Evolving Holiday Traditions and Our First Family Christmas Card

For the last couple of years, Will and I have been cutting down our own Christmas tree at a Christmas tree farm in Southern California. It’s truly a novelty in our climate: 70°F and sunny, palm trees swaying in the breeze, eager families in sneakers and T-shirts winding their way through acres of Monterey pines…

Linda Ly
Evolving holiday traditions, our first family Christmas card, and a Minted giveaway

For the last couple of years, Will and I have been cutting down our own Christmas tree at a Christmas tree farm in Southern California.

It’s truly a novelty in our climate: 70°F and sunny, palm trees swaying in the breeze, eager families in sneakers and T-shirts winding their way through acres of Monterey pines and Leyland cypresses.

Taking our Christmas tree home

We’ve always brought our whole family to the tree farm, which—until this year—was just us and our two pugs.

The first year, we must have covered a couple of miles as we ambled through the farm in search of our tree.

First year at the Christmas tree farm

Last year, we came to the farm when I was 6 months pregnant and in full stretchy-waistband mode before all the holiday feasting even started.

Second year at the Christmas tree farm

And this year, we have a cute new addition to our holiday tradition! (The two- and four-legged children were clearly distracted by all the people out of frame!)

Also different this year: The pugs, now almost 15 and 14 years old, get to be pulled around in a wagon.

Third year at the Christmas tree farm
Pugs at the Christmas tree farm

Our dear friends also joined us for the first time, and it was so fun to walk along the rows of pine trees while their kids pulled the wagon and even carried the baby at one point!

Kids at the Christmas tree farm

This is one of the things I’ve absolutely loved since bringing Gemma into the family—activities that used to involve just the two (or four) of us have evolved into new traditions that only become merrier and more meaningful.

Read more: Starting Our Oregon Christmas Tree Tradition

I already thought it was pretty special to spend an afternoon with my husband, walking ’round and ’round till we found the perfect pine, and taking the annual obligatory butt shot while he knelt on the ground and cut down our tree.

Cutting down our Christmas tree

But being able to share that experience with Gemma (even though she’s far too young to remember it right now) and continuing a tradition that will hopefully be one of the highlights of her childhood… it all feels extra special.

Related: Locals’ Secret: Where to Cut Your Own Christmas Tree in Oregon’s National Forests

And speaking of traditions, we started another one this year that I hope I’ll be disciplined enough to keep up every year!

We made family Christmas cards for the first time, which is kind of crazy considering Will and I have been together for 10 years. But we hadn’t felt a need to until we had a baby, and sharing an annual portrait with a little update seemed like a wonderful way to show our loved ones (especially the ones who weren’t on social media) how our family had grown over the past year.

Minted offered us a complimentary set of cards to try their service and tell you what we thought of the process, from initial design to finished product. I was already familiar with Minted from being on their mailing list, so I was excited for the opportunity to partner with them.

Since we skipped official birth announcements when Gemma was born, we decided to go all out on the Christmas cards and fill them with pictures of the baby. (Because let’s be honest, the family and friends who will be receiving them really just want to see her, not us!)

Holiday photo cards from Minted

We went with a surf-themed family portrait at our local beach (which we took ourselves with the help of a remote trigger) and hallelujah, we found a shot where all of us were smiling with our eyes open at the same time!

Garden Betty family Christmas portrait

Once we chose our picture, I uploaded it to Minted through the “Find It Fast” option so I could see our picture sampled on all of their card designs. I loved this feature, although it was good and bad that there were so many to choose from! I must have spent hours browsing their design library.

The options we chose for our folding card were signature paper (a lovely matte cardstock), gold glitter foil press, six images inside the card with a personal message, solid red backing, gold glitter slip-in envelope liners, return addressing, and recipient addressing.

I especially liked the fact that Minted offers matching envelopes with free recipient addressing; you either upload a spreadsheet with your mailing list or add them manually in the Address Assistant. The addresses remain in your account so you can order future cards more easily.

(I took the time to do this as I love giving and receiving paper invitations and greetings, so hopefully having my address book already online will inspire me to send more of them later on.)

Family Christmas card
Gold glitter foil-pressed cards

Because we weren’t able to include our pugs in the photo shoot, we decided to design a set of custom postage stamps with their image on it. Seeing the stamps with the pugs in their festive red sweaters makes me smile every time.

Custom postage stamps

Our order arrived in a timely manner and was packaged beautifully. They also included a stack of vellum sheets to slip inside the cards to help prevent ink transfer during postal handling. The envelope liners did require assembly, but the hubby and I just set aside a couple of evenings to stick them inside the envelopes and write personal notes in the cards.

It was a satisfying and meditative ritual, and we loved doing it together while reminiscing on the past year and sipping merlot.

We already can’t wait to shoot and design next year’s cards!

This post is brought to you by Minted. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that support Garden Betty.


