Hamilton Family Holiday Cards since 1991

In December of 1991 at the urging of my wife, I began creating an annual holiday card. I keep a copy of each one in a portfolio but recently decided to make them web-accessible. This web page provides an image along with a written summary of each card.

The years are displayed in reverse order, with the most recent being at the top of the page. Click here to go to the bottom of the page (1991) or select whichever year you prefer from the list below.

The 1990's

1991: Sayville house
1992: Train station
1993: Modern Diner
1994: Lighthouse
1995: Marshfield house
1996: Cardinals
1997: Santa card
1998: Snowgolfer
1999: Sledding child
The 2000's
2000: 2000-1 ornament
2001: Cat & ornament
2002: Soccer Santa
2003: Driveway angel
2004: Weather vane
2005: Swiss Santa
2006: M-field house 2
2007: Cats
2008: Mailbox
2009: Santa driving
The 2010's
2010: Footbridge
2011: Road signs
2012: Swedish Tomte
2013: Marshfield town
2014: Tree collage
2015: Santa & mer-deer
2016: Botticelli angel
2017: Pickleball Santa
2018: Traditions
2019: AOL CDs
The 2020's
2020: 2020 Symbolism

2020: 2020 Symbolism


2020, the Covid year, I expressed my anger and hope in some illustrations on the front and two limericks inside:

There once was a year of no fun
Truth said, we're glad that it's done
There were bad things a plenty
So goodbye 2020
Hello 2021!

In fact, though, it wasn't all hateful
We're eating good food by the plateful
There's wine and there's beer
In this horrible year
And for that, we will always be grateful


2019: AOL CDs


In the mid-1990s, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) filled our mailboxes with CDs promising hours and hours of free Internet access. It is not an underestimate to say that the average consumer received two or three such CDs some weeks. These were the early days of the Internet when most people had dial-up access. CDs were a convenient way to get software onto a computer without a lengthy download, and, with various companies like Prodigy, Juno, MSN, Earthlink, and America Online (AOL) competing for customer share, the CDs began to pile up in most households. Add to that the CDs that came from computer software and special offers, and the number of CDs multiplied. I collected them at home and at work and put them into boxes with the idea of making an art project out of them someday, perhaps a suit of armor or a mobile. That day has come. In cleaning out the basement earlier this year I discovered I had approximately 1,200 CDs. More than one hundred and fifty of them came from AOL, starting with version 3.0 and ending with version 9.0. I had also been given more than one hundred Kodak Photo CDs, with their distinctive golden branding. The question became: What was I going to do with them all?

I have been creating an annual holiday card since 1991. Early on, most of them were silkscreen prints, some of which I hand colored. Over time I transitioned to computer prints that had as their basis electronic designs, watercolors, collages, or photos. One such example is
2014 when I made a holiday-themed collage out of items I found in the basement, including a set of vintage encyclopedias, a rack of billiard balls, and various tools and nails. This year I decided to make something out of the CDs.



I chose an unfinished wall in the basement and painted it white. Then I began nailing CDs to the wall in offset rows resembling a fish-scale pattern. These CDs were to form the background of the design. Most CDs have a silver reflective surface on the back so I used these with the back side facing out. It wasn't long before I realized that I was creating a mirrored surface and that this would present some interesting challenges when the time came to photograph the collage (more on that later).



Very early on, before the entire wall was covered with CDs, I started experimenting with design ideas, particularly how to use what I considered to be the main design elements: the reflective silver-backed CDs, the gold Kodak Photo CDs, and the selection of AOL CDs. I envisioned a golden Christmas tree on a silver background with ornaments made of AOL CDs.

I soon discovered that the backs of some CDs weren't silver. Some were blue or purplish red. I used these for the background at the base of the design. I imagined them forming a horizon upon which I would build the Christmas tree. In all there are 60 overlapping rows of CDs. Each row had either eleven or twelve CDs. It took between five and six hours to lay down this background of nearly 700 CDs.



On top of that base I layered the gold Kodak Photo CDs to form the tree, and initially to make a border around the design. One of the first things I did was to determine the proper aspect ratio for the final design. I knew that I wanted to print on an 8.5 by 11 inch sheet, which I would then fold into a card. That meant that the finished design would need the right aspect ratio for half of that space, in other words, a 5.5 by 8.5 inch rectangle.

Some issues arose immediately. First, the mirrored nature of the CDs meant that instead of a silver background, those areas reflected areas of the basement that I did not wish to appear in the photo. I hoped to resolve this with better lighting and some white drop cloths. Second, the level of contrast that I had hoped for was simply not there. This convinced me that I needed to use a simple, identifiable triangle that accentuated the form of the Christmas tree. Subtle designs, such as using the Photo CDs to simulate the branches of the tree, were not going to be easy for the viewer to see.

I moved away from the gold border as well, choosing instead to bring the focus to the tree itself, which in the final version is just an equilateral triangle. This also helps to focus attention on the various AOL CDs that hang on the tree like ornaments.



Once the design was finalized, I did the best that I could with lighting and took some pictures of the final result. They were okay, but they lacked the contrast that I’d hoped for. I needed help. Kate Sullivan, a Photoshop whiz, came to the rescue, lightening up the tree and making it (and its ornaments) stand out against the background.

Needing a greeting to go inside the card, I wondered out loud what holiday wish might start with the letters A-O-L. Amy solved that problem with the suggestion: "All Our Love."

Here's the link to a video I made of the CDs on the wall in our basement.



2018: Traditions


My pen and watercolor cartoon on December traditions was scanned and reduced for printing on our home printer. This card included two small sheets printed on both sides with photographs. One of the photos showed the family gathering we had in Wilton, Connecticut to celebrate my mother's life. Text on the back of the card highlighted the events of the year including the completion of my book, The Black Cats of Amherst, our adventure hosting a young Hungarian named Áron Kuna who we welcomed into our home for three months as part of his gap year, and the news that Gavin and Jen would be getting married the following September.

The greeting we chose: "Whatever you celebrate, we hope you have a great 2019!"

2017: Pickleball Santa


A watercolor of a pickle-ball playing Santa highlights the new sports craze that has charmed Amy and me. In this image, Santa and his wife play against a pair of unfortunate gingerbread men. The card is accompanied by an eight-line poem and a photo from Olivia's college graduation.

A racquet sport with a silly name
Pickleball is Santa's game.
Sure he's jolly, sure he's merry,
But he's also very, very

Competitive, as you can see
Santa takes pickleball seriously.
So on the court (or even near it)
Please make room for Christmas spirit!

2016: Botticelli angel


Amy and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a trip to Italy. I was inspired by a Botticelli angel for this watercolor that was scanned and printed on an off-white sheet. A four-line poem served as the greeting:

Inspiration from one of Italy's
Finest artists: Sandro Botticelli
A pensive angel and some lilies
To wish you and yours: Buon Natale!

This was also the year that Wanda Hamilton became a great-grandmother, so we included a photo of her with her granddaughter, Noelle, who came to see her at Newfield House, the nursing home Mom lived at for the last three years of her life. The back of the card has a photo of Amy and me in Tuscany celebrating our 25th anniversary and another one of Gavin and Olivia back home for Christmas.

2015: Santa & mer-deer


The scuba-geared Santa and mer-deer is a watercolor that was scanned, combined with a four-stanza poem and a photo, and printed on an 8.5" by 11" sheet. It was folded in half and put into a large envelope with a special logo printed on it: "1991-2015, 25 years of holiday cards." The accompanying photo showed the family at Gavin's graduation from the University of Illinois. Here's the poem:

Mostly bird but partly fish
Penguins seem quite mermaidish
Happy both on land and sea
They help Santa joyously

Underwater Rudolph changes
Gains some fins and rearranges
Santa, though, needs scuba gear
For delivering Christmas cheer

"No! No!" You say, "These must be lies!
He doesn't swim. I'm sure he flies.
And Rudolph doesn't change himself.
A penguin, too, is not an elf."

