By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor
When it comes to Christmas cards:
What are the pros and cons of sending printed cards versus email cards?
When is it OK to remove someone from your card list?
How can you best sign your cards?
Is it correct to use address labels and name stamps?
I’ve been asking for Christmas etiquette questions, and you’ve been sending lots of them! Thank you, and please keep them coming!
This week I’ve gathered together the ones related to sending Christmas cards. Here’s the how-to of sending your cards with the warmth and good wishes you want them to convey!
Let’s Open Our Box of Christmas Cards and Get Started!
What are the pros and cons of sending printed cards versus email cards?
1. If your only relationship with someone is a digital one, then an email card is fine. If the recipient is family or a flesh-and-blood friend, then a standard card is going to be the best choice.
2. More than 80% of all correspondence is now electronic, so it makes sense that we would want to express our Christmas wishes by the same means we express ourselves year-round. That’s why email cards are so popular.
3. The drawback of an email card is its brief lifespan. It has just about as much impact on the recipient as do the countless jokes, political musings, spam for weight-loss miracles, and get-rich-quick scams.
You don’t want your holiday card staying in that same inbox! Plus, the recipients are likely to give it less than ten seconds of their time before pressing the delete key. It’s unlikely that anyone else in the family will ever know about the card, let alone see or read it.
4. For social networking friends and others, email cards make sense. They also make sense for those serving in the military or living overseas when standard cards might be delayed in the mail or close to impossible to arrive at all.
5. Money is tight for businesses and families alike. If you want to send Christmas wishes but can’t due to budget constraints, don’t hesitate to send electronic cards. Just be understanding if they end up unread in your friends’ junk mail folders.
6. The benefits of a card sent through standard mail are its longevity and its personal impact. Mailed cards usually cause a little excitement or at least curiosity when they arrive. In my house, cards are opened before any other mail! Corbett, my youngest son, will come running with all the mail in his left hand and the card in his right hand as he excitedly shouts, “Mom, we got a card! We got a card! Can I open it! Can I open it, please!”
7. Once cards sent through snail mail are opened, they’re usually left on the kitchen counter, hung from the fireplace mantel, or placed in some other special spot in the house for everyone in the family to see, read, and enjoy, prolonging the cards’ impact and the good wishes you sent them with.
When is it OK to remove someone from your card list?
There’s a lot of misunderstanding about the etiquette of sending Christmas cards. Because of it, most people send more cards than they need to.
It’s fine to send a card to anyone. However, cards were invented to send your greetings and best wishes to people you won’t see in person this holiday season.
There’s no need to send them to neighbors or friends at school, work, or church whom you’re going to see between now and January 1. They’ll all know your good wishes because you can tell them in person when you stop to say hello in the halls or over the back fence.
Also, Christmas cards don’t require you to acknowledge receipt, and a card isn’t required in return. Still, it is nice to mention the card the next time you’re in contact with the sender. “Your card was lovely, Jan. Thanks for sending it!”
There’s no rudeness inherent in dropping someone from your card list, especially if you’re sending standard cards instead of email cards. Money is hard to come by this year, so if you’ve been thinking about trimming names off your list, this will be a good time.
When deciding whom to cut, keep in mind these tips:
If you’ve sent a card for the last two years and haven’t received one in return, you’re fine to stop sending.
If you want to cut your card list down a lot but are afraid people might tell you that they didn’t get a card from you this year and ask you whether everything is OK, let them know you cut your list by half. That way, they won’t feel like they were one of just a few people you chose to leave out.
Keep sending cards to older persons. Often, they’re lonely, and your cards mean the most to them. Keep in mind they might not reciprocate because they can’t afford to or because it might be difficult for them to address, sign, and mail the cards. I’ve had ministers tell me that some older persons in their churches who don’t have family receive no gifts other than cards. So make sure to add an extra special note to the one you send them, and maybe send along some photos, too. There’s a good chance they’re not on social media.
Grace Note: Sometimes there’s someone on your list that has suffered a loss this year. Perhaps it’s been a death in the family, a major illness, the loss of a job or home (or both), a divorce, a wayward teen or young adult, or one of a million other difficult things. Here’s a Quick Tip post to help you know what to say and do: Should You Send a Christmas Card to Someone Suffering a Loss this Year?
How should you sign your cards?
The etiquette for signing holiday cards is different from other cards in that it’s the only card where one member of the family can sign for all the others. Usually, Dad’s name is listed first, followed by Mom’s and then all the children from oldest to youngest.
Kent, Maralee, Marc, and Corbett McKee
If you’re certain the recipient knows your last name, you don’t need to include it.
Once children are married or living on their own, after they’ve graduated from college and/or have a job and place of their own, their names are not included on your cards. It’s time for them to send their own!
In the case of blended families, the parents’/step-parents’ names are listed on the first line, and the children’s names on the second.
If some of the children have different last names than the others, you can include all their last names or leave them all off.
Here are two examples of how the same family could sign their names:
James and Callie Snyder (You can include your last name or leave it off.)
