all your christmas card etiquette questions answered in one place!

Whether you are sending holiday cards for the first time or you are a seasoned veteran, there are bound to be some “best-practice” questions you have along the way. In an attempt to help your 2021 card-send run as smooth as possible, we have pieced together this Christmas Card Etiquette Guide that answers all the most commonly asked questions surrounding holiday card planning, composing and sending. To achieve a completely organized holiday season this year, we encourage you to also print out our detailed checklist on Christmas planning.

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Merry Boughs by Coco and Ellie

Merry Boughs by Coco and Ellie



WHEN SHOULD YOU SEND CHRISTMAS CARDS OUT?

It is the best Christmas card etiquette to have all your cards placed in the mail by the first week of December (or earlier). This will ensure that your recipients have at least two weeks to display their cards and appreciate them as they await the arrival of Christmas Day. Getting your cards out early also allows you the peace of mind to just sit back, relax and enjoy reading all the cards that arrive in your own mailbox, rather than still focusing on sending yours out.

modern note

modern note by Creo Study


Festive Woodland Holiday Photo Cards
Holiday Photo Cards

bySarah Knight

London, United Kingdom

Yuletide Sprigs Foil-Pressed Holiday Cards
Foil-Pressed Holiday Cards

byAlethea and Ruth

Seattle, WA

CHIC MINIMAL Holiday Photo Cards
Holiday Photo Cards

byMelanie Kosuge

Chicago, IL

Holiday Scrapbook Foil-Pressed Holiday Cards
Foil-Pressed Holiday Cards

byJennifer Postorino

Scottsdale, AZ


HOW LATE IS TOO LATE TO SEND CHRISTMAS CARDS?

As a general answer, plan to get your cards in the mail no later than December 12 if you are selecting basic ground delivery. If you select Priority Mail or Rush Delivery, you should be able to get your envelopes in the mail by December 20 and expect them to arrive by Christmas. If you feel you have missed the mailing window, you can always opt for a New Year’s card instead as a way of still maintaining holiday card etiquette. Depending on which mailing service you select, USPS, FedEx and UPS all have their own unique worst-case-scenario dates for getting your holiday cards in the mail on time. This year Minted offers a variety of last-minute shipping options. Be sure to read through our accurate breakdown of Christmas delivery deadlines.



HOW MANY HOLIDAY CARDS DOES THE AVERAGE PERSON SEND?

Most people send between 50 and 100 cards, but it varies greatly from person to person. There are many things to consider, such as how many people are in your household, how many immediate family members you and your partner have, and what profession you are in. Because every household will have a different requirement of cards they wish to order, Minted allows customers to order as few as 25 and as many as 5000!

Snow Fun by Elly

Snow Fun by Elly



WHY SHOULD YOU SEND CHRISTMAS CARDS?

With all of life's normal distractions, it can be easy to fall out of touch with friends. The annual holiday greeting card is a great way to keep friends up to date on all that is new in your life. Brighten a friend or family member’s day with a thoughtful correspondence this December. After more than a year of limited face-to-face communication, staying connected through hand-mailed correspondence elevates this custom beyond mere holiday card etiquette.



HOW LONG DO CARDS TAKE TO ARRIVE (DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL)?

Standard ground shipping to a domestic address typically takes 6 to 9 business days. Of course, there are also other shipping options you could order such as Express, Two-Day, and Next-Day. International shipping on average will take between 7 and 21 business days. Keep in mind that the holiday season is when postage companies see their highest demand, so hitting the expected delivery date isn’t always an exact science. You should add on a day or two just to be safe.



WHAT IS PROPER ETIQUETTE FOR CHRISTMAS CARDS?

