Unique Christmas card tradition keeps 2 women connected for 41 years

Karen Petillo and Laurie Matthews tell Fox News about the Christmas card they’ve been sending to each other since 1980

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After more than 40 years, Karen Petillo and Laurie Matthews have stayed connected through a single Christmas card. 

Petillo, 64, from New Jersey, and Matthews, 60, from Florida, have been sending the same Christmas card back and forth since 1980, even as they lost touch throughout the years. 

The unique holiday tradition started when Petillo received a Christmas card in the mail 41 years ago. The card had no signature and no return address, Petillo told Fox News. 

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She said she decided to keep the card because of the mystery. 

"It was like a secret admirer type thing," Petillo told Fox News. "Who would send me a card without [a signature]?" 

A few days later, Matthews and her then-fiance went to Petillo’s house for dinner and Petillo showed Matthews the unsigned card. Matthews told Fox that she recognized it immediately. 

"We had a good laugh about it," Matthews said. 

Karen Petillo and Laurie Matthews have been sending the same Christmas card back and forth for the last 41 years. (Courtesy of Laurie Matthews/Dan Matthews)

Karen Petillo and Laurie Matthews have been sending the same Christmas card back and forth for the last 41 years. (Courtesy of Laurie Matthews/Dan Matthews)

"Then we kind of said, ‘Well, maybe whoever has it will send it back next year," Petillo added. "Never did we think it would carry on for 41 years."

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Petillo and Matthews had met in 1978 or 1979 through their then-boyfriends, who were both members of the same New Jersey fire station, Matthews told Fox News. 

The women married those men within six weeks of each other and even had their first children within six weeks of each other, Petillo said. The two couples even went on a vacation together, according to Matthews. 

It wasn’t necessarily surprising that after Petillo received the unsigned Christmas card in 1980, the two friends continued to send the card back and forth as a joke, adding the year and their initials inside the card.

"It kind of started as a joke, Petillo said, adding that she thought it would only last a year or two before the friends would "get bored."

"It didn’t," Petillo said. "We just kept going back and forth."

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Matthews said she and Petillo were friends for several years before they started to drift apart as their lives took them in different directions. 

Even though they had lost touch, the women never stopped sending the Christmas card back and forth – with a couple of exceptions when Petillo temporarily lost the card.

Aside from including their names and the year, the women rarely ever included a detailed note on how they were doing or what was going on in their lives. (Courtesy of Laurie Matthews/Dan Matthews)

Aside from including their names and the year, the women rarely ever included a detailed note on how they were doing or what was going on in their lives. (Courtesy of Laurie Matthews/Dan Matthews)

Aside from including their names and the year, the women rarely ever included a detailed note on how they were doing or what was going on in their lives, Petillo said. The card was one of their only points of contact until earlier this year. 

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Petillo told Fox that she moved in September and she knew that it was her turn to receive the card this Christmas, so she reached out to Matthews with her current address. 

Matthews happened to be in New Jersey around the time she got Petillo’s message, so she asked if the two could meet up. The two met for lunch, which ended up lasting four and a half hours.

"It was like no time had passed at all," Petillo told Fox. 

The friends told Fox they plan to catch up again next year, when Matthews is in New Jersey again. 

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Of course, they’ll also continue to send the Christmas card. Next year, it will be Petillo’s turn to send the card to Matthews.

"That card always kept us together," Matthews said. "That’s the only connection we really had for so many years, except for every once in a while something would come up or something would happen that we would have a minute’s touch with each other."

She added that she’s glad she’s been able to reconnect with Petillo to "become those great friends again."

"It’s full circle," Matthews said. "You look at it where it started at 17 years old and now 60 and I’m getting back together with a friend I haven’t seen in 35 years and it feels like we haven’t been apart, but we’ve been apart."

She added: "It feels like the universe brought us back together for a reason." 

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