Holiday tradition preserves family history

By Tara Bitzan

ScrapbookingBarbara Clauson of Alexandria loves connecting with family and friends through what is a long-standing annual tradition for her and for many others: Christmas cards.
With her two children almost grown – Hadley is a freshman at California Lutheran University and Gabe is a junior at Jefferson High School in Alexandria – Clauson finds that the annual photos and letters serve as a family history, preserving memories of things that otherwise might be forgotten.
Clauson is originally from Hadley, a small village in southwest Minnesota that is also the namesake of her daughter. A business opportunity brought the family to Alexandria many years ago.
Clauson is now a corporate trainer for Principal Financial Group, a financial services company located in Des Moines, Iowa.
She gets her creative outlet from decorating, preparing for and hosting gatherings, and creating her annual Christmas cards and letters.

What are your passions?
Raising my children has been my biggest passion over the past two decades, which has been as humbling as it has rewarding. I always say I collect people, as I am curious about people’s stories.  I like to know a little about a lot of things (which means I’m not very good at any of them!) Writing, decorating, music and anything to do with prepping and having a little party are some of my favorite interests.

Is Christmas your
favorite holiday?
Actually, I haven’t met a holiday I don’t like. The 4th of July and Thanksgiving may be my favorites because they’re all about fun, friends and family, and food. No big expectations for gifts. But Christmas is always special because it’s a bit magical and steeped in great tradition from the meaning of the day, to the church service, to cookie exchanges and Santa pictures. Every year my children still buck up and get a photo with Santa!

Why do you send
Christmas cards?
I have always been a card sender and a woman who likes words! They have become part of our family tradition. And as much as I like writing, I love tradition. I love opening up the mail and getting news from a friend. And I love picture cards. When I was

young, I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder books. She wrote about getting a little cake dusted in sugar or making sugar cookies with great detail. In that time, something created by hand was a treasure… I think it’s easy to forget the beautiful little gifts we can make and give – the gift of time, a letter, cookies and a kind word.
Do you send cards for other occasions during the year?
I am TERRIBLE at sending cards for the stuff you’re supposed to – birthdays, anniversaries, special events. I am better at sending a note now and then if I’m thinking about someone.

Do you like receiving cards at Christmas?
Holiday cards are some of our best gifts! I have so many talented, creative friends who send beautiful cards and letters. Through the years, the kids have raced to the mailbox to see who sent one.
Like many families, we hang all the pictures on our doors and keep them up until they start to fall off!

Why is this tradition important?
I’d recommend that every year, whether you send it or not, take a family picture and write the highlights of your year. You don’t think you’ll forget these things, but most of us do. It’s family history worth capturing; you’ll never regret it!

Do you go “all out” with other Christmas traditions?
I wouldn’t say “all out” but I may have a friend or two who think I get a little ridiculous. I enjoy dressing up the house, cookie exchanges, sharing the season. What I’ve learned through the years is to do what I love and don’t worry about the rest.
A few of my friends hate sending cards; I tell them to stop sending them! Do what you love WITH love and the season is a lot more fun.

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