By James Schugel, WCCO-TV

MAPLEWOOD (WCCO) — A Twin Cities woman’s gift might be tattered and torn, but she believes it beats any other one she could give. For 61 years, two sisters have sent the same Christmas card to each other.

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Joyce McGuiggan, who lives in Maplewood, shares the card with her sister, Gladys Symington, who lives in Neche, N.D.

“Sixty-one years. A lot of water under the bridge,” Joyce said. “(The card is) starting to fall apart it’s so old.”

It all began in 1949, when Gladys sent Joyce the card. Joyce kept it and jokingly sent it back the next year. Through the years, it’s become a tradition between the two.

The sisters thought they lost the card in the mail once, but it turned up. They even it insured it for $5,000 at one time. They now keep it in a safe.

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“And every year, we say, ‘Whose got the card this year?’ We can never remember whose got it. And we run down, look in the safe,” Joyce said. “This year, I run down. I couldn’t find it, so I called her up and said, ‘Did you look in your safe yet,’ and she said, ‘No, I didn’t.’ Pretty soon it came in the mail. She had it,” Joyce said.

From the deaths of loved ones to a tragic car crash that put Joyce’s son in a coma, there’s a long list of struggles the two sisters have written about. Times continually change, but the card has been the one constant in the sisters’ lives.

“Well, I don’t know what to say except I look forward to it every year,” Gladys said on the phone from her home near the Canadian border. “It’s a tradition for us.”

This year, Gladys wrote Joyce, so now Gladys will get the card back next year with a new note from Joyce.

“She’s 86 and I’m 76. So, whoever dies first, the other gets to keep the card,” Joyce said.

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Whether through sweets or simple sayings, spreading holiday happiness comes first for Joyce and it will stay that way for years to come.

WCCO-TV’s James Schugel Reports