ALEXANDRIA, VA – In 2020, Holiday Card Lane in Del Ray received unhindered attention. People were crossing the river or driving from NOVA just to walk the sidewalks of Avenue E Luray. Several local newspapers, as well as the established Washington Post, wrote about the sight.
For 2021, Holiday Card Lane will make a big comeback, with plans sure to clear snow from last year’s rooftops.
If you don’t know the origin story of Holiday Card Lane, let’s recap. Christmas Card Lane is a decades-old tradition that began in Kalamazoo, MI. About nine years ago, the people of E Luray Ave brought this tradition to Alexandria. Rebecca VanZoeren, a graphic designer from Michigan, painted the first greeting card decorations in Alexandria.
“I made three cards to start, for us and two neighbors,” VanZoeren explains. “I was hoping he would take off but had no idea until he hit the other end of block 200 [of E Luray] how much it could be. People really got into it. “
Last year, Gretchen Steenstra created a mailing list in her neighborhood to collect supplies and coordinate paint parties in the local alley. This year, collaborations go far beyond a mailing list.
“This year, Holiday Card Lane has probably increased by five times its size,” Steenstra explains. What started in two houses on E Luray Ave, exploded in North and South Del Ray as well as in Old Town, Potomac Greens, Holly Street, even Radford, VA, Potomac, MD, and a condominium complex. in Ohio.
Thanks to the new Buy Nothing Facebook groups (from Del Ray North, Del Ray South and Old Town), neighbors were able to share boards, paints, primers, varnishes, flashlights and whatever else you might need. to create your holiday masterpiece.
VanZoeren and Steenstra are still two of the main organizers, and they are joined by Arin Keyser and Wendy Moniz (who were also big fans last year).
“More and more people started to step in and say that they had seen the cards last year and loved it, so how could they get involved. A woman and her daughter stopped and said Were in. Then they drove to Home Depot, they stayed here until ten o’clock with a flashlight. A pregnant couple painted for 10 hours. The husband pulled out a chair, ”Keyser describes. “People get carried away, they lose track of time. It’s a community, and I don’t know what painting is like, but it just makes you happy.
Wendy Moniz is a supporter of this notion, painting makes you happy, because she paints two new cards in her living room. One bears an astonishing resemblance to The Grinch; another is a snow bunny in a sweater that reads the classic greeting Merry Christmas.
Every time someone finds a new card, Gretchen marks it on a interactive google map she created, and new cards are always found.
Keyser said, “I clearly know [the tradition] but even now i’m going to go out for a walk my dog and i feel super excited when i come across a new map.
Of course, the originals will not be forgotten. “People volunteer to make maps for other people and always share maps,” says VanZoeren. For example, the iconic Fa La La map with holly berries, painted by a woman named Charlene who moved to Florida, is being moved to a house on E Alexandria with a huge holly in front.
Keyser adds, “Wendy had skied Santa Claus, who has now moved three times. It’s kind of a gateway, to get a gift card, then you create your own, then you do more for others. Keyser is known to make maps for others and to help others create theirs, as she orders boards and turned her garage into a plotting station.
The tradition at Del Ray may have been started by adults, but children have indeed embraced it, this year more than ever. Steenstra says, “It’s pretty much COVID year number 2, and we still want some holiday spirit; we want something to do outside, to do with your family. Something that you can do in a day and not be judged by it.
Just like last year, the neighborhood kids gather in E Luray and E Alexandria’s back alley, painting their own cards or designing together. Keyser’s daughter paints a card with a unicorn with her friend.
Neighborhood kids and their buddies also have great ideas that go beyond the cards themselves; Prepare for a hot chocolate stand every night and a potential visit from the president.
“Some of E Luray’s kids wrote to the White House asking them to come and see Holiday Card Lane, and they set up a hot chocolate stand,” Keyser says. “With a little entrepreneurship, they’re already talking through a schedule, with a different child in charge each night for a window of one or two hours. “
Holiday Card Lane will officially begin on December 5 after the lighting of the Del Ray Christmas Tree in Pat Miller Square. Once the base tree is illuminated, follow the arrows down Mount Vernon to E Luray, where a new Welcome to Holiday Card Lane will welcome you during your walk in E Luray and E Alexandria avenues.
If you would like to see the maps spread across Alexandria, please visit the interactive map. If you would like to see a gallery of card photos, please read this article on thezebra.org. It is estimated that there are over 100 maps in Alexandria.
Holiday Card Lane has grown tenfold from 2020 to 2021, but the growth won’t stop anytime soon. What we can expect to see next year includes a classic cutout face card for group photos, as well as a charity component.
Steenstra explains, “I have a neighbor on the board of a nonprofit organization for women and children, and we were going to do a fundraiser. We’ll call local construction companies to donate their leftover plywood, prepare it for us, and set it up in the lanes. Then you can pay $ 75 for a primed card and paint kit, and all the money will go to the foundation for women and children.
Alexandria is known for many things: the waterfront, the history, the small businesses, the food, the families, the animals… Lee Street Halloween, the lights of King Street… and now Holiday Card Lane.
VanZoeren leaves us with this: “It’s a simple, happy and different way of expressing yourself, and it would be really good if Alexandria were known for it.”
CALL FOR DONATIONS
If you would like to donate wood or supplies, please contact one of the emails below.
MAKE YOUR OWN HOLIDAY CARD:
- Form a neighborhood group and share the supplies. Look in basements, attics, closets… See the scraps of materials you might have lying around and dying to be depleted.
- Go to Lowe’s and look at the rejection painting. You can buy a liter of paint for a dollar. This is a low cost option.
- Install a paint station. If you live in or near an alley, this works great for social distancing and preventing house damage. Otherwise, plastic sheeting is another easy and inexpensive option to contain any stray creativity.
- Have fun with it! There really are no rules when it comes to spreading vacation happiness. Paint, sparkle, trace, draw anything that makes you smile.
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