Giant Holiday Cards Bring Giant Smiles to Alexandria Neighborhood Block

Neighbors of E Luray Ave come together to create holiday art. Photo courtesy of Gretchen Steenstra.

ALEXANDRIA, VA–Christmas Card Lane is a decades old tradition that started in Kalamazoo, MI. About nine years ago, residents of E Luray Ave brought that tradition to Alexandria.

Becky VanZoeren, a graphic artist and native of Michigan, where Christmas Card Lane is a tradition, painted the first holiday card decoration in Alexandria.

Today, Holiday Card Lane proudly resides on the 100-300 block of E Luray Ave, and is quickly expanding throughout the neighborhood.

Becky’s first card caused a domino effect throughout her neighborhood. Over the last five years, one or two new cards have popped up in neighbors’ yards every year; today, there are over thirty cards on display.

Holiday Card Lane sparked quickly in Alexandria, but this year was a roaring blaze.

Gretchen Steenstra, a resident of E Luray Ave, says of this year’s display, “In the past it was just like ‘Oh that’s fun, we should do it someday’ and nobody ever did. This year, though, everyone is stuck at home. We have lots of kids and every generation here. This year, a neighbor in the area with young kids said, ‘We need to do something special this Christmas.’ Our block has always been very close, and we’ve all become even closer during Covid; so this year we all said ‘Yes, let’s just have fun together.’”

So, Gretchen sent an email to her neighborhood group to coordinate supplies for the giant holiday cards.

People donated paints, craft supplies, and mini projectors for tracing, and Phil Savarie (honorary Mayor of E Luray Ave) volunteered to pick up 15-16 sheets of 4×6 plywood.

With materials set up outside in a local alleyway so everyone can spread out safely, people gathered over Thanksgiving weekend to create their giant holiday cards.

“Kids are showing up asking ‘How can we help?’ and adults are really getting into the fun of it,” explains Gretchen of the neighborhood participation.

Neighborhood kids get in on the fun of painting. Photo courtesy of Gretchen Steenstra.
Arin Keyser paints cards for herself and for others. Photo courtesy of Gretchen Steenstra.

Each board is primed, then a chosen design is projected and traced in order to begin painting.

Designs range from Christmas theme, to New Year’s, to pets, to more. The kids love letting their paint and creativity fly; the adults love the meditation painting offers; homeowners love the cheerful curb appeal; and all neighbors love the generosity and camaraderie Holiday Card Lane has inspired—some residents have volunteered to recycle their old cards, giving them to neighbors, or even volunteered their time to paint new cards for others.

Once painting is complete, each sign is staked into the ground and lit up with a spotlight.

To take in the holiday cheer, you can drive down Holiday Card Lane (slowly, as many children, pets, and residents alike are always out and about), or walk around the block. Starting on the corner of Ramsey St and E Luray Ave, walk up the block, turn right on Newton St, then right again on E Alexandria Ave.

You will see a variety of designs and talents; beautifully ornate cards; humorous and clever antics; artsy reindeer; adorable snowmen; pet portraiture. There are really no rules when it comes to expressing holiday cheer.

“Every single person admires each card equally. Everyone is so proud of themselves. We are all craving community and something to be happy about,” says Gretchen. “Our hope is that everyone in Del Ray does it.”

The eclectic collection of cards is a reflection of the way the neighbors of E Luray have come together to bring a little sparkle back to this dark winter.

MAKE YOUR OWN HOLIDAY CARD:

  • Form a neighborhood group and share supplies. Look in basements, attics, closets… See whatever leftover materials you might have lying around, dying to be used up.
  • Go to Lowe’s and look at reject paint. You can buy a quart of paint for a dollar. This is a low-cost option.
  • Set up a painting station. If you live in or near an alley, that works perfectly for social distancing and keeping messes out of houses. If not, plastics tarps are another cheap, easy option to contain any straying creativity.
  • Have fun with it! There truly are no rules when it comes to spreading holiday happiness. Paint, sparkle, trace, draw whatever makes you smile.

All photos courtesy of Gretchen Steenstra.

Click here to see virtual tour of Holiday Lane 2020

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