These last few points have been dancing around the same issue: holiday card etiquette. Knowing the ins and outs of polite behavior is not quite the lost art some believe it to be! Here is your Minted primer on maintaining politeness while sending holiday greetings:

  • Separate professional greetings from personal ones: Any holiday cards going to business contacts, colleagues or clients should include neutral, non-religious wording and avoid emotional words like “love.”
  • Keep a running card list from year to year: As you put away cards you’ve received, note the senders as a way of updating your list for the following year.
  • Edit your card list from time to time: You can send a card to anyone, but you are not required to send them to everyone you know. It’s okay to remove people from your list if you’ve fallen out of touch or no longer have their current address.
  • Paper cards vs. digital cards: With so much communication being conducted online nowadays, it may seem natural to send digital Christmas cards. But remember how nice it is to have those hard-copy cards to display on the mantle or tape on your home’s door! Online greetings skew more casual, so they may be perfectly appropriate for some of your far-flung and computer-savvy friends. Older relatives and close friends, however, will appreciate the extra effort of writing and mailing old-fashioned holiday cards.
  • Always include your return address: Be sure to address your recipients correctly. Read on for more specific holiday card etiquette on these two points!

WHAT IS THE CORRECT WAY TO ADDRESS CHRISTMAS ENVELOPES?

There are several scenarios to keep in mind when addressing your Christmas cards.

  • Married Couple or Family with the Same Last Name: It is common to use "The" followed by the family's last name. For example, "The Hendersons" or “The Henderson Family”.
  • Married Couple with Different Last Names or Unmarried Couple that Lives Together: Use both their first and last names with an “and” or “&” separating the two names. For example: “Ms. Jane Swenson and Mr. Kyle Hodder.”
  • Family with Different Last Names: Use both parents' first and last names followed by the children's names on a separate line. For example, "Mrs. Jane Swenson and Mr. Kyle Hodder (followed on the next line:) Sarah, James, and Tyler." For a more casual approach, use both parents' last names separated by a slash. For example, “The Swenson/Hodder Family.”
  • Single Recipient: Use their first and last name.
  • For a Doctor: Include their first name and last name followed by “MD”. For example: “Sarah Jones, MD.”
Casual

DO YOU NEED TO INCLUDE YOUR RETURN ADDRESS ON THE ENVELOPE?

Yes! This allows the recipient to return a holiday greeting card to you in case they didn’t have your address on file. The return address also acts as a sneak preview as to the contents of the envelope, building excitement.



WHAT ARE THE POST OFFICE WEIGHT REQUIREMENTS FOR MY HOLIDAY CARD?

If you are sending a holiday card in an envelope, a 1oz. First Class mailed letter is the standard postage limit. You can also use a Forever Stamp. Each additional ounce costs more, but at a reduced rate. If you are sending an envelope-free postcard, then postage will be even less. For a more in-depth and updated summary of pricing, weight, size and shape requirements, reference the USPS guidelines.

Casual

Casual designed by Everett Paper Goods


Warm Flannel Holiday Photo Cards
Holiday Photo Cards

byKeen Peachy

Toledo, OH

Beautiful ornament Foil Holiday Ornaments
Foil Holiday Ornaments

byAna de Sousa

Madeira, PT

Pattern Baubles Foil-Pressed Holiday Cards
Foil-Pressed Holiday Cards

byBethan

Manchester, UK

Christmas Letter Grand Holiday Cards
Grand Holiday Cards

byWildfield Paper Co.

Salt Lake City, UT


WHO SHOULD I SEND CHRISTMAS CARDS TO?

We have a full detailed post on who to send Christmas cards to, but here is a quick summary:

  • Family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins)
  • Close friends
  • Children’s friends
  • Work colleagues (past and present)
  • Service providers (doctors, dentists, coaches, teachers)
  • Neighbors
  • Members of clubs or organizations you belong to
  • Emergency personnel/Military
  • People who sent you a card last year


WHAT SHOULD I WRITE IN A CHRISTMAS CARD?

There are plenty of approaches to composing your season’s greetings. If opting for a short hand-written message for each recipient, review our post on 95 Christmas greeting messages for favorable verbiage. For those looking to type out a year-in-review summary to include in their holiday mailer, possible subjects to feature include:

  • Stories from family life
  • Update on children’s school grade and age
  • New family activities
  • Info on big purchases (house, car, home remodel)
  • Update on the family pet
  • Interesting updates/projects at work
  • Any medical updates

SHOULD YOU SIGN CARDS BY HAND?

Proper Christmas card etiquette says you should. Add a personal touch to each card by inking your own signature. If sending a greeting to a close family member or friend, try and get every member of your family to sign their name in their own handwriting. Your recipients will feel that much more touched by the correspondence and associate it as coming from your whole family. Consider encouraging your children to add a little holiday-themed doodle to their name as well!