Beth, Timothy, and Leah Johnson (The children’s last name is included since it’s not Snyder, but all the children share the same name.)
James and Callie Snyder
Beth, Timothy, and Leah (This time the children’s last name isn’t included because two of the children’s last names are Snyder and one’s last name is Johnson. The children’s names have been listed by age from oldest to youngest.)
A sad question I’m asked a lot
Life is too often too short. I receive several letters each year from parents asking whether they should include the name of their child who died during the year. I also receive emails from wives wanting to know whether they should also sign the card for their late husband. It breaks my heart.
When I was 27, my first husband died of cancer 12 weeks before Christmas. I sent cards that year partly to keep my sanity. I had to keep busy 18 hours a day because I wasn’t yet able to fall asleep. I sent a lot of cards. It physically hurt to simply sign the cards “Maralee.” Half of my life was missing. And I felt the reality close in on me more and more with every card I sealed closed. As hard as it was, I did it mostly because I knew he wanted me to continue living. In fact, he had made me promise. I was trying very hard to keep that promise that first Christmas without him, and the next, and the next.
If I had included his name, it would have caused confusion. (Social media was a few years away when he died.) People in other states who heard he died could have thought they heard incorrectly. For those who were closest to us and had been at his funeral and with me afterwards, I would have turned a Christmas card into a stark reminder of loss.
No one ever has to send Christmas cards. If it’s a sad time in your life and you feel like skipping them, please, please, please do. And if writing them makes you feel better, then by all means send them.
One option: you can sign the card with your name(s) and then under your name(s), write, “and in remembrance of Chuck.”
Is it OK to use address labels and name stamps?
Cards sent with address labels or name stamps have all the warmth of a mass mailing from a hardware store!
The labels and stamps are convenient, but they score a failing grade in being personable. Handwrite your return address and hand-sign all cards.
In addition, you’ll want to write a personal note of a sentence or two on each card, because people really want to know what you have to say more than they care about what the Hallmark employee thought up.
If you go all out and order imprinted cards, you’ll be signing only your own name below the note (to identify that you wrote it). Because the names of your family members are imprinted above, there’s no need to hand-sign their names.
Photo cards are great! The only drawback is that they leave little if any space to write. Try to order cards with a plain back so you have space to write a personal note and sign your name(s).
Round-robin letters are the ones people type up on their computer, print out, and insert into each Christmas card they send. It’s OK to do this, but with people keeping up with one another daily via social media, the letters aren’t sent as much as they once were.
If you want to send one, it will be best received by your friends if you make sure it’s not either a brag fest or a woe-is-me fest. If you went on three vacations this year, tell about your favorite one. If you had three surgeries, tell about the one health issue that is causing you the most concern.
You might love reading the details of someone else’s every highlight and low moment of the past year, but you’re not everyone, and your recipients might not find it as interesting. Just something to keep in mind as you pen your personal post!
Try to keep them to one page, double spaced, size 12 or 14 font, and add in two or three photos. Then you’ll probably be sharing the right amount of details of your life for your general audience. Some people will have a special interest in various parts of your life: job, children, travel, and such. For those people, handwrite the extra details they’ll love reading on the page or on an additional piece of paper to send in your Christmas card. Usually, a three- or four-sentence paragraph for each member of the household is plenty. Make sure the last paragraph focuses on your readers. Here’s where you’ll write your wishes for their holiday and the New Year. You always end on a high note when you end wishing others well!
Inserting cards into the envelope
Place your card in the envelope facing the back of the envelope so that, when opening it from the back, the recipient will see the pretty front of the card first. The fold of the card (if there is one) should be at the bottom of the envelope with the open edge at the top of the envelope near where the envelope is sealed.
When should cards be mailed?
You want your card to arrive sometime between December 1 and Christmas Eve. If you’re running a little behind this year, you can always buy Happy New Year cards. Those can arrive anytime between December 26 and the end of the second week of January, giving you a couple more weeks to get them written and mailed!
Christmas cards and your DNA
In our increasingly techno-based world, people are appreciating more and more the small but real thrill of receiving a hand-addressed and signed card in their mailbox. Because of this, sending Christmas cards is back in style in a big way after almost becoming extinct.
Enjoy putting pen to paper (card!) and pouring a little love into each one as you write your message and seal it closed.
If you think about it, you’ll come to realize that our DNA is on the cards we send. It’s almost as if, when I open a card, I can feel which ones were sent in a hurried rush to mark “send out Christmas cards” off someone’s to-do list and which ones were sent in the true spirit of the Season.
So decide to make sending your cards something you’re going to look forward to instead of something you feel that you “have to do.” Pour your favorite beverage, get comfy, settle in, and decide to savor your time as you write your cards. Then you’ll truly be spreading your Christmas cheer to those you hold dear!
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Here are some other very popular Christmas posts you might want to check out to keep yourself shining as bright and lovely as the lights on the Christmas trees. You’ll be confident, gracious, and at your best during this special Season!
Until next time, do what you were born to do — bless the world by being authentically you at your best!