.; coffee and chat, 11 a.m.; Flippo, 2 p.m.; social hour, 3 p.m.

Saturday: Bingo/family and friends social time,10 a.m.; coffee and chat, 11 a.m.; trivia, 2 p.m.

Pinecrest Medical Care Facility


Sunday: Grace church, 10:15 a.m.; card games, 10:30 a.m.; Lutheran service, 2 p.m.; reminiscing, 3:30 p.m.

Monday: Santa visits, 9:30 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 p.m.; rosary, 2:30 p.m.; ball toss, 3:30 p.m.; mind joggers, 6 p.m.

Tuesday: Christmas movie 10 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 p.m.; bingo, 1:45 p.m.; social circle, 3:30 p.m.; one-to-one visits, 6 p.m.

Wednesday: Christmas social, 10:30 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45; holiday happy hour, 2 p.m.; “Family Feud,” 3:30 p.m.; rummy, 6 p.m.

Thursday: Exercise, 10:30 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 p.m.; bingo, 1:45 p.m.; cards, 3:30 p.m.; one-to-one visits, 6 p.m.

Friday: Catholic Mass, 10:30 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 a.m.; bunco, 2 p.m.; one-to-one visits, 6 p.m.

Saturday: Movie, 10:15 a.m.; spa treatments, 2 p.m.; sensory, 3:30 p.m.


Note: All centers ask for 24-hour advanced reservations for lunch. Those who have meals delivered who will not be home should notify the center.

Alpha-Mastodon Center


Meal at noon every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Amasa Center


Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Lunch at noon.

Bingo on Tuesdays.

Free meal drawing on Thursdays.

Menu for the week:

Tuesday: Center is closed.

Wednesday: Center is closed.

Thursday: Barbecue pork sandwiches, baked beans and salad.

Breen Center


Meals Monday through Friday.

Treats and coffee, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Evening meals are on the first and third Thursday of the month. Salad bar opens at 4 p.m., with dinner at 5 p.m.

Donations are $4 for age 60 and older and $5 for younger than 60.

Menu for the week:

Monday: Liver or sausage, potatoes and carrots.

Tuesday: Center is closed.

Wednesday: Center is closed.

Thursday: Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and creamed corn.

Friday: Baked fish or spaghetti with meat sauce, and wax beans.

Soup, salad and dessert are offered with every meal. Reservations for meals are encouraged. Walk-ins are welcomed.

Crystal Falls Center

Head cook: Lucy Korhonen


The center is not just for seniors — bring a friend.

Suggested meal donations: $5 if older than 60; $6 if younger than 60; $1 extra for take-out.

To reserve meals, call the center by 1 p.m. with name and number of people.

All dinners include the soup and salad bar, homemade dessert, tea, coffee and milk.

Open: Monday through Wednesday; 4:30 p.m., soup and salad bar; 5 p.m., dinner.

Mondays: Basket weaving after dinner — all are welcome for dinner and/or class. Beginners can make their first basket with materials provided.

Menu for the week:

Monday: Variety of pizzas.

Tuesday: Center is closed.

Wednesday: Center is closed.

Crystal Lake Center

Christine McMahon

906-774-2256, ext. 235

The center is closed on weekends.

Monday: Woodcarvers, 10 a.m.; mahjong in dining hall, noon; Les Artistes Art Club, noon; bridge club, 12:15 p.m.

Tuesday and Thursday: Pinochle, 12:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: Billiards, 9:30 a.m.

Wednesday: Spinning Spools Quilters Guild, 1 p.m., with crafters, scrapbookers and others also welcome; knitting and crocheting class, 1 to 3 p.m.

Thursday: Happy Quilters, 1 p.m.; two-person team cribbage, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Friday: Smear, noon.

The kitchen once again is open and serving meals. A new lunch program is offered from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. every Wednesday. Meals cost $5 for those younger than 60 and a $4 donation for those older than 60.

Home-delivered meal menu for week:

Monday: Creamy vegetable soup and dinner roll.

Tuesday: Chicken stuffing sandwich, and pea salad.

Wednesday: Ham sandwich and carrot salad.

Thursday: Brats, baked beans and winter blend vegetables.

Friday: Cheese ravioli, Italian blend vegetables and garlic bread.

No center-based meals for week:

Note: Beginning in January, night meals will move from Tuesdays to the second and fourth Thursday evenings of each month.

Transportation is available from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call Buzzin’ Around Town at 906-282-0492. Rides are $3 for age 60 and older, and $3.50 for younger than 60. 

