The Unexpected Reason to Save Old Holiday Cards

published Nov 27, 2022
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Close up of young man opening envelope and smiling while standing indoors
Credit: G-Stock Studio/

Postal boxes are typically filled with junk mail and dreaded bills, but late November through the end of the year actually gives you a reason to look forward to heading to the mailbox: holiday cards. From cute photos to beautiful greetings filled with family updates, checking the mailbox is perhaps one of my personal favorite holiday activities. However, what are you supposed to do with the cards once the season passes? 

While you may opt to save the family photos and tuck away the personal letters, you’re also left with lovely little art pieces that are sometimes hard to toss. Before you throw them away or stuff them into the recycle bin, consider upcycling those cards into things you can share with others. Here’s what a few avid DIYers told Apartment Therapy about how they reuse their old holiday cards. 

Recycle holiday cards into holiday postcards.

Whether it’s a card front topped with an idyllic winter scene or a funny illustration that makes you laugh, resend it as a postcard. “For this idea to work, the back of the front flap of the card needs to be blank,” says Kayla Hutchinson. “You then cut the front flap of the card off.” Just be sure that the remaining card is at least 3-½” high x 5” long x 0.007” thick, which is the regulation set by the U.S. Postal Service. Bonus: The mailing cost cheaper for a postcard than a letter stamp.

Credit: Ani Dimi/Stocksy

Cut holiday greetings to make gift tags.

If a card isn’t large enough to make into a postcard or the design isn’t suitable, use it to add panache to your Christmas presents. “My grandmother taught me this simple trick: Create gift tags for next year out of old holiday cards,”says Erika Kotite. Doreen Catena also upcycles her cards into tags and explains, “I use holiday cards as gift tags by using a 3-inch-wide circle punch and a small hole punch for string.” Next, write the recipient’s name, and secure the tag to the present using twine or ribbon. It’s a simple, high-impact project.

Collage a bunch of old cards into upcycled new ones.

Crafting is fun, especially around the holiday season. “I give old holiday cards to my kids to recycle into new handmade cards the next holiday,” says Natalie Stern. “They love to cut out the images and phrases to collage together into their own original Christmas card creations.” (Of course, this project is perfect for adults, too.) Stern then sends the redone cards to those who need cheering up around the holidays, such as folks in nursing homes and deployed military members.