Help your card stand out from the stack with advice from these etiquette pros.
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Happy woman writing Christmas cards at home, a close up.
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Sending identical cards to everyone on your holiday list, from your college roommate to your grandmother to your mail carrier, may be the easiest way to tackle this end-of-year task, but taking the time to add a personal touch makes them all the more meaningful, memorable, and cheerful.

"The holidays are a joyous and festive time to show friends, family, and loved ones that you care. Instead of sending Christmas gifts to everyone, a written holiday card is the perfect way to send your best wishes," says Myka Meier, the founder and director of Beaumont Etiquette, The Plaza Hotel Finishing Program. "The whole point of a Christmas message, or any seasonal greeting for that matter, is to let people know that you are thinking of them."

Use a Pre-Printed Message

You don't have to be a confident writer to send a warm, caring message; instead, rely on the professionals who designed the cards to provide wording that speaks to your holiday sentiments. "Christmas card makers put a great deal of effort into allowing folks to choose cards that have a pre-printed message that's very meaningful," says etiquette expert Elaine Swann of The Swann School of Protocol. "We should lean on that option heavily. Select a card where the wording really resonates with you and your own messaging."

Add Handwritten Salutations and Signatures

Perk up a pre-printed card by handwriting the names of the recipients inside and adding the year in the upper right-hand corner of the card—a thoughtful touch for recipients who save their cards as mementos, says Swann.

Also, consider skipping the electronically printed signature in favor of your own John Hancock in a pretty ink color. "Signing the card by hand is always a beautiful and extra thoughtful way to making a card more personalized," says Meier. "You can even have children draw little pictures inside or sign their names by themselves."

Include a Personal Note

Taking the time to add a line or two that's specific to your recipient allows you to make an immediate, personal connection. Consider personal milestones they may be marking this year—their first holiday with a new baby, in a new home, or after the loss of a family member—or reference their hobbies and personalities.

"If you know someone loves a certain sport, activity or a pet, for example, customize your message to include what the person loves," says Meier. "For example: 'Merry Christmas Natalie and Brian! Wishing you both a wonderful, joyous Christmas and endless white ski slopes this season! Lots of love, Myka.'"

Don't Share Personal Updates

One caveat: A short, handwritten note isn't the place for you to share big news of your own, says Swann. If you enclose a detailed year-in-review letter, you can include news of a move, job change, or health issues, but these few lines under a printed message should offer enduring greetings that the recipient can look back on in the future. "You want to keep it minimal, yet meaningful," says Swann.

How to Mindfully Incorporate Traditional Christmas Messages

If your card recipient list includes both people who celebrate Christmas and those don't—whether because they follow a different religious tradition or none at all—combine a universal message of goodwill with a more specific written note that references the recipient's beliefs. Swann recommends, "Wishing you good cheer this holiday season," which is appropriate for everyone from your child's preschool teacher to your favorite uncle.

Try Recognizable Lyrics

She also gives her expert seal of approval to messages that include seasonal song lyrics, religious or not, that are "part of the foundational holiday experience" for so many—like "Peace on Earth, goodwill to men," "May your days be merry and bright," and "Joy to the world."

Add a Handwritten Note

However, say the experts, it's also appropriate to send a card specific to your own holiday—even to family and friends who celebrate differently. "I think most people still like to be included on a holiday card list, even if they don't celebrate the same holiday," says Meier.

"If you send Christmas cards as a part of your family tradition, but you know someone celebrates Hanukkah instead, it's a lovely and thoughtful gesture to add a handwritten note that says, 'Wishing you a Happy Hanukkah and a joyous New Year,' or something similar," Meier continues.

Be Broad

"Should you have a big mix of people who do and don't celebrate Christmas, or your partner does not celebrate the same holiday as you, you may also choose a card that says 'Seasons Greetings' or 'Happy Holidays,'" says Meier.

7 Foolproof Christmas Messages

Still not sure exactly what to say? Use one of these expert-approved holiday phrases, suggested by Meier, for friends and family both near and far.

  1. Wishing we were all together today! Sending warmest wishes and all our love your way.
  2. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! May this be the most joyous of them all.
  3. Wishing joy, laughter and all you can eat Christmas pudding! We love you!
  4. Missing you today, however, keeping you close in my heart this Christmas.
  5. Merry Christmas! Sending all our love, good wishes, and joy your way on this special day.
  6. Happy Christmas! Wishing you peace and joy this Christmas season.
  7. Happy Holidays! Hoping you feel as loved as you are!

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