Is this the end for Christmas cards?

So, Twelfth Night tonight and I’m taking down my decorations in order, as tradition dictates, to avoid bad luck.

Or was Twelfth Night yesterday, as some believe, in which case I’m already cursed? I’m always suspicious about bad luck superstitions. They must have been started by someone with a vested interest – perhaps a king or landowner who wanted to put an end to peasants’ carousing so they got back to work?

People are so different when it comes to putting up and taking down decorations. One friend follows the tradition she saw on holiday one year in Austria, where decorations are taken down at Candlemas on February 2nd, whereas one member of my family takes her decorations down on Boxing Day. This may sound rather brutal but she does put them up as soon as she takes down her Halloween trimmings.

This week I saw that one of my favourite Instagrammers – Nancy Birtwhistle – had spent a rainy day turning Christmas cards into gift tags for next year. NANCY (@nancy.birtwhistle) • Instagram photos and videos This prompted many comments from her followers and I read them all because I love this activity too. There was a lot of nostalgia, with people reminiscing about doing this as children with their mother or grandmother way before anyone had heard of upcycling.

The comments started me thinking.

Yes, they gave me many more great ideas for recycling cards (see below) and also joy at the kindness shown in many comments,  but I also started to feel slightly anxious for my beloved Christmas tradition of sending cards.

 More than a few of the comments talked about receiving fewer cards this year. A few reasons were guessed at – pandemic hangover, postal strike fears, but also environmental concerns.

One commentor said they now only sent cards to older relatives or neighbours.

Some people said they were getting more Facebook messages or texts instead of cards. I’m with one of Nancy’s followers who said: ‘A message on FB doesn’t cut it for me.’ And another who wondered if this was the ‘death knell of a lovely Christmas tradition’.

Another said that there was ‘something lovely about taking the time to choose and write a card for someone’. This sums up exactly how I feel.

But are feelings enough? I started wondering if I should be looking in greater depth at this issue. I also read an article about eating your Christmas tree (seriously), in which a writer asks whether in a climate crisis ‘when trees are our best armoury’ we should be cutting down thousands a year.  The best way to get rid of your Christmas tree? Just eat it | Christmas | The Guardian

My heart says:

  • Cards are mini works of art to send to loved ones. I love the images, the artistry and the craft involved.
  • I love to see the individuality of the person who sent them; they might be funny/ religious/animal-oriented or supporting a charity that has been important in the person’s life.
  • I also wonder about the effect on charities if people stopped buying cards that support them.
  • What about the contact that cards give me with people I only contact at Christmas with a card and sometimes a letter? Yes, I could send them an email, but would I really? Apparently sales of greetings cards went up during the pandemic when people couldn’t see each other but wanted to send a message to show they were thinking about each other. You can’t put a Facebook message on the mantelpiece or frame it on the wall.

One of Nancy’s followers said they kept cards from ‘beloved friends and relations no longer here and that way they are present at Christmas for ever.’ A beautiful idea that I intend to adopt.

My head says:

  • I just don’t know enough about it. I’ve given myself another resolution – to do more research so I can make an informed decision for next Christmas. A mere 11 months away.

Recycling Christmas cards? Follow Nancy’s followers:

Make banners or bunting (easy to store, put up, take down)/turn cards into mini calendars/ make bookmarks to include with a book gift. Another good idea is to turn birthday cards into Thank You cards

One follower talks about girl guides making mini boxes to give with chocolates inside for Christmas lunch fancies to be given out in care homes.

Activities recommended for schools include:

  •  recycling cards into postcards for next Christmas
  •  making bookmarks

Incidentally, I came up with my own recycling idea as I was dismantling last year’s office calendar for recycling.  It’s a Royal Academy calendar with beautiful pictures. I always use some of the pictures to make a colourful office wall display. But perhaps reading Nancy’s followers’ ideas gave me inspiration.

The calendar pages have images but also the days of each month, of course. I plan to use the pages as personalised gift wrap with the birthday girl or boy’s name emblazoned on the date.


New Year’s resolutions for less waste in 2023

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions you could do a lot worse than thinking about what you’ll do better waste-wise next Christmas. 

