A holiday card is a kind of Rorschach test or even a DNA fingerprint. Even nowadays when most people opt for the mass production route, they seek out greetings which appeal to their mood and aesthetics. The recipient who takes the time to savor every holiday missive can almost glimpse the sense of humor or sentiment behind a card well-chosen.

A hand-crafted card, like the many we received in our annual call for readers’ creations, does that and far more. It represents the mind that envisioned it, the hands that made it and the heart that seeks to share the season’s well wishes.

Out of the many wonderful cards we received, we selected a variety of styles that would reproduce well on newsprint. Those who had not had cards featured before had priority.

We’d like to thank everyone who graciously sent in their cards and who wanted to share their holiday greetings with all of us.

Photo 1. Hercules resident Dean Becker was joined by daughter Suzanne, 4, this year in the Christmas card duties. While dad’s usual designs have a faux imprint on the back (“don’t quit your day job” cards Inc.), his elfin assistant’s exuberant artwork sprawls joyously front to back.

Photo 2. What could have been a clutter of images, instead, is a gracefully composed montage with tidings of peace and love. Inside, John and Nancy Taylor of Pleasanton greet the recipient with the message, “Let Heaven and Nature sing.”

Photo 3. The pleasure of opening a holiday card is doubled with a lustrous bloom of roses painted on the envelopes themselves. Martinez resident Cathi Kneebone’s design features a bouquet dripping with hearts. The card itself is a textured wreath of roses and poinsettias on a bronze-gold backdrop that glimmers like a star.

Photo 4. Angels groom this glam gal bedecked in sparkled fabrics, a mesh “wrap” and a soft, peacock-blue feather hem. Roberto Montes of Richmond took inspiration from the fashion industry to fashion this merry card without a touch of vanity.

Photo 5. Grandma Marylou Montgomery of Pleasanton took the family Thanksgiving pictures, dressed up her happy darlings in clip art and made them dance. A delightful departure from stiff, staged photos, Montgomery rightfully points out that “these sweet little faces represent our joy in the season.”

Photo 6. Formal training gives Melinda McClure of Walnut Creek the technique, but the brilliant tapestry of colors and the spirit come from her deep faith. A friendship with two young leukemia patients enriched her drawings with “childlike” vitality, and their passing spurred her to re-create a most religious night with these tiny figures.

Photo 7. San Ramon resident Caryl Newman began painting her watercolor Christmas cards 12 years ago and now has a prodigious output of 80 cards. On this offering, the beautifully rendered instruments have a delicate, almost musical, vibrancy.

Photo 8. “Scrappy the Elf emerged from a pile of scraps left from a card-making session,” writes Mary Wild of Richmond. “He came together almost by himself, so I had to give him a card of his own.”

Photo 9. Everyone’s child is an angel, but Kamille Jane Richie, at 6 months, got a boost with a halo of flowers. Proud Lynn Richie of Livermore sent in this black-and-white, cover-girl shot.

Photo 10. The Blanks’ card embodies the spirit of the times, seasonal and otherwise. “We found the price of Christmas trees in the Bay Area to be too high ” the cover reads, “so we decorated the dog instead!” A sweet, patient Jet tolerated the trimmings and digital photography, and the Benicia residents showed their appreciation with treats, hugs and a rendition of “Oh Christmas dog” written on the back of the card.

Photo 11. Nine-year-old Amanda Durrant of Concord reveals how jolly Saint Nick frolics in her “Santa Sledding” drawing: Instead of reindeer, the North Pole resident frolics with his Southern Hemisphere penguin friends who manage to keep their top hats on during the frivolity.

Photo 12. The delicate beauty of “Partridge in a Pear Tree” represented by the delicious pear on the cover and a pop-up partridge inside belies the work that went into it for Antioch resident Deborah Koch. Rubber stamps, fun foam, copy machines, a computer, colored chalk and pencils, gold webbing spray, layers of card stock and Mylar tissue the arsenal is truly awesome, as is the finished product.

Photo 13. An ideal card for the mantle, this lovely three-dimensional greeting provides a peek into a cozy living room with unwrapped toys under the tree and stockings hung by the fireplace. Martinez resident Charlene M. Perry, a self-described 77-year-old great-grandma, modestly disputes her skills as a water colorist, but it’s extravagant in its creativity.