11 Days Until Christmas...

I'm not really a tradition type of girl. I like spontaneity and enjoy tweaking things to keep it fresh. There are just a handful of Christmas traditions that are really important to me. One of those started just about 5 years ago. My father put together a calendar full of pictures of our entire extended family complete with everyone's birthdays. He made 5 bazillion copies of it and handed it out on Christmas day to all my aunts, uncles & cousins. If you want to know what prompted him to do so, you'll need to ask him. But, I loved it so much that year I decided to take over creation of the calendar starting the next year. It's been a tradition that's stuck.

It's become a project that I love and a holiday gift that keeps giving all year long! Each December I sit down with a little egg nog, turn on some Christmas tunes and pour over pictures of my whole family. What sounds like a relatively simple task becomes quickly complicated when you factor in that my father is one of 8 siblings, who have parented 13 of us. In the last 12 years my cousins have continued to add to the brood bringing our family to 45 members with an additional 3 more to be added in 2010! Amazing and Loud ~ but the loud part is a whole other post.

As you can imagine, gathering pictures of all those people (who are spread all over the country at this point) is no small feat... especially if you want to use pictures that the subject is happy having people look at for a year. This year I asked for submissions. It saved a lot of time.

The project also went more smoothly for another reason. I went digital. In years past, I've purchased decorative paper, printed the pictures and manually arranged them in collages to be copied and assembled at a big box copy store. This time, however, I used Microsoft Publisher to create the calendar digitally instead of scrap booking the thing together. We'll see if the finished product looks cool. It's way more minimalist in design and a lot cleaner to look through. AND, it was definitely less expensive on the production side.

As a side note - about 3 years ago, flush with the success of one family's calendar, I decided to start putting together a birthday calendar for my Mom's immediate family. Since there is such a smaller number of us, it is typically less of a production gathering photos. I've been using Shutterfly to compile and publish the calendar for the past couple years. The layouts, interface and design tools have improved incredibly in a few short years. I luuuurrve that site. Check it out, check it out, check it out.

A family calendar is a relatively simple, inexpensive and a truly personal gift that is useful ALL YEAR LONG. I highly recommend trying it out for your brood, whether you give it away or enjoy it yourself. My family calendars and their production are a holiday tradition that I look forward to and cherish every year.

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