When I say ‘you’, of course, I mean me, but feel free to join me if the cap fits.

I’m resolving that last year’s festive fails will be this year’s gains if I’m to reduce my family’s contribution to the huge waste mountain created annually at this time of year.

This will be achieved through my being more organised. Those of a certain age might remember the advert that coined the phrase Vorsprung Durch Technik (Progress Through Technology). I like to think of my New Year’s resolutions as Vorsprung Durch List-making. I’m calling it my Christmas Listmas.

 You may make resolutions now but, believe me, you will forget them if you don’t write them down. Christmas turns us all into goldfish brains. A kind of Christmas insanity descends like a thick fog and chokes us all in its suffocating vapours until we can no longer think straight.

  • Write a Memo to Self – I’m writing down all the areas for improvement while they’re fresh in my mind. I’ll be leaving this list on top of the Christmas decorations for the new me to find in December. It was only when I started feeling sick after over-eating a melted camembert with sticky fig sauce that I remembered I had resolved last year never to eat it again. But you see I didn’t write it down and I’ve slept since then. Likewise, if you’re the sort of person who bought next year’s presents in the Boxing Day sales (hello, mum-in-law!), add a note of the presents and their hiding places to the list. You won’t remember where you put Auntie Ethel’s present and you won’t remember who you bought the novelty gorilla slippers for, apart from the fact it wasn’t Auntie Ethel.
  • Make a request – None of us want to become the kind of person that people cross the street to avoid for fear of getting an eco-lecture, but surely we can ask those closest to us to buy eco-friendly Christmas cards for us and to wrap our present in recyclable paper, even if it’s as simple as avoiding glitter, foil, ribbon etc?
  • Do some research in advance – Check out toy rental companies, such as Whirli, and companies that rent Christmas trees. If you leave it too late you’ll probably forget your good intentions.
  • Avoid Oops, I Did it Again syndrome – Don’t overcook. I read a great article that said no one needs more than two side dishes, three if you must. This was news to me, raised on my mother’s traditional dozen side dishes. But it’s true; there’s only so much anyone can eat. So next year I’ll be going for three. I may let the family vote for what they consider sacrosanct. Are Yorkshire puddings with Christmas dinner a Yorkshire/Northern thing? I only ask because I noted that Mary Berry didn’t include any in her Ultimate Christmas programme and she is the authority as far as I’m concerned. Making Christmas dinner, my husband got so sick of me saying ‘Mary Berry says…’ that he threatened to rip off his Santa pinny and resign as my sous-chef. 
  • Research other recipes – I think my sons would agree there was a little too much post-Christmas bubble and squeak, so I’ll be coming up with different ways with leftovers. I found a great sprout recipe – Cheesy Sprout Bake – on Beckett’s Farm Shop Insta  Award Winning Farm Shop & Rest (@beckettsfarm) • Instagram photos and videos involving bacon, spices and cheese sauce. I’ll also be trying this Abel and Cole recipe for Boxing Day burritos that I found, alas, too late – Boxing Day Burritos Recipe | Abel & Cole ( –  as well as one for ragged sprout leaves – shred and toss leaves in batter with spices before frying in oil to make crunchy bhajis.
  • Give away some decorations – You know you have too many and some people have none. Last summer my cousin suffered what we in our family call the Great Christmas Decorations Tragedy, involving her husband clearing ‘rubbish’ out of the garage while she was at work…I don’t think I need to go into the grisly details, but in giving her a box of our decorations it cleared space for us and gave her some festive cheer.
  • Make the break – If you’d like to suggest that perhaps you could stop buying a present for your 35-year-old nephew who’s an investment banker, now is the time. Don’t wait until the run-up to Christmas because you’ll lose your nerve. Remember that Christmas insanity fog? It sets in after Halloween.
  • Get into composting now (if you haven’t already) – then you’ll be ‘speaking compost’ like a native by December. Never again will you suffer Bin Day Anxiety as you wonder how much longer you’ll be tripping over (or smelling) your bags of waste. Instead, you’ll be comfortably composting your food waste, wrapping paper and cardboard boxes. Plus, if your council is one of the 50 per cent in England which have yet to switch to separate food waste collections, you’ll be an old hand at separating your leftovers into a kitchen caddy, so the change will be painless.
  • Through the festive fog, always remember what matters – Our induction hob stopped working two days before Christmas. Despite fearing I was going to have a meltdown, in actual fact I came to my senses. While waiting for the electrician, I realised that this really wasn’t a disaster; if we had to eat tuna sarnies for Christmas dinner, would it really matter in the scheme of things? This year’s mishap is next year’s anecdote. Too soon? Ok, whenever.

