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How to Personalize Holiday Cards: Say More at Christmas than a Mere “Season’s Greetings”

The days of buying a box of mass-produced, pre-printed cards at the mall are coming to an end. People have many options, online and in traditional stores, to personalize their cards with photographs, art, and phrases. Finding the right picture can become a fun way to review the year; finding the right phrase can be a nightmare of grammar paranoia. Help is available to those who seek it.

A Brief History of Greeting Cards

Understanding how holiday cards developed may help people trying to find “just the right words” for their family Christmas card. The Victorian holiday greetings were traditionally New Year’s greetings, showing families together, eating and doing acts of kindness and mercy. One of the first Victorian holiday cards was an impersonal, mass-produced card designed by artist John Calcott Horsley for his friend, busy socialite Henry Cole. The 1843 card read read, “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.” As Christmas became an increasingly important commercially, family scenes were replaced by Christian, Christmas, and winter symbols.

Personalizing Christmas Cards with Style

In order to personalize cards, people should have a style focus to guide their choices. The styles of holiday cards tend fall into categories:

  • traditional (family scenes or idealized Christmas scenes),
  • religious (Christian scenes),
  • seasonal (winter scenes in the northern hemisphere),
  • playful (example: Santa, penguins, snowmen).

Before looking at pictures or considering phrases, it is important to decide on a style for cards.

Using Photographs and Art to Personalize Cards

Most people enjoy sending pictures of pets, children or families with their cards. Some people use pictures from events at school or family moments; other people create Kodak moments. Photographs should be centered, clear, and identify all of the subjects in the picture and the year the photograph was taken.

It is also possible to have art printed for and on holiday cards. Any website or store that will print pictures can print scanned art. The artist should be indentified, as should the year the work was created.

Phrases for Holiday Cards

Finding a phrase that fits the style of the card can be tricky, but simple good wishes usually work well. The classic, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” will always be acceptable, but to make it more personal, fill in one of these phrases:

  • We wish you….
  • May you be blessed with …
  • May the Christmas season bring you …

Some famous quotations that may be inspiring:

  • At Christmas play and make good cheer, For Christmas comes but once a year. (Thomas Tusser)
  • Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill is to have the real spirit of Christmas. (Calvin Coolidge)
  • Christmas is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. (Agnes M. Pharo)
  • What if Christmas doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more? (Dr. Seuss)
  • Christmas! ‘Tis the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial fire of charity in the heart. (Washington Irving)

Christmas Cards During Mourning Periods

If there has been tragedy, death, or illness during the year, people choosing to send Christmas cards may want a more sobering sentiment. It is more appropriate offer peace and love rather than offering joy and happiness, since people who are suffering tend to be more reflective during the holidays.

When sending cards to those who are very ill or suffering, sweet, sentimental cards are more appropriate than humorous cards. A grieving family should be offered sympathy and hope rather than rambunctious humor or glee.

Placement of Phrases, Signatures, and Names on Greeting Cards

Phrases should be centered in the upper-middle to middle of the card, on the inner right side. The names of the family members, city and state of residence, and the year should be printed at the bottom of the card. If space is an issue, the city, state, and year could be printed at the back of the card, again centered and near the bottom of the card.

Even if names are pre-printed on the card, the cards should be signed between the greeting phrase and the pre-printed names. People should not sign the names of other people who are able to sign their own names. If one person is doing all of the cards, sign the singular last name and add the word family (such as “The Smith Family”) or use the plural form of the family name (“The Smiths”).

Personalized greeting cards are a thoughtful way to send cheer, and websites, stores, and printer software make it easier for people to create a large quantity of cards in a reasