24 Clever Ways to Recycle and Display Old Christmas Cards 

Get unique ways to use last year's Christmas cards for this year's decorations and celebrations.

Published December 7, 2022
dad receiving a Christmas card given by her daughter

Dozens of Christmas cards probably come to your home every year from friends, family, and loved ones. If you want to cherish them without taking up extra space, try turning old Christmas cards into a creative craft or recycling them in a meaningful way. Discover what you can do with holiday cards to have zero waste and keep that holiday cheer going strong.

Create Crafty Christmas Decorations

Christmas decorations made from old Christmas cards are a fun DIY for the whole family. Create decorations that double as keepsakes and you might just find a new holiday tradition your family will look forward to every single year.

Make Christmas Card Tree Ornaments

Make Christmas Card Tree Ornaments

If you want to honor the thoughtfulness of your Christmas card senders, turn their cards into tree ornaments you can use for years. This is a great way to get kids involved while you tell them all about the friends and family members who sent each card. Make this a fun tradition each year as you select a few of the most beautiful cards to transform into festive ornaments. Here are some ideas we love for upcycling your cards:

  • Paper ball ornaments - Simple, pretty, and unbreakable, these paper ornaments will add some magic to your tree.
  • Tree shapes ornaments - To make these sweet, lightweight ornaments, you only need a few supplies besides your holiday card stash.
  • Vintage wood ornaments - These wood-based crafts are beautifully nostalgic and make perfect ornaments or gift tags.

Create Gift Tags and Toppers

Create Gift Tags and Toppers

Why buy festive gift tags when you can make your own with Christmas cards from years past? Turn front covers and interior script into unique gift tags for your thoughtfully purchased presents.

  • Simple gift tags - A few steps, a little tracing, and some ribbon or twine will help you transform your cards into beautiful tags.
  • Ornament-shaped gift tags - Use traditional ornament shapes to make pretty recycled gift tags out of your old cards.
  • Festive gift toppers - Add an extra special touch to gifts with this simple topper idea.

Fashion a Festive Banner

Fashion a Festive Banner

String your favorite Christmas cards together with ribbon, twine, or garland to create a display of Christmas greetings perfect for hanging alongside your stockings or over doorways. This simple idea requires only the cards, ribbon, and a hole punch to create a seasonal family keepsake you can add to with each passing year. You can also just use clothespins to secure cards to the banner and skip the hole punch all together. Try fashioning this to appear much like a Christmas garland, or cut cards into pennants and treat it more like a banner. Let your decorating style and creativity guide you for this Christmas card craft.

Make a Christmas Wreath

Make a Christmas Wreath

Turn old Christmas cards into new holiday decor by creating a wreath to display inside your home. Cut Christmas cards into the shapes of ornaments, candy canes, angels, and other Christmas items and attach them to a pre-lit wreath - or use the cards to create a wreath from start to finish. You could even cut Christmas cards into smaller pieces and glue them together to create mini wreaths for decoration or to attach to new holiday cards.

Digitize Your Christmas Cards

Maybe crafts and decor aren't right for you; there are other ways of recycling your old Christmas cards too. Consider making them digital so you're able to look back and appreciate them without the added clutter in your home. Try one of these ideas to digitize your old cards and keep the memories close:

  • Take photos and keep them on your phone, in the cloud, or on a flash drive and update them each year as new cards arrive.
  • Create digital photo collages you can use as lock screens and desktop wallpaper during the holidays through software like Canva.
  • Use online programs or software like VistaPrint or Shutterfly to create fun items that are more useful (like mugs, totes, and notebooks) with your Christmas card images.
  • Use family-sharing apps like Family Album to upload card cover photos and interior messages so your entire family can take a peek and remember family near and far.

Donate Your Old Christmas Cards

Once you turn your Christmas cards into digital keepsakes, don't just toss them. Try donating them to organizations that will use them in meaningful ways. There are a handful of places you can send Christmas cards for repurposing and serving your community, including:

Keep Cards in a Photo Album

A photo album tucks neatly away into a storage area and you can bring it out any time for a bit of nostalgia. This is a great way to show children Christmas cards of years past or help them recognize the faces of distant relatives who send cards with photos. As new cards come each year, replace last year's card from that same person so you don't overcrowd the album. Then use cards from previous years for crafts or store them digitally.

Create a Family Tree Display

If you have family members and distant relatives that send photo Christmas cards, try creating a family tree display so you can show children their family structure and help them remember relatives they may not see often. You can do this on your refrigerator, your wall, or a kid's homeschool, homework, or play area. Chat with your kids regularly about these family members and let them help you create the tree by cutting out photos and securing them to the designated surface in the correct position. Be sure to include your own family photo as well.

Pin or Hang Cards to Decorate

 Woman hanging up Holiday cards for decoration

Banisters, railings, and door frames are perfect spots for hanging or pinning Christmas cards for a festive family display. You can arrange them in the shape of a Christmas tree on a wall or use thumbtacks or tape to secure them around doors and over banisters.

Make Homemade Cards From Old Ones

Use cards from Christmases past to craft homemade cards to send out to family and friends. Cut out fun or beautiful cover details, the printed message from the inside, and mix and match on cardstock or blank cards for a creative and unique card for everyone on your list.

Decorate a Christmas Card Holder

Make a cheerful way to store all of your Christmas cards this year by using the cards of years past. This way, you'll have a designated place to store incoming cards without wasting the beauty of cards from last year. Use cards from previous years to decorate a storage box or the cover of a photo album or binder to neatly store incoming cards.

Make Christmas Gift or Goody Bags More Festive

Use the fronts of old Christmas cards or the sweet messages inside to create festive Christmas gift bags. Tape or glue them to standard gift bags, or attach them to plain paper lunch bags for smaller gifts or goody bags. This is a fun way to encourage Christmas creativity for kids and gift recipients will appreciate the gesture of homemade gift wrap.

Make an I-Spy Christmas Game for Kids

Give young kids a screen-free Christmas entertainment option by creating a fun I-Spy game with old Christmas cards. Cut out Christmas scene details like bells, Santa hats, and mistletoe and arrange them in a random way on cardstock or a large poster board. Watch as kids play I-spy and learn about all the fun Christmas details hidden on the board that make the season special.

Reduce Waste and Have a Clutter-Free Holiday

Repurposing and recycling Christmas cards is just one way to create a clutter-free holiday that doesn't result in unnecessary waste. Find the method that works best for you and honors the thought behind each card you receive from loved ones during the holidays. Remember, most people just want you to know they are thinking of you and would probably appreciate a unique way of preserving that gesture over the years. Have fun upcycling those holiday cards and simplify the season in a way that makes everyone feel good.

24 Clever Ways to Recycle and Display Old Christmas Cards