Here is my 2013 "Seven Swans A-Swimming" Christmas card. I finally got them done and mailed after New Year's Day. The inside sentiment reads:
Thinking of You,
Wishing For You and Yours
All the Beauty and Grace
Of This Christmas Season
The Coming Year
I used several shades of cardstock for the base. This is the first year I've drawn only the "gift" and not the cat, since I started the series in 1998.
There were years I sent other handmade cards and some years I missed altogether. 2007 was the "Six Geese A-Laying" card. I don't have a copy of the card - this is a copy of just the drawing. The "Five Gold Rings" card was not a drawing, but a photo of my cat Cubby, with actual metal wire for the earrings and bracelets piercing the photo. (I don't have a copy of that one either, but I may be able to re-create it.)
"Four Calling Birds" was the 2004 card. I liked how the birds turned out, but I was going for a more stylized look, as in the swan and goose.
2000 was "Three French Hens". I used Zane as the model for the cat drawing. Again, the cat turned out not as stylized as the hens.
"Two Turtledoves" was the gift in 1999. I wanted to draw some cats I'd actually had, so the black cat represented Angus, who was with me 15 years. It's really hard to draw black cats with much detail!
The first card was in 1998: "A Partridge In A Pear Tree". It was my intent to draw a cat in each one, along with a gift in some form that a cat would like. I was also thinking of each of the drawings as part of a poster, so I thought about which way each cat was facing, as well as where the other elements were located on each card. The first six cards can be placed in two rows of three and coordinate quite well. The seventh card departed from this: there's no cat and it's vertical. I may decide to just start over, but I will continue the series until it's finished. Next year: Eight Maids A-Milking.
For anyone who's interested, "The Real 12 Days of Christmas" by Helen Haidle gives the history of the hidden meaning behind the 12 gifts. The song originated in 16th century England as a way to teach children beliefs when it was strictly forbidden outside of official state church teachings.