I admit it: I’m a fan of the holiday card. I know this isn’t a very eco-friendly thing to say, but I can’t help it — I love opening my mailbox and finding, among all the bills and catalogues and sales pitches, a personal card tucked in with smiling faces and well-wishes. Despite the fact that I don’t receive nearly as many cards as I used to (many of my friends opting for e-greetings), I send mine religiously every year, and have for my entire adult life, over 20 years or so. So I fancy myself a bit of an expert on the holiday card giving-tip.
For this reason, I thought I’d share my very best tips for sending holiday cards that your friends will love to receive (and look forward to receiving for years to come).
1. Include a photo. Okay, obviously, you don’t have to include photos in your greeting cards, but man, I love it when you do — there’s just something awesome about seeing friends’ smiling faces (or their kids’ smiling faces) when I open up a greeting card. You could one of those fancy online services that allow you to upload a photo into a standard greeting card template if you want to (I’ve used Minted and TinyPrints in the past and they’re both really great, but there are also many others), but you know what? You could also just get a pack of preprinted cards at the store, get a bunch of prints of your favourite photograph of the year made at the drugstore, and stick a photograph in each envelope — that’s just as charming.
2. When choosing a photograph, go for emotion over perfection. I learned an important lesson this year: normally, I always try to have a technically perfect photograph in my Christmas cards (I’m a photographer, whaddya want from me?). Sometimes they’re photographs that I’ve taken myself with my big SLR camera; other years, I’ve used a photograph that a professional photographer friend shot for me.
This year, though, I realized that I didn’t have any professional photographs of my family to use, and I had run out of time — so in a moment of desperation, I started combing through my archive of camera phone shots. I found the photograph you see above of my daughter Alex that I took on a summer trip — it’s blurry and out-of-focus, but she’s clearly having a huge laugh, and it never fails to make me smile. I found a card template with the words “merry and bright,” and the shot seemed perfect, so I used it, even though it was a low-resolution shot. On the back of the card, I included another shot of our family — another one I took during the summer with my camera phone, holding it at arm’s length away from us, as we smiled away like goons.
The result? I’ve received more compliments on this card than any other I’ve sent in twenty years. People happily responded to Alex’s photograph the same way I did, and it was a great lesson: while the picture-perfect portrait of your family in matching clothing might be lovely, it may not convey the sort of emotion that you want to share with friends and loved ones with whom you’re sending a card. Don’t discount those favourite shots you’ve taken during the year — they might be just the perfect image for your cards.
3. Forego the long letter detailing your year in favour of a short, meaningful note. While you might have had an amazing year that you want to shout about from the rooftops, those long, “dear-everybody” letters that are often sent this time of year never feel like they were sent for the recipient’s benefit, but rather for the benefit of the person sending so that they could, you know, shout about their year from the rooftops. Save the long, information-filled letter for another time in favour of a shorter, more meaningful sentiment. But in the event you can’t help yourself, here’s a more welcome alternative: again, photographs. If your year was really that great, an accordion-type card with favourite family photos from the year (perhaps with no more than a single-phrase caption underneath) is a wonderful way to tell about your year, without making it feel like an impersonal broadcast.
And then, whether or not you choose to send a card with lots of photographs printed on it or just one, always include a short, meaningful note that makes the recipient feel thought of and special. It doesn’t have to be handwritten (although that’s obviously a lovely thing to do), but even a pre-printed sentiment that indicates the person is receiving this card because they’re important to you is enough.
4. Don’t worry too much about the holiday greeting — do whatever feels right. I mean, Christmas means a lot to me, so my cards tend to say “Merry Christmas!” at some place on them, but you know what? I certainly don’t expect the same in return; in fact, I am thrilled to receive a “Happy Hanukkah!” or “Happy Kwanzaa!” or even “Happy Diwali!” card in the mail during the holidays as well. And if you’re not religious at all, “Happy Holidays!” or “Season’s Greetings!” or even “Happy New Year!” works really beautifully, too.
My point: don’t worry about whether your recipient is going to have a hard time with the greeting you send, because chances are, she won’t. Choose a greeting that feels right for you, and go with it.
5. Don’t worry if your cards aren’t going to make it in time for the holidays. Seriously, send ’em anyway. Because you know what? The people on the receiving end of your cards are going to be so touched that you thought of them, they’re not even going to care about the date on the calendar.
With that, here’s to bringing snail mail back! Go on out and make some awesome greeting cards for friends and family (even if it’s just one or two people). They’ll love it if you do.
Do you send holiday cards this time of year?
Would you like to win your own Samsung Galaxy Camera? Repin one of the photos from our “Holiday Memories + Moments” Pinterest board with the hashtag #samsungmemories for a chance to win, or upload your own photo onto your personal board with the hashtag #samsungmemories. And from there, we will pick the top twenty photos. Contest ends December 31st, 2012.
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