The first Three Magi Christmas card Pam Sanders created was born out of a desire to create a unique card for her friends and family.
"I wanted it to be special," she said Tuesday afternoon while talking to the Presbyterian Women and their guests from several other congregations at the First Presbyterian Church. "So, I created a Christmas card."
That was 44 years ago and she's still making them, a new design each year since.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Pam Sanders, of Fort Dodge, shows off one of the plates she’s used to produce an annual Christmas card featuring the Three Magi over the last 44 years during the Presbyterian Women’s meeting a First Presbyterian Church Tuesday afternoon. Each year’s print is unique.
Sanders choose the Magi for several reasons.
"They have the knowledge, they had imagination and they had perseverance," she said. "That's a wonderful attribute, you can do anything you want to do."
To create her cards, Sanders first has to carve a master to make prints from. She's carved wood, linoleum and a soft rubber material, along with copper and zinc plates.
Once carved, the plate is inked with a brayer, a type of roller - then the paper is pressed against the carving's inked surface. For the zinc and copper plates, a press is used to make contact with the paper.
The process of print making goes back centuries.
"Rembrandt ... used copper plates, a lot of his plates were very small," she said.
She said it began with decoration on armor during the Middle Ages - someone got the idea to ink this and make impressions on paper.
When she works on a plate, there is one thing to remember - especially with lettering.
"You have to write it backwards," she said.
It's also a time-consuming process.
"It can take days or weeks," she said.
While each year's Magi art has taken its inspiration from a wide variety of sources, she has only included the infant Jesus twice, in 2005 and 2007.
"It was for the birth of our grandsons," she said, "They're the only prints that have baby Jesus; they are portraits of our grandchildren."
Sanders has this year's card in the works. For those on her list, she mails them on Jan. 6 to coincide with the Epiphany.
As to who the Magi actually were, history remains mostly silent.
Aileen Sandell, vice-moderator for the Presbyterian Women group, shared her research.
She said they are only mentioned in two places in the Bible - Matthew 2:1-2 and 2:9-10.
What they were following, the Christmas star, is also much speculated on, she said.
"Halley's Comet was active then, there was a confluence of Saturn and Jupiter in 7 B.C. and Sirius, the dog star, rose at sunrise then," Sanders said.
There may not even have been three of them.
"There were two to four in the early tradition and even 12 for the 12 tribes of Israel," Sanders said.
It was settled once and for all in the third century.
"The pope decided there were three," she said.
What is for certain is that after 44 years of an annual card tradition, there are very few still on the mailing list from when it began; in fact, there is only one address.
"We have some friends in Illinois," Sanders said. "They have the whole collection."