Christmas cards have been around since the 1840s. They’ve had their ups and downs and, like all things Christmas, have often gotten caught up in the commercialization of Christmas. But in an age where digital correspondence is the norm and personal letters are rare, a hand-written note can still bring joy and pleasure to someone’s holiday season.
Who Should Get a Card?
- Christmas cards are, first and foremost, for family and friends. Even if you aren’t “the Christmas card kind,” consider sending cards to the people you care about most.
- Extended family, neighbors, acquaintances, co-workers, and business associates may also make your list. Take care not to send a holiday greeting that won’t be appreciated—whether by a member of a different faith or someone with whom you aren’t very close.
- Christmas cards are, for many people, the minimum communication between friends or family who want to stay in touch. Send a card to any contact you don’t want to lose.
- It’s a good idea to return a Christmas card to everyone who sent you one the year before. Be sure to add any unexpected surprises early in the season to your list.
- There is no formal requirement, but Adam and I only send Christmas cards to people we’d like to write a personal note. An impersonal card is likely to end up in the wastebasket, but a lovely greeting could make someone’s day.
What Goes in the Card?
- There aren’t any rules what the card itself should look like. Many senders buy cards en masse from a stationary shop, and increasing numbers of families buy photo cards on-line. This year, we’re putting together our own cards with scrapbooking remnants, stamps, and our family Christmas photo.
- Be sensitive about the message on the card. If many of your recipients don’t celebrate Christmas, “Season’s greetings,” or “Happy holidays,” may be more appropriate.
- Again, a personal note isn’t a formal requirement. But while you’re taking the time and effort to mail cards, why not drop in a few quick sentiments for a happy new year?
- Some families include a newsletter with tidbits from the past year. Generally, these newsletters should be no longer than a piece of 8.5×11” or A4 paper. Include them only in cards to family and close friends. And, while you can share good news, make sure you don’t use your newsletter to brag about your money or accomplishments.
What Goes on the Envelope?
- Be sure to write your return address in the upper, left-hand corner or the back flap of the envelope. That way, card recipients can easily return the gesture.
- Although formal address isn’t necessary for casual friends or family, it can make correspondence more fun. Formal address is necessary when writing to business associates. Start the address line with the correct title:
- Use Mr. for married and unmarried men over 13.
- Use Ms. for unmarried women over 18 and women you don’t know very well.
- Use Mrs. for married women and women you know prefer Mrs. (I do, as do many older or more old-fashioned women.)
- Use Miss for unmarried women under 18 or, in more old-fashioned circles, under 30.
- Use Master for boys under 13.
- Use Mr. (first name) and Mrs. (first name) (surname) for most couples.
- Use the (surname) Family for most families of three or more.
- Use the Reverend (first name) (surname) for Catholic most priests and Protestant clergy.
For more information, visit the Emily Post Institute’s site about forms of address.
When to Mail the Card
- You can mail Christmas cards as early as Black Friday. Most people wait until the first or second week of December.
- The United States Postal Service recommends mailing cards 20 days before Christmas to ensure receipt by Christmas day.
- For many Christians, Christmas is a liturgical season that begins on December 25 and lasts through January 6. You may choose to send your cards later so they arrive during the “Twelve Days of Christmas.”
What about eCards?
- Ecards are an acceptable alternative to paper cards for recipients who regularly use the internet.
- Even though eCards are greener, less costly, and less time consuming, the joy of sending someone a thoughtful, personal holiday greeting is well worth the price.
How about you? Do you still send out Christmas cards?