Snowy Flake by Kaydi Bishop

Snowy Flake designed by Kaydi Bishop

HOW DO YOU SIGN OFF HOLIDAY CARDS?

While it’s important to sign your cards by hand, the way you craft that sign-off can make a big difference in how your recipients read the entire message. Here are a few suggestions for signing in a way that aligns with general holiday card etiquette:

  • Professional colleagues:Keep it simple with “Best” or “Sincerely” and your name.
  • Family members:Make it warm with “Love” or “Love always,” unless your extended family has its own traditional sign-off message.
  • Close friends: Don’t be shy about using “Love” to sign-off your friends' cards. If that feels like too much, try “Affectionately” or “Truly.”
  • Distant relatives or acquaintances: Use any of the above sign-offs, gauging by each individual relationship. For example, you might use “Love” for your elderly uncle with whom you passed many pleasant summers as a child, but “Sincerely” may feel more appropriate for your child’s teacher.


HOW DO YOU SIGN A PLURAL FAMILY NAME ON YOUR CHRISTMAS CARD?

If you are signing a card for the whole family, do not use an apostrophe in your last name. For example, your signature should read “The Johnsons” not “The Johnson’s”. In the rare instances where a family name ends with “ch”, “sh”, “s”, “x”, or “z”, then you should add an “es” to the end of the family name. For example, “The Davises.”



WHEN PUTTING A CARD IN AN ENVELOPE, SHOULD IT BE FACE UP OR FACE DOWN?

When stuffing your holiday envelope, the front of your Christmas card should face the side of the envelope that has the seal or opening. This way, when your recipient opens your envelope, the card-front will be naturally facing them. If sending a fold-over card, be sure to place the fold of the card at the bottom of the envelope. This will ensure the card’s orientation will open like a book when the envelope seal is broken. This same etiquette can be applied to birthday cards, birth announcements and the like.

Boxed

Boxed designed by peony papeterie



HOW LONG SHOULD YOU CONTINUE TO DISPLAY HOLIDAY CARDS?

Along with how long to leave up Christmas decorations, this question generates some passionate differences of opinion. Some say all holiday decor should come down on New Year’s Day. Others adhere to the age-old tradition of observing Twelfth Night as the end of the Christmas season on January 6, on the eve of the Catholic Feast of the Epiphany. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw lots of people leaving their cards and lights on display into the spring. We don’t judge! The bottom line is that there is no hard and fast holiday card etiquette rule about how long to display your seasonal greetings. If you enjoy seeing them on the mantle right up until Easter, go for it! If you prefer a clean sweep in the New Year, by all means take your 2022 cards down in January -- just be sure to record the names and addresses of everyone who sent you a card so that you can update your list for 2023!



IS THERE A CERTAIN SIZE CHRISTMAS CARDS SHOULD BE?

Yes and no. Most recipients will want a card they can easily display on their mantle, kitchen table or refrigerator. An excessively large or small card may not end up on the mantle, thus missing out on the prolonged attention a more standard-sized card would receive. Common sizes include 4” x 6” (postcard/petite), 5” x 7” (standard), and 6” x 8” (grand). If curious about Minted’s offerings, learn more about our full list of Christmas card sizes and formats.



STILL HAVE QUESTIONS? REFERENCE OUR CHRISTMAS PLANNING HUB!

Did you find our Christmas Card Etiquette Guide helpful? If so, we have plenty more articles surrounding holiday planning you might find equally inciteful. Learn about unique holiday party themes, outfits to wear for your family photo shoot, and even ways to creatively display all the seasonal cards your receive.

Christmas Card Sizes

hand-written holiday Vellum Overlay Holiday Cards
Vellum Overlay Holiday Cards

byLindsay Stetson Thompson

Spokane, WA

Spread Joy Foil-Pressed Holiday Cards
Foil-Pressed Holiday Cards

byLeah Ragain

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Crimson Holiday Christmas Photo Cards
Christmas Photo Cards

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Very Happy Holidays Letterpress Holiday Photo Cards
Letterpress Holiday Photo Cards

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