Though you may doubt this soggy fable
Let's hope this year that you are able
To make a holiday wish come true
For someone near and dear to you

2014: Tree collage


The plan was to make a design based on objects found in our basement. This photo collage consists of four vintage encyclopedias from a set my Dad had as a kid, a blue tarp, a set of pool balls, a yellow golf ball, a wine bottle cork, and a selection of nails and tools (the latter spell out "Let It Snow"). The inside caption reads "May your days be merry and bright" and is a companied by a family photo from Wanda Hamilton's 92nd birthday party at the Village at Duxbury.

2013: Marshfield town


A stylized computer drawing of various Marshfield, Massachusetts landmarks includes the submarine tower, Haddad's Restaurant, the Webster house, and our neighborhood. In the distance you can see First Parish Church of Duxbury. Hidden in plain sight are a golfing snowman (aiming at a pin flag from Green Harbor Golf Club), Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer, a snow angel, a snowplow, and a fishing boat with a "Merry Christmas" banner. Photos pick up on Olivia's (and Ebba's) graduation and the start of Olivia's freshman year at Belmont University in Nashville. The greeting: "And a Happy New Year!"

2012: Swedish Tomte


A Swedish-themed computer-generated design was the choice because this was the year we hosted Ebba, an AFS exchange student from Sweden. The Santa-like character is a 'Tomte.' The greeting reads: " 'Gladje' means 'Joy' in Swedish: May your holidays be filled with joy!"

2011: Road signs


This stylized image of the road signs is from a photograph taken at the intersection of Routes 139 and 3A in Duxbury.



The image was posterized and recolored to get this effect, before printing it out with departure photos of Gavin and Olivia. The greeting: "Happy Holidays! From our corner of the world to yours." This card was sent in a red envelope.

2010: Footbridge


This drawing of the Keville Footbridge in Marshfield (out back of the CVS near Dandelion Park) was done in white gouache on black paper, scanned, reduced, computer-colored, and printed on our home printer. The greeting: "Happy Trails to You!" The symbolism of trails is related to Gavin's impending college freshman year and Olivia's year in Belgium as an American Field Service (AFS) exchange student.

2009: Santa driving


This image of Santa and Rudolph in a car driving in a snowy landscape was painted in white gouache on black paper, scanned, reduced, and colored on our computer, then printed at home on card stock. The theme of driving aligned with Gavin getting his driver's license. The greeting: "May all your Christmas trips be merry!" As an extra bonus we included these "Tips for New Drivers" (direct from a sixteen year old):

1. Mario Kart doesn't count: Video game steering is much different
2. There is no magic: The car does not shift into reverse just because you want it to
3. The windshield wiper control is NOT the right hand turn signal

2008: Mailbox


This drawing of our mailbox was done in white gouache on black paper. Red was hand-colored on the mailbox flag of each card we sent. The greeting is a haiku:

Once a year they come
Greeting cards for everyone
Have a great new year!

2007: Cats


This computer-generated illustration highlights our cats, Princess and Shadow, who honestly didn't like each other very much. (Princess, as many of you know, could be difficult. Shadow, despite the impossibility of the task, continued to try and make friends with Princess, much to her annoyance.) The greeting, "A Christmas Wish for Peace," was at least in part a hope that they would get along a little better.

2006: M-field house 2


Our house in Marshfield enters the frame again in this angular computer-generated illustration, which we sent out in a red envelope. The greeting: "Merry Christmas! From Our House to Yours"

2005: Swiss Santa


This computer illustration of Santa highlights our trip that year to Switzerland to visit our relatives and to see the sights. The inside lists the reasons why children now believe that Santa Clause is from Switzerland and adds the greeting: "Merry Christmas!" Here are those reasons:

1. Red and white (duh!)
2. He's peaceful
3. He likes snow
4. He has to be fat for some reason:
Exhibit A: Cheese
Exhibit B: Chocolate

2004: Weather vane


The computer illustration of the weathervane on top of the steeple at First Parish Church Duxbury is combined with a photo of our family on a rafting excursion in Colorado. The greeting is: "Peace from West to East." This design (minus the photo) has been used for non-holiday occasions as well.