  1. My favorite holiday traditions are looking at the holiday lights around the neighborhood and singing Christmas songs.

  2. Christmas traditions abide! The music begins playing at Thanksgiving; once the manger scene is up – the travelers make their LONG journey (each day they move a little closer to Bethlehem – they reach their destination on Christmas Eve and baby Jesus arrives Christmas day, of course); we search the fields for our perfect tree to be freshly cut for our home and decorations and admiration; speaking of the tree decorations – all of the handmade ornaments go up first and then all the sentimental ones collected throughout the years going back to everyone’s childhood; Oh!, and the Christmas cards – I love the photo cards the best and spend hours designing ours (that includes the shoot, post-processing, and then layout/design); I try to include a holiday letter about our year, but I only do that about every 2 to 3 years (I should make it an annual thing, but … that too takes me a great deal of effort and time – and that’s at a premium these days!). We have traditional holiday dinners too. Christmas is wrapped and steeped in traditions and labors of love. 🙂 Happy Christmas to you and your family!!! Peace be yours.

  3. We’ve just celebrated our 7th gingerbread house decorating with my son and niece, where we recycle the unpopular Halloween candy and bake the gingerbread from scratch. This year was mid-century modern houses!

  4. My favorite holiday tradition is our “twelve days of christmas” where everyday is a riddle/puzzle to a little present. Thanks for the opportunity!

  5. I got an advent house last year with drawers for each day of December. My four year old daughter loves to pop out of bed each morning to see what the elf friend “Jingle” has brought her!

  6. For instead of shopping, I am grateful my abundance and share it with people in need. I pack up all my unwanted goods and donate it to a charity. This year, I’m giving loads away to a women and children shelter.

  7. My favorite holiday tradition is trying out new recipes. I am going to bake a chocolate guinness cake this year!

  8. you have the most beautiful, joyful family! My most favorite tradition is the meal- there is something so intimate about sharing and preparing food together.

  9. we used to take the kids to the Christmas tree farm out in Ruby, Michigan, stop for cocoa and donuts before heading home. But know we’re in FL and it’s a whole different way of doing Christmas – I have to say that I love the trees you have out in CA

  10. My husband and I love to pick out and decorate our Christmas tree each year. Can’t wait to start some new traditions when our little one arrives in a few months.

  11. decorating the tree for us 🙂 though i have pretty bad morning sickness at the moment and haven’t been in my usual full on decorating mode. and can i just say your christmas cards make me so bummed that i live somewhere cold hahaha :p

  12. I love your cards, so sweet! We used Minted for ours this year too (as well as our 2nd baby’s birth announcements in September!). And what a great tradition to go cut your tree down as a family 🙂

    This will be our third Christmas since having kids and my husband actually insisted on our tradition: staying home and letting us all wake up in our own house on Christmas morning. We have lived out of state from our families for 10 years so while that sounds strange, it’s actually a big deal for us not to travel. Merry Christmas to you all!

    1. I know exactly what you mean. This year we decided to stay home for both holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) and while it was sad to not see our families who all live several hours away, it was really nice to relax, avoid the stress of peak travel season, and wake up in our own bed.

  13. I read your post in my email box but had to click the post to leave a comment because the main photo is AMAZING and made me giggle out loud. Her positioning on the board, etc. etc oh my gosh its precious.

  14. I love making “mix tapes” and sharing with my loved ones — I used to actually burn CDs and mail them out but now I share a special playlist online 🙂

  15. My new favorite holiday tradition is one we just started this year, but that I look forward to continuing for many years. Our son, Jackson, was stillborn full term last December 16, 2016. As we approach what would have been his birthday this year we wanted to do something special as an act of rememberance. Our local Lions Club sets up memorial Christmas trees that are displayed for the month of December in a group outside the public library in town in an event called Eternal Illumination. We bought a tree for Jackson and we decorated it with ornaments to feed the birds. We made some from birdseed, some from dried fruits (the citrus look like stained glass in front of the lights when they are lit), and some popcorn/cranberry garland. I love that his tree is in a communal space of rememberance. Also, that in rememberance of his short life, we will be providing life giving sustenance to our bird (and probably squirrel and racoon) friends. We are getting together with friends and family a few days before his birthday to make more ornaments (as the tree will be up for a month and hopefully – if the birds eat the ornaments – will need replenishing) and also craft lanterns from old bail top mason jars that we don’t use for canning and tissue paper. On his birthday we will have a lantern lit procession from our apartment to his tree and share words/poems/music in rememberance of him. Before and after the procession, we will have snacks and hot drinks at our place and make available the photo book we put together of his time in my belly, his birth and the day we spent with him in the hospital. We hope it will be a way for people to get to meet him that didn’t and to keep his memory alive. After reading about your holiday card, I’m thinking that my husband and I might take a picture of the two of us with his tree and make that our card. If we are blessed to have more children, we will be able to always included Jackson in our holiday photo by taking it by his tree. Thanks for the idea!

  16. I love wrapping up the gifts. And then watching the kids open up their presents. On Christmas morning of course!

  17. Now that my kids are grown, my favorite holiday tradition is simply preparing and eating our Christmas meal together.

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