Holiday cards 101

Holiday cards can be a  fairly time-consuming project, but worthwhile.  Here’s how to do it.

Nam Y. Huh/AP/File
Holiday cards at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Ill.

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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