So many families have Christmas traditions, whether caroling, making cookies or going to church on Christmas Day. One Cape Coral woman’s tradition made the family Christmas card popular before it was a trend.
88-year-old Harriet Specht loves everything about Christmas—the traditions, the togetherness, the fun, the presents and the lights. But there’s one thing she loves the most… or, actually, 67: her homemade Christmas cards.
“The very first card I did, my first son was 10 months old,” Specht said.
That first one from 1955 shows her first two children in a picture. The next year, she changed the look to a hand-drawn card.
“I didn’t have one pic of the two of them, so I had to figure out how to get the good pic of each shot,” Specht said. “So, I cut them up, and I put them on Christmas boxes.”
What started as a necessity turned into a tradition. The boys were drawn as snowmen, carolers, ornaments and stockings. Then, in 1964 came color. Eventually, there also came three more children.
Harriet’s son Chris still loves to click through the cards.
“It’s neat to follow the family history through it,” said Chris Specht.
There were little bits of humor scattered throughout the cards, like in 1972, when Specht had their pet hamster Hamlet chewing the gingerbread house. Eventually, a mom’s tradition turned into a family affair.
“Mom and all of us kids, we’d all sit around and dab a little glue for the ones that had glitter and color the cards,” Chris Specht said.
Creating memories and preserving them, from marriages to grandchildren and even great-grandchildren, and a big move to Cape Coral from New Jersey. The year of Hurricane Charley featured a warning flag and the sign off, “From the land of sea shells and hurricanes.”
Then, the passing of Harriet’s husband, Walter Specht.
“That still chokes me up to this day,” Chris said.
At other times, Harriet just had fun with her takes on famous art or recognizable characters.
“One year, I incorporated the Energizer bunny because that was a big thing that year,” Specht said.”Whatever grabs me.”
Details are important to her, like one card with the family’s faces inside the musical notes for “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
“We had a neighbor and friend who was a music teacher, and I sent my daughter down, and I said, ‘Ask Mrs. Schmidt to give you the proper notes,’” Specht said. “I had someone say later, ‘Oh, those are the right notes!’”
The love of documenting family memories started with Specht’s father, who used to take home videos in the 1930s.
“I always said, ‘If the house burns down, the first thing I’m going to take is my Christmas card album,’” Specht said.
The Specht house did not burn down, but—as could be seen in this year’s Christmas card—
it was damaged in Hurricane Ian, forcing Harriet to move in with her sister in Arizona. But she still has her cards and the memories inside.