The Dos & Don’ts of Holiday Card Etiquette

The Dos & Don’ts of Holiday Card Etiquette

The rules have changed (though the one about not sending a photo of just you and your cat absolutely remains the same).

Seasons Greetings, Readers!

It’s that time of the year again… That time when you or a family member close to you decides to send a holiday card out to all of your friends and family, including the ones you haven’t spoken to in years, don’t necessarily like that much, or aren’t even sure are still alive. And while there’s nothing you can do about a parent or spouse sending out a card and signing your name, since holiday cards are the one time that it’s okay for one family member to sign for all of the others, there are a few things you can (and should) do if you’re the person in charge. And luckily for you, we’re here to tell you what those things are.

First things first: The best cards are those with photos. Unless you’re single and it’s just a picture of you and your cat, in which case, skip the photo because no one likes to be reminded of all of the sadness in the world. But if you have cute babies or kids or, even better: DOGS, then by all means, go crazy with the pics. Plus, if your card has a photo, you majorly up the chances of it being displayed somewhere in the recipient’s house, which means you’re getting a lot more bang for your buck than with a boring card that just says “Happy Holidays” and will immediately be thrown in the trash. And as anyone who’s participated in Black Friday shopping knows, getting more bang for your buck is really what the holiday season is all about. Also, stuff like peace and love and Christmas cookies, or whatever.

Next: If you’re going to include a letter (like this one, for example), there are a few rules you must follow. The most important is that your letter needs to be short and concise. In other words, nothing like the letter you’re currently reading. Do as we say, not as we do. Your letter should be no more than one-page single-spaced because unless you’re the most fascinating person on earth, no one cares enough to read more than that about what you’ve been up to this past year. And if you think you and your family are interesting enough to warrant more than 600 words, then write a memoir and everyone who’s interested can just buy that when it comes out.

Since you’re keeping the letter (relatively) short, that means you’re going to have to carefully pick which fun tidbits to include. Yes, it’s okay to brag a little, but remember, this letter is going to Grandpa and Grandma, not just your besties, so brag about things like a new job or being nominated for an Emmy, not about winning the Survivor Flip Cup Championship Tournament even though that’s a really impressive accomplishment (which, not to brag or anything, we would totally know).

Seriously though, keep the boasting to a minimum. If you traveled to Africa to help impoverished children, ran the New York City marathon, were accepted into Harvard Business School, gave away half your salary to charity, and birthed a child who is not yet one, but is already reading chapter books, then, ugh: you would be the type to write one of these letters. But seriously, pick one or two highlights and stick to those unless you want people to use their menorah candles to set your letter aflame.

Also, leave out the sad stuff. No one wants to hear about how Sarah is happy at college, but will be even happier when she loses the freshman 15, that Bob’s hemorrhoids are really affecting his golf game, or how you’re so glad you finally asked for that divorce and no longer have to fight about space on the DVR or who’s going to take out the trash because you’re all alone and probably will be forever. Other holiday card etiquette experts will tell you it’s okay to include a paragraph where you reflect upon what the year has meant and if you’ve felt sad or lonely, but those experts would also tell you it’s totally fine to send a card that’s a photo of just your cats and can you really trust people who would give you that kind of advice? Exactly.

That being said, if your sad stuff will also make other people laugh, then by all means include it; after all, something good should come out of your misery. Did you drink too much, fall off of a curb, break your face, and have to get stitches and veneers? Share it! With before-and-after pics! Did you slave away for weeks making Thanksgiving dinner for your fiancés family, but give everyone food poisoning? Put it in bold with lots of gory details and exclamation points! Did you accidentally call someone you really like the wrong name in bed and they dumped you? Okay, maybe not that one—oh screw it. The people want to know! The people deserve to know.

As far of the rest of it goes, the rules are pretty simple.

Use a neutral greeting like “Happy Holidays”, “Season Greetings,” “Sorry the World is Ending”.

Get the card in the mail by December 17th if you want it to arrive before Christmas. If you can’t swing that deadline, send out Happy New Year cards instead, or just give up on the whole endeavor entirely and watch re-runs on HGTV all weekend, while lying to telling yourself you’ll definitely make it happen next year.

When addressing the card, the wife’s first name goes in front of the husband’s first name, but it’s “Mr. and Mrs.” not the other way around. Also, you need to put your return address on the envelope otherwise Ne-Ma won’t know where to send your card and you don’t want to miss out on that five bucks she always includes.

Sign the card even if you printed your name at the bottom of your missive. The people are going to need proof that you haven’t been taken hostage and this whole letter/card thing was actually your idea.

And whatever you do, don’t take it (or us) too seriously and have the best-est holidays of them all.