PS. The electrician saved the day but the lesson I learned still stands.

 I may write an inspirational book called ‘The Woman, the Turkey, the Hob and the Meltdown’ in time for next Christmas.


Our 12 tips of Christmas

Still on the topic of sustainability at Christmas, here are a few more tips to add festive joy without waste to landfill.

  • Borrow Christmas

If you have ever wished it was possible to ‘borrow Christmas’ by renting as much as possible, check out this article in the Observer Christmas for hire: shoppers turn to renting for trees, toys and outfits | UK cost of living crisis | The Guardian with ideas on renting toys, bikes, clothes, tables and sofas to cope with an influx of guests, as well as table decorations.

  • Buy sustainably

 One of my favourite things at this time of year is Christmas cards. Controversial, I know, to those who would ban them if they could. But I believe it’s possible to buy carefully, sustainably and recyclably, (avoiding glitter, foil, ribbon etc) and buying cards that are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified so you know the paper used has been sustainably and ethically produced. Greetings card companies know that consumers increasingly want products that are as sustainable as possible and are raising their game as a result.

Recycle cards

  • Remember to remove any items that can’t be recycled – glitter, foil, ribbons, batteries in musical cards. Many supermarkets and household recycling sites have card drop-off points.
  • Make gift tagsYou don’t have to be creative to make gift tags from old cards – both Christmas cards and ordinary birthday cards – so you never have to buy them. Or cut out images for children to make their own cards next year.

Recycle wrapping paper

  • If your wrapping paper stays in a ball when you scrunch it up it can be recycled (providing it’s not covered in glitter). If it unfurls itself, it can’t. Remove plastic tape. If you retrieve paper as people discard it you can smooth it out and reuse it. 
  • Save your stamps

Don’t forget you can save stamps for charities.  Most charities accept all stamps, including new or used, first or second-class and foreign.

Stamps are sold by weight so the more the better for raising much-needed funds.

 Cut the stamp off the envelope making sure to leave roughly 1cm of envelope bordering the stamp.

  • Compost at Christmas

Where suitable, our cards get recycled or torn up to provide valuable carbon content in our Green Johanna and Compost Tumbler compost bins, helping to keep the composting process going throughout the winter months.

At Christmas, composting really comes into its own. We know that when it comes to food, reducing waste is best but if you have unavoidable waste, it’s great to put it through the composting cycle to return as soil food in the spring. For great advice on reducing food waste see the Kitche food waste app at and Love Food Hate Waste.

Composting your food waste and biodegradable cards and wrapping paper also means not having the annual problem of storing growing piles of black bin bags while anxiously awaiting the first refuse collection in January.

Anything you could wish to know about composting can be found on Rod Weston’s website. The following tips from the website are especially useful for Christmas:

  • Composting Christmas trees – shred them first to increase the surface area exposed to the composting microbes to speed decomposition. If a shredder is not available, branches can be cut into thumb-size pieces but these will be slow to compost and it is easier to donate the tree to the local authority to be shredded into chippings which are then used locally in parks. Local authorities often arrange drop-off points in January.
  • Pine needles can be composted or turned to leaf mould but they will be slow to decompose and any significant quantities are best treated separately from deciduous leaves.

Here are a few more tips from my go-to green bible – Jen Gale’s The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide.

  • Rent a real tree for Christmas. More and more places are offering this service – you return the tree for them to look after the rest of the year.
  • Use reusable crackers – ( They slot together for you to fill yourself and can be used year after year.
  • Check Freecycle or charity shops to pick up items donated by people who are having a clear-out. Julie

Spare Parts