My favorite gift every year is the family calendar my sister produces. She started doing it at least ten years ago, maybe fifteen, and since each page features a montage of family photos, I’ve got quite the collection saved up. Wouldn’t dream of discarding such treasures.
It’s a huge hit with the whole family, as you can imagine, with everyone responsible for submitting their favorite photos from the past year, usually by Thanksgiving, so Sis will have time to assemble/produce and mail it to everyone for Christmas.
When she started, Mom and Dad were still with us, and several of us five sibs were married and had kids. Over the years those kids have grown up and married and had their own kids, so quite a herd of spouses and grandchildren has developed. Certainly no shortage of pics each year! (And of course the person doing the calendar gets to select and feature her favorites from those submitted!) My sis doesn’t take/have the time to label or caption the pics in any way, so I finally made up a family tree diagram to tuck in the back of my calendar, just so I could remember all the names of people like my sister’s in-laws, and the names of all her grandchildren, in chronological order. (Yeah, yeah, I should know, but to make sure, I keep that cheat sheet.)
She uploads all the pictures to Shutterfly now and produces the wall calendars from there. A previous company’s product was not as nice. Excellent quality, heavy stock, 8.5 x 11 pages, showing all the major holidays and everyone’s birthday, and Mom and Dad’s anniversary. I think you can add anything you want — family reunions, etc. — but just keeping track of all the family birthdays is a major accomplishment.
It’s a cherished (and practical) gift that’s grown a lot over the years. Lots more people on the calendar (fewer of us old farts and lots more of the kids), and lots more calendars to produce and mail. It can’t be inexpensive to do, but I guarantee we’d all chip in rather than have it discontinued.
Our 2009 calendar even featured a surprise cover shot, an old sepia-toned family photo we all sat for back in the Fifties. It had been a number of years since I’d seen that picture, and now I have my own copy.
If you want to start a very worthwhile Christmas tradition in your family, begin doing these calendars. But you’d better love doing it and understand the job will probably grow through the years. Also, it will probably be a permanent job, because once the family gets something like this, they’ll want it every year.