Some Thoughts about Holiday Cards

As November rolls forward, one end-of-year task that starts floating in my mind is holiday cards. This is usually a fairly time-consuming project for us, but I consider it to be a very worthwhile one. Here’s how we do it.

Send it early.
With a large project like this one, it’s incredibly easy to keep postponing working on it until you’re throwing something together quickly and tossing it in the mail – or not even bothering at all.

My approach is to simply set a goal of mailing them out very early. Ideally, I try to get them in the mail before Thanksgiving. Seriously. This way, if I absolutely must slip a week, I don’t panic about it.

Send them all at once.
It can be tempting to send them out in drips and drops, but that can be a mistake. If someone notices that you’ve sent a card to someone else but not to them (even though you’ve intended to do it), you’ve opened yourself up unnecessarily to a negative opinion. It’s not worth it.

I usually work on mine gradually, keeping all of the finished ones together in a box. Then, when they’re all done, I ship them off all at once.

Send one to everyone of personal or professional importance to you.
The first step in the process is to update my “master list” of people I intend to send cards to. I keep this as a Word document. It contains the most current addresses of everyone I would ever want to send a card to – personal contacts, professional ones, and so on.

I then go through and make a card individually for each one. I start off with a template of my own design, usually incorporating a family picture.

Write a handwritten paragraph inside each one.
With each one, I write a handwritten paragraph on the inside, usually something directly for that person, touching on something we have in common. I make sure to wish them well in whatever they’re working on, particularly if there’s something new in their life.

The handwritten paragraph doesn’t have to be long. It’s usually just a few sentences.

I don’t turn it into a family newsletter.
I’m sending them a card because I care about them, not because I want to brag about my family. I can talk about my family through other communication by following up on questions that they might ask on the phone, by email, on Facebook, or some other form.

The purpose of the card is to simply say “I care about you.” To me, a family newsletter doesn’t say that at all.

Remember who the recipient is.
I usually make my own cards, mostly because it makes it easy to make variations on the cards. For some, a Christmas card is the best thing to send. For others, a more generic “season’s greetings” card is much more appropriate. I don’t view such a card as an opportunity for evangelism of what I believe.

Why put in all this effort?
When it all comes together, it’s a powerful way of making sure that a lot of people I care about all have a clear message telling them, in a very personal way, how much they mean to me and how much I value them. A handwritten note really hammers that idea home.

For me, this is an incredibly enriching November project, one that helps me to maintain connections and relationships with a lot of people I care about.

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  1. chris says:

    Sounds nice, but people sure don’t send out the Christmas cards like they once did. I have noticed that we get fewer and fewer with each passing year (and no one is dying so the same number of people are still out there!). I spoke with a friend who lives half way across the country and she stated the same thing. Where she used to get a flood of cards she now gets just a few. I like the sentiment that it shows others that you care, but from I have seen…and others I know as well… people sure don’t put the effort into it anymore and as a result that leaves us not wanting to go to the trouble either because it feels that our effort isn’t appreciated.

  2. Jonathan says:

    I consider holiday cards to be wasteful, but my wife still sends them out because of the social expectation.

  3. valleycat1 says:

    I moved halfway across the country a number of years ago – so most of my holiday cards go to and come from people from that earlier period of my life. Or to other family members & friends who don’t live nearby. We don’t send cards to many of the people we are in contact with often – as they usually get gifts or more personal greetings (a letter or phone call). Often we end up sending new years greetings, since neither of us are Christian.

    Also, comparing notes as to who hasn’t sent me a card but did send one to someone I know – really? Do other people actually check through their friends’ & family members’ greeting cards? Seems petty to me and not in keeping with the spirit of the season.

  4. Fawn says:

    Yeah, well, things change.

    I send “Holiday Greeting Cards” only to people who send them to me first, and would be hurt if I did not respond. Now it is about 10/year. I used to send out 250+ hand made (I was an art student) w/personal note…yada, yada, yada.

