Like so many simple acts, the message of goodwill takes on a distinct resonance this holiday season. Reaching out to touch those about you is at once a comfort and an indulgence, for it’s an acknowledgment of the humanity that binds us together.

For those far away or next door, the holiday card reaffirms that connection. An affectionately created missive, like the many we received in our annual call for readers’ creations, speaks even more to the esteem the maker holds for family and friends. It is a gift of time – memories past, a fleeting present and hopes for the future.

Unsurprisingly, some of the newer cards bore the traditional holiday colors of red and green or the patriotic shades of red, white and blue. Whatever the design, all wished tidings of peace and joy.

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. We also want to share the story of one card that made its way from New Jersey to the jungles of New Guinea during World War II, and recently made a return trip to the heart that made it. See Page 3.

– Vera H-C Chan

A COLLAGE translates the “fanciful realities” that Liz Watts of Richmond sees when she juxtaposes images from newspapers, magazines and stickers. The dourness of “Crab Happy” works its reverse-psychology magic of triggering a laugh.

PATRIOTISM and peace resound strongly as holiday wishes from many people, including Vicki Sun of Concord. Against a tissue collage of red, white and blue, three Wise Men seek a star of hope hanging over the Middle East deserts.

RED AND GREEN make silver? Twenty-four years of Christmas cards addup to the inevitable and enchanting design for the Lutzes of Orinda.

WHAT TREE would be for a Seuss, you see? A spry one studded with faux gems is the vision that comes to Troy Trouchet of Concord.

DAUGHTER ASHLEY — then 9 — penciled a heartfelt family portrait right after the 1999 batch of store-bought Christmas cards had been sent, so she had to wait a year for her artistic holiday debut.

“THIS IS THE FIRST TIME that an event has been the catalyst for my subject matter,” writes Wilma M. Vandenberg of Walnut Creek. “The painting represents hope; a hope for peace and a hope for ‘one world, one people’ … united by our humanity and our shared journey through life.”

WHILE IN FIFTH GRADE, Taylor Ernst of Walnut Creek glued together a benevolent-looking snowman which became the family Christmas card.

THE DRAWN-OUT 2000 presidential election inspired Susan Adams and Loring Barker of Albany to make their first “interactive” card. The idea proved easier than the construction, but their “institutionally ugly” effort won much praise. “This year,” they write, “we have taken a vow of simplicity.”

THREE WISE MEN walked into a desert –The Barrys of Berkeley have thought up Wise Men jokes for the last 12 years, and they’ll get calls by mid-December demanding their latest edition.

MAUREEN HUGHES of Walnut Creek found store-bought cards too drab, so she made not one but two elaborate designs. With a toolbox of rubber stamps, embossing powders, glitter glue, fiber and other equipment, she layers up an elegant greeting.

AN ANGEL on high blows wishes of peace in this evocative, wistful design by Denise Balocco of San Ramon.

BEHIND EVERY THREE Wise Men is a (canine) shepherd. The clever card by the Gumbingers of Pleasant Hill has a tongue-in-cheek playfulness, plus you can’t top a puppy.

JULIE TAYLOR-BLANK of Martinez finds painting to be a “creative and relaxing outlet,” and this contentment comes through in the wholesome conviviality of two winter pals.

CHALK ADDS a textural softness to this neighborly winter figure leaning over a picket fence sent by the Taylors and KC the kitty cat of Martinez.

ALL RIGHT, newsletters don’t quite count as holiday cards, but the TimeOut judges were suckered by the professional newspaper layout and sly writing. Then again, these deadlines are a year long.

PALA THE GOLDEN RETRIEVER had been the cover model for Tracy Prever of Danville for about a dozen years, and Madi joined her about five years ago. This 2000 card ranks as a special one since this is baby Riley’s first and Pala’s last — she passed away this year at age 16.

THIS ’50S ISN’T RETRO but the real thing. Susan Danton of Moraga submits this on behalf of her father, “who loved Christmas and created wonderful photo cards starring my brother and I and usually the dog!” Take note of what it says on the drums: “Eisenhart for Fifty-Five.”

A DIGITAL PHOTO of a sunrise aptly captures this Eid-ul-Fitr card by Nuranne Dairkee, a junior at Miramonte High School in Orinda. The holiday follows the end of Ramadan, marked by the first new crescent.