2003: Driveway angel


The drawing of the angel shoveling our driveway was done with white gouache on black paper and scanned to combine it with a photo and some text. It's a true story. Here's the description: "We came back from our trip to St. Kitts knowing that a huge snowstorm had hit the East Coast. Had it not been for the work of one angel, we wouldn't have been able to pull our car into the driveway. We arrived to find a hand-shoveled, car-sized spot at the end of our driveway. A path was cleared to our door. Another angel cleared the rest with a plow the next day."

The greeting: "Hope you ran into some angels in 2003!

2002: Soccer Santa


Santa connects on a bicycle kick and beats Rudolph with a shot right under the bar. Created as a computer drawing and printed on our home printer, the card includes photos of the kids and a detailed update on the family's activities. The greeting: "Santa shoots...he scores! Merry Christmas!"

2001: Cat & ornament


The drawing of the cat smashing an ornament was done in white gouache on black paper and then scanned, computer-colored, and printed on our home printer. This was the year we vacationed in San Diego and saw a few spring training games of the nascent Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA), which was how we got our family picture taken with U.S. Women's National Team star, Kristine Lilly (the pride of her hometown and mine, Wilton, Connecticut).



The greeting we used for the card was: "Love and Joy Come to You!"

2000: 2000-1 ornament


This dark green silkscreen print was hand-colored with red, lime green, and yellow. The fourth ornament symbolizes the change from 2000 to 2001. Accompanying the greeting, "Peace on earth, good will to all!" was a photo of the kids.

1999: Sledding child


The child on the sled was drawn with white gouache on black paper. It was scanned and reproduced on an 8.5" by 11" sheet along with photos and a greeting. We folded the sheet into quarters for mailing. The greeting: "Merry Christmas! And have a happy 2000!"

1998: Snowgolfer


This collage (with felt, paper, and pipe cleaners) was scanned and printed at home on a letter-size card stock. Printing on our home printer meant that we could include the photo of the children directly on the card. The greeting: "Happy Holidays" (the same as 1997...we tried not to repeat a greeting thereafter).

1997: Santa card


This hand-colored silkscreen of Santa as a playing card is printed in black with red, green, and flesh tone added with watercolor. For many of the early years of sending cards we included a separate photo of the kids, as shown here, but not all of these were saved in the album. Soon we discovered that we could print the photos along with the card. P.S. I think the suit on Santa's card is 'Pine.'

1996: Cardinals


This pair of cardinals decorating a tree branch with a star was drawn in black ink on watercolor paper and then scanned and printed on red paper that was tri-folded and sent in a business-size envelope. The greeting was "Happy Holidays."

1995: Marshfield house


For our first Christmas in Marshfield the card highlighted Santa and our new house. The artwork was done on a computer (maybe with Adobe Illustrator) and printed on off-white, antique-finish paper. The greeting "Ho Ho Ho" was rubber stamped using two colors of ink. Of note is that this is the first card that includes an e-mail address.

1994: Lighthouse


The red, green, and white lighthouse is a hand-colored silkscreen print on watercolor paper with a green deckle edge. The cards were sent in matching envelopes. We included a note about Olivia's impending arrival and our move to Massachusetts.

1993: Modern Diner


This image of Sayville's Modern Diner is a hand-colored silkscreen print on watercolor paper with a red deckled edge (and matching envelope). I do not recall what the inside greeting was.

1992: Train station


Just down the street from Greeley Avenue in Sayville, New York is the Sayville train station. This snowy image is a silk screen print on watercolor paper with a green deckle edge. There were matching envelopes. I cannot remember what the inside greeting was. For the longest time, this was the one card I lacked a copy of. I finally found one that we had not sent, but it did not have the inside greeting. We might have used Santa stickers.

1991: Sayville house


Amy and I were married in September of 1991, not long after moving into our first house, 66 Greeley Avenue in Sayville, New York on Long Island. This card is an aerial view of that house. The original, on a 9" by 12" sheet of black paper, is painted with white gouache. That image was scanned and reduced, and then copied onto an antique off-white sheet. We mailed it in a red envelope. The cupid and the swan that we put on the back were a nod to some imagery that we used on our wedding invitation.

Copyright 2019,
Green Harbor Publications