Felch Center


Meals served at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Wednesday.

Bingo after lunch on the first and third Wednesday of each month.

A congregate jigsaw puzzle is done daily.

Menu for the week:

Monday: Ham and Swiss cheese sub sandwich, potato chips and side salad.

Tuesday: Center is closed.

Wednesday: Center is closed.

Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County, Wis.


Director: Tiffany White

Suggested donation for seniors older than 60 is $4 per meal. Residents younger than 60 must pay $7. Reservations and cancellations are needed 48 hours in advance.

The ADRC can assist area seniors and those with disabilities with transportation Monday through Friday. Transportation reservation should be made with meal reservation.

Menu for the week:

Monday: Hamburger on a bun with lettuce and tomato, sweet potato fries and fruit.

Tuesday: Centers are closed.

Wednesday: Centers are closed.

Thursday: Beef stew, biscuits, bananas and brownies.

Friday: Pork chops, mashed potatoes, rutabagas and fruit.

Fence Center/Town Hall


For meal reservations, call 855-528-2372

Meal served Wednesday only with the same menu as listed under ADRC of Florence County. Reservations are requested. Cribbage and cards are available.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-528-4261

Home-delivered meals are available. Meal is served at 11:30 a.m. at this center Monday thru Thursday, with the same menu as listed under ADRC of Florence County.

Tipler Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-674-2320

Serving lunch at noon on the second Thursday of the month only, with the same menu as listed under ADRC of Florence County.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora

For meal reservations, call 715-589-4491

Meal is served at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, with the same menu as listed under ADRC of Florence County. Transportation arrangements can be made to and from the meal site.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska


Meal is at noon Monday through Friday. Suggested donation is $3 for age 60 and older and $7 for those younger than 60. Morning coffee is available daily.

Fifteen games of “fun bingo” are played each Tuesday and Friday, along with a 50-50 drawing.

Tuesday: Bingo, 12:45 p.m.

Wednesday: Cards played in the afternoon. Call ahead to see if a game will be going on.

Friday: Bingo, 12:45 p.m.

Monday through Friday: Walking in the gym, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. A treadmill also is available.

Enjoy friendly interaction with other crafters.

Iron River Center


Meals served 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; a $4 donation is encouraged from those 60 and older, and a $5 payment is required from those younger than 60. Thursday meal, 3:30 p.m. soup, 4 p.m. salad bar, with dinner 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Home-delivered meals are available, call 906-774-2256 ext. 235 or ext. 230.

Today: Pancake breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon.; cost is $5.

Menu for the week:

Monday: Cabbage rolls, mixed vegetables, and bread stick.

Tuesday: Center is closed.

Wednesday: Center is closed.

Thursday: Center is closed.

Niagara Northwoods Senior Cafe and Center

Meal site manager: Corrie Maule, 715-251-1603

Senior center director: Jill Anderson, 715-251- 4154

Noon meals served Monday through Thursday. Transportation is available to the meal site for those living in the Niagara, Wis., area. Any senior groups who would like to use the meal site as a meeting place are welcome — join us for lunch then stay for a meeting or social time. Wii games, cards, puzzles and board games are available to play. 

Other activities are in the works — suggestions are always welcome. 

Norway Center

Director: Susie Slining


Monday through Thursday: Meals served at noon, with salad bar. Soup also is available at 11 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Milk, juice, bread, fruit, tea and coffee served daily. Meal donation is $5. Reservation for the meal should be made in advance.

Two special-themed meals take place each month on Tuesday, with bingo, prizes and a 50-50 drawing.

Two evening meals offered at 5 p.m. on the first Monday and third Wednesday of the month, with bingo, prizes and a 50-50 drawing.

Menu for the week:

Monday: Turkey burger, potato wedges, Brussel sprouts, salad bar, fruit, juice, and dessert.

Tuesday: Center is closed.

Wednesday: Center is closed.

Thursday: Sloppy Joes, macaroni and cheese, peas, soup and salad bar, fruit, juice, and dessert.

Cards are played daily after the noon meal.

Craft and exercise classes: Mondays and Thursdays.

Ceramic and art classes: Wednesdays.

Puzzles always in the works.

Note: File of Life packets available at the center.

Sagola Center


Meals: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 11:45 a.m. Cards: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Commodities every other month and quarterly commodities are every three months. A puzzle table is available to enjoy. Volunteers are always welcome. 

Menu for the week:

Tuesday: Center is closed.

Wednesday: Center is closed.

Thursday: Cheese ravioli, breadsticks, carrots and tropical fruit.


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