During Christmas season, there are cards I always look forward to receiving and reading, and there are cards I tear open and toss out — and I think I’ve finally cracked the difference between the two. Christmas cards are supposed to inform friends and family of life events, remind loved ones that you care, and spread holiday cheer, but it can be difficult to pack so much sentiment into such a small space. It should be no wonder that many people stress and struggle to produce fun, memorable cards.
After years of research — read: hoarding my favourite Christmas cards from friends and copying them the following year — I have amassed a few tricks for creating and sending the perfect cards. Luckily for you, I’ve decided to make them public. Here’s my must-read guide for sending Christmas cards.
Keep Your Cards Unique
Every person on your list is different, so every person deserves something a little unique. That doesn’t mean you have to order 30 distinct cards, but you should keep your recipients in mind while shopping, purchasing, writing, and sending. If possible, you should choose two or three styles of card, with at least one offering a non-Christmas greeting. Then, you can designate which families receive which cards — and you can avoid offending anyone with your holiday greetings.
Typically, senders try to separate their recipients into different groups, such as: family, friends, and work acquaintances. Your family might receive a Christmas letter detailing your doings throughout the year; your friends might receive a card with pictures; and your colleagues might receive a simple holiday message. As long as the content of your cards appropriately reflects your relationship with each recipient, you are sending your cards correctly.
Make Recipients Feel Special
It should go without saying that you handwrite a note on each letter. Even if you use a printing company to produce custom Christmas cards — Even if it’s something simple like “Happy Christmas!” or “Missing you!” — even if you don’t quite like the person you’re sending a card to, you should scribble a message and your signature. Writing wishes in your hand shows you put personal time and care into sending your cards. Because sending Christmas cards should be a gesture of generosity and kindness, handwritten notes should be a top priority.
Pay It Backward and Forward
Your Christmas card list should be anything but static. Every year, you should be adding more people to send Christmas cheer. If you receive a surprise card from someone not on your list, you should be sure to send a card to that person the following Christmas. If you have made a new friend or two during the course of the year, those people should receive cards from you come Christmastime. By sending someone a Christmas card, you are telling them you care, which is an excellent way to solidify a relationship for the coming year.
Correspondingly, if you don’t receive a Christmas card from one of your recipients for several years in a row, you can safely and comfortably remove that person from your list. Either that person is not concerned with the Christmas card tradition or they no longer consider you a good friend — and in both cases, you don’t need to waste money sending them Christmas wishes.
Watch the Clock
Christmas decorations might appear in stores earlier and earlier every year, but that doesn’t mean you should send out your Christmas cards before December. In fact, any Christmas wishes given before late November or after Christmas Day are improperly timed — giving you a two-week window to send your cards.
It’s important to remember that postal services are exceedingly stressed this time of year, so you might want to prepare your cards in the last days of November, which will also remove one responsibility and reduce your Christmastime stress. Then, you can send your cards anytime during the first or second weeks of December.
Edit and Proofread
Not every family nowadays spends time drafting a full Christmas newsletter, but if you do, you should avoid oversharing or bragging about your year. This is not the platform to share political views or announce major health issues. The best Christmas cards give the most important news — “Jenny got engaged!” or “We went to Japan!” — wish their recipients joy and love, and end it.
Finally, before you place the stamp on the envelope, you should proofread every word in your card. You don’t want to misspell your recipients’ names or use the wrong “there/their/they’re.” If your recipients are appropriately cheered by your card, they’ll never say anything — but it’s still embarrassing.