Merry Mailing: Holiday Gift Ideas for Pen Pals


‘Tis the season to spend hours at the post office–waiting in line and filling out customs forms! This is my first December since I became a part of the pen pal community (I started just after New Year’s Day last year!) and I’m very excited to send some little packages off to my friends around the world. It’s a wonderful excuse for giving: no matter what holidays you celebrate!

Shopping for someone you’ve never met in person who lives on the other side of the country (or planet), however, is no small task. I’ve really enjoyed thinking creatively about what to send to my faraway friends: even though I’m working within the limitation of keeping postage costs at a minimum.


Of course, if you’re looking for a small, flat gift, notebooks are probably your first and best contenders. I searched far and wide to find these little unruled books by Dover: featuring a so-called “Art Nouveau Peacock” (maybe) and two gorgeous reproductions of Van Gogh works. This same series of notebooks also includes works by Degas, Monet, and even a few more Van Goghs.

Because I’m an art history nerd, most of the people with whom I exchange letters also have a bit of interest in the great works of the past (and present)–so finding gifts that were personalized to match my pen pals’ favorite artistic styles seemed a good plan!


And you can never go wrong with cute journals and notepads! The rose and gold color combination is just so festive.


Another interest I share with many of my pen pals is a love for reading: but man, does it cost a lot to send a book in a package! As a compromise, I found these charming miniature dollhouse books, styled up to look like great classics for tiny shelves. They’re super cute and the pages are actually blank, should you have a tiny story to tell!


Even my little papercraft dragon (impossibly handmade by my boyfriend) enjoys having some appropriately-sized reading material.


The quintessential pen-pal gift, regardless of the season, is anything small and sticker-like: so I ordered these custom decals from RedBubble! Working through a huge selection of original art and designs, I finally settled on the main cast of Over the Garden Wall, a parade of totoros, and the Doors of Durin because why not.

It’s going to be hard to send these off and not keep them for myself!


I’ll have to think hard to determine which among my pen pals is most likely to enjoy this adorable little carnivore–but there was no way I could resist a dino in a fancy dress.


I used these bubble mailers to send the packages off–they’re padded on the inside to keep the contents safe.

This is just a sampling of what I’m putting in my holiday care packages this year: but the possibilities are limitless! Here are just a few more ideas for things that a pen pal might like to see in a wrapped package…

(Note: italicized things will be bumpy in an envelope and might bump up your postage cost just a little bit.)

little packages of notecards and envelopes ♥ washi tape rolls ♥ handmade zines featuring poetry or quotes you think they’d like ♥ a tiny book of recipes you’ve written up ♥ festive paper samples ♥ a copy of your favorite page from a book ♥ buttons or pins ♥ holiday stamps from your country ♥ a flat ornament ♥ tiny origami stars 

Happy gifting!

6 thoughts on “Merry Mailing: Holiday Gift Ideas for Pen Pals

  1. devalayer December 7, 2015 / 6:46 am

    Thank you for sharing your list of penpal christmas gifts, I always enjoy thinking about creative ways to send something but isn’t always the easiest with postage being what it is – especially for international packages. At the end of the day, most people love to receive somethign that’s specialized for them, so I agree that that’s the route to go 😀

  2. Kas December 9, 2015 / 2:31 pm

    I love looking at stationery! And Totoro! 🙂

    • Keely December 13, 2015 / 11:49 am

      It was SO hard not to keep those little Totoros for myself 😀

  3. HcH December 16, 2015 / 11:36 pm

    So cute! I’ve recently become a pen-pal and am waiting on my first return letter. These are great ideas for little gifts!

    • Keely December 17, 2015 / 12:41 am

      How exciting! Congratulations on entering the glorious pen pal world 😀 I hope you get a reply back quickly–waiting is the hardest part!

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