Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hantke Family Christmas Cards

When I was growing up, Christmas cards were a family production. In the years when I was small my father Gary Hantke was into photography, so pictures of family were the rule. But after Dad caught the letterpress printing bug in the mid-1950s, all of us became more involved. Dad’s transition between his photography and letterpress interests is apparent in our 1958 card (shown below), which combines the two.

Then my mother got into the Christmas card production process by learning to do silk screen work. First she would cut stencils for each color with an Exacto knife. Then each ink color had to be forced through its stencil with a squeegee (how I loved that word, squeegee!). I got to help squeegee and make some of the cards. It took quite a while to create the angel shown below, with five colors to run plus the printing inside.

My sister and I helped in other ways, too. We folded, stapled, and sometimes hand-tinted the pictures on cards with colored pencils. By the time we got done making it, each year’s Christmas card came from all of us. It was a wonderful way to create something together as a family.

As my father’s printing skills increased, his holiday cards became more elaborate.
In 1966 the Christmas card was an eight page miniature booklet called “The Christmas Story”. Set in tiny 6 and 8 point type, it was an exercise in eyestrain, but a beautiful result.

1969’s “Green Is For Christmas” was a ten page printed booklet with multi-color cuts throughout. The front cover was four color: green, red, black, and gold. My husband and I still have that multi-color wreath cut, and have discovered that it’s incredibly hard to print in register. I look back now and marvel at how easily my Dad handled it.

One of my favorite family Christmas cards is “Abou Ben Adhem”, printed in 1968. I like the way Dad combined two colors of border printed on top of each other to frame each page. The poem by Leigh Hunt is a beautiful one, and the Legend type Dad used has always been one of my favorites. But most of all I appreciate the classic way the card was designed. The entire family got into the act hand sewing the cards with embroidery floss. It was a lovely card, and I consider it one of the nicest pieces my father ever printed.

Today my husband and I continue the tradition of printing our holiday cards. There’s something so special about a card you make yourself!


  1. Wow Carole, these are beautiful! How fun that you all did that as a family--each one of you adding something to the card. Of course, I love your cards that you and Bob print--yes, there is something special about a hand made card! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks so much, Lynn! It was fun to make the cards as a family -- it made us kids feel special, too!