While our digitalized way of life is ever increasing there are some traditions that are still maintained in the ‘old-fashioned’ way and one of those is sending our Christmas greetings. Even if those greetings are sent more and more via the digital route, Christmas is still the busiest time of the year when it comes to mail that is delivered to your door by the postman.

So, what are the do’s and don’ts of Christmas greetings? There are some don’ts that seem so obvious that they shouldn’t even be mentioned here. Unfortunately, though, some people are clueless and need all the help they can get – and the do’s are automatically derived from those don’ts.

A card is meant for sending. It is the whole reason for the existence of the card, it is its life’s purpose, its raison d’être. So please send the card and do not place the card in the hand of the receiver yourself. Buy that stamp, take the trouble of walking to the post box or handing the card to the mailman. Go on then, it’s Christmas, a little effort and 50 cents in stamps are the least you can do.

Christmas cards, like most cards, have a blank side to them. It may be done in a pretty color, but there is space, and that space has a purpose. It is to write something. Now don’t get nervous and sweaty. You don’t have to be Shakespeare to write a Christmas card.

Even if you are self-conscious about your written talent, (or lack thereof) just write a few lines about how you are doing or what you wish for the person who will receive the card. Or just that it is snowing, or that your dog ate the Christmas pudding. Do just write! There is nothing more horrible than a pre-printed card with no personal message (except for, of course, having this empty card handed over to you by the sender).

There are of course the self-acclaimed Henry James’ amongst us who revel in having a long and concentrated sit-down to write their annual family Christmas novel (yours truly is one of them) that maybe 3 percent of those who receive it, actually read. In order to optimize the reader’s experience, please do take the following into account. Be realistic, be honest and be yourself. The number of picture-perfect descriptions of accomplished and ‘wonderful’ stories about children and grandchildren, never cease to amaze. I hate to burst your bubble but there is no such thing as perfection. In fact, no one wants to hear all the wonderful talents and achievements of some third cousin who you’ve only once met.

If your list of receivers is well organized, you’ll only send your Christmas epistle to family and friends and they actually care about you. So be honest. Yes, you can tell them about the highs of the year but do include some lows as well. Tell them that you’re menopausal, share the dark days of cleaning diapers and wanting to stick your children behind the wallpaper, open up about how your boss seems to pretty much hate you or how you only ever get a maximum of 8 likes to your Facebook posts. It will make you human, relatable and likeable, creating more fun in reading, thus upping your 3 % to maybe 6%.


© Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

Finally, do think long and hard about which photos to include, if you are the kind to share your family album in the Christmas letter. Again, there is no need or want for perfection. You don’t have to select the ugliest photos, there is no reason to upset people. But please refrain from adding 1) too many photos; and 2) adding Instagram-filtered beautiful snap shots with just the right breeze flowing through your hair and your children looking up to you in sheer delight. With the fear of repeating myself too often: steer clear from showing perfection. It’s downright obnoxious!

By mentioning the don’ts, the do’s have bubbled up automatically. But there is one more. Be kind. Both to the people you are writing about as to the people you are writing for.

Honesty is highly appreciated but that doesn’t mean that you should write everything. A Christmas letter is not a diary entry. You might mention in a Christmas letter that your daughter’s puberty is a new and not always easy phase in your life and then you make a nice joke about it, with a winking smiley behind it. That is okay. It is not okay to mention that if you’d known this, you’d never have wanted children in the first place.

There is a difference between a joke and being offensive and if you are not completely sure you know the difference, please refrain from writing about your own life altogether and stick with a personal (and kind) wish to your recipient.

On that note: I wish you a wonderful Christmas and a very happy, healthy, inspirational and loving new year!