    I find this custom extremely wasteful…though I will humor my 80 year old aunt…the rest of you need to move on.

  5. moom says:

    Yes, the only cards I send are to people like my mother on her birthday.

  6. moom says:

    I don’t think a newsletter has to be about bragging, but I’m not surprised that Trent thinks so… But in the Facebook era there is less need.

  7. Kyle says:

    Email has deeply cut into Christmas cards. Facebook has made them pretty much a relic.

  8. Availle says:

    I positively loathe writing Christmas cards. When I was a child, my grandmother made me write to all acquaintances and family and people you just “have to write to”. All during a single Sunday afternoon. Why me? Well, I had such nice handwriting… Most of the people I only knew from hearsay, and I had to use a type of formulaic, archaic language she thought was appropriate. I hated it.

    Now that I moved out, she resorts to phonecalls. Quick, easy, no clutter – and I’m not involved!

    These days I send Christmas cards only to people who are very close to me, about 15 altogether. Of course all cards are personalized and handwritten, but only one of my friends gets a handmade one every year, as she claims she likes them so much she displays them around her house.

  9. deRuiter says:

    People notice and they enjoy that others remember or think of them, in this era of the self centered, it is flattering to get a card. Additionally, if you are in business, cards are an invaluable tool for keeping you and your product in the consumer’s mind in a nice, non commercial way. “Oh look, here;s a nice card from that nice man / woman who sold us the ….” I like Christmas cards, and e cards aren’t the same, they mean the person was too busy to send a real card.

  10. kristine says:

    deRuiter- I agree. And the handwritten note is essential. If I get a business holiday card that is not at least hand-signed by my rep, (or amazingly gorgeous to compensate for the impersonal touch), I toss it, and make note of the tackiness. However, socially, I do not send cards. My only experience with it is how people who do send them seem so stressed out and short on time around the holidays. I can’t imagine why they put themselves through that, unless they really like it. I’d rather my friends sit back, eat a cookie, have some nog, and call me around the new year, fat and happy from feasting. Or I will call them! But these days, cards may be the only thing keeping the post office afloat!

  11. Michelle says:

    I like the family newsletter. I know I’m in the minority, but I really do. We’re military so we move around a lot, and I like hearing what my friends are up to. Even with facebook, it’s not like they post everything that happens to them, I like to hear about the things they didn’t share.

  12. Gretchen says:

    I also like the newsletter, but we only get one and it’s well written (not braggy).

    We do postcards, which cuts down on postage. I do send because I like getting them and it’s not like I know thousands of people. I think it’s like 25 cards total.

  13. PawPrint says:

    Why does the family newsletter have to be considered bragging? I just send out information on what we’ve been up to during the year to relatives and a few friends. Many aren’t on Facebook, and we don’t really post that much about what’s going on because Facebook is too public. I also like receiving newsletters from others. One of our friends sends a card every year with a photo of his family standing in front of a landmark in a place they’ve visited. That’s all. No information on the trip, nothing about what’s been happening during the year, just the photo in a nice card and a printed signature. Frankly, I find that annoying.

  14. Kate says:

    Am I right in assuming these computer-made cards are without artwork? The one thing I love about holiday cards is the artwork on some of them. If I’m just sending words, I’ll send a letter.

  15. AnnJo says:

    Reading the comments from people who find some of the cards they receive annoying or tacky or inadequate because they lack artwork or handwritten notes, I don’t feel so guilty about not sending any at all.

    Although I confess I do enjoy the couple of family newsletters I receive from relatives I rarely hear from otherwise, but for whom I still have fond feelings.

  16. Kris says:

    Adding another vote for family newsletters. I’m disppointed to receive cards that don’t have real news in them – it seems like a waste of paper and postage!

  17. a says:

    I every time emailed this webpage post page to all my contacts, because if like to read it afterward my contacts will too.

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