It’s that time of year again! Get out the fancy pens and get ready to send some holiday love to friends and family. Since the 1840’s people have been sending Christmas cards to loved ones, and it has become tradition for many to partake in this ritual year after year. It all started with Henry Cole, in 1843, when he was too busy with his job to send his annual letters out to his friends and family. Henry asked his artist friend John Horsley to design the card. John came up with a picture of people helping the poor on the front of the card, with a family enjoying a nice Christmas dinner on the inside. Henry was then able to send out holiday well wishes despite his busy schedule. For those of us with equally busy schedules, sending out Christmas cards can be a great way to show loved ones you are thinking of them during the holidays. Before you get to sending out those cards, there are a few rules of etiquette that you will want to keep in mind.
- Email versus Snail Mail: With the ease of today’s technology, some have opted for sending e-greeting cards, instead of the traditional paper cards. There are a few pro’s and con’s to the electronic method, as well as a few pieces of etiquette to keep in mind. Emailed Christmas cards are obviously faster, and more environmentally friendly than sending out physical cards. However, keep in mind that most people will read, and delete, making the wishes appreciated, but instantaneous and brief. If you only have a digital relationship, sending an e-card is all that is necessary. However, if this is someone you have had a long standing relationship with, and do spend time with in person, a physical card is more appropriate. Sending a physical card provides the recipient a keepsake to hang on their mantle, tree, or as we did growing up at my mom’s house, on the door from the house into the garage. With either option, just make sure you do not send out the cards too early! For emails, send them out about the 1st or 2nd week of December. For snail mail, be sure to send these out about the same time frame, or a bit earlier, but do not send cards more than a week before Thanksgiving.
- Who to send/ not send cards to: Before you buy hundreds of cards and start sending them to everyone you know, there are a few etiquette tips on who you really need to send cards to. If you will be seeing someone during the holiday season, either Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s, it is unnecessary to send a card. If you will not see someone before January 1st, then it is appropriate to send a card. If you have been sending out cards to the same list every year, but are wanting to slim down the list, there is an easy way to go about making the decision of who gets cut. If you have not received a card for at least two years, you can remove that person, or family, from the list. Keep older family members on your list, even if they have not been sending cards, as it can be a nice reminder that the younger generations are keeping traditions alive, and that they are in your thoughts around the holidays.
- Specific Holiday Greetings: When sending cards to various friends and family members, keep in mind that not everyone celebrates the same holidays. Sending a card with general ‘Seasons Greetings’ or ‘Happy Holidays’ is the easiest way to ensure no one is offended by your well wishes. If you know that someone does celebrate a specific holiday, it is certainly acceptable to send wishes for that holiday. Most people will not be offended by receiving a Christmas card, especially if they know you celebrate that holiday, and are sending the card with positive intentions. However, it is still recommended to send something more generic to keep with proper etiquette.
- Personal Signatures and Letters: If sending out cards, it is unnecessary to also send a letter with well wishes, as the card expresses those feelings. However, if another family member or friend sends a letter to you with their card every year, it is best to send a letter as well. You can certainly write a letter detailing the events, vacations, or major life events that have taken place throughout the year to include with your cards. Sending a letter can be a great way to share news with family and friends, but just be sure to not brag excessively, or make it a pity party. Keep things light, and as positive as possible. If you do need to include negative news, try not to make it the focal point of the letter, as major negative events should be discussed with family or friends outside of a Christmas card. It is perfectly acceptable to send the same letter to various recipients, just be sure to physically sign each letter. When signing letters or cards, be sure to always use your own writing. A digital signature is not as personal, and may make your recipients feel unimportant. When signing, list you and your spouse/significant other first, and then list any children. If your kids have already moved away from home, or are married, they are fully capable of sending their own cards, and you should not sign their name to your cards.
- A few other Etiquette tips: For every card you send, be sure to include a return address. This way, if someone is new to sending out cards, they will have easy access to your address, in order to send you a card in return. If you are sending cards to business associates, only send cards to their office address. The only exception to this is if your relationship extends outside of the office. In that case, it is certainly appropriate to send a card to their home. Don’t use a tight budget as an excuse to not send cards. Cheap, yet pretty and festive cards can be found at your local dollar store. If all else fails, simply send email cards. This shows friends and family that you are thinking of them throughout the holiday season, without breaking the bank.
If you are starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by all of the ‘rules’ surrounding sending your Christmas cards, just take a deep breath and relax! Most people will not be too nit-picky about specific etiquette, and will simply be flattered to receive a card. So start signing those cards, and get ready to start sending! Thanks for reading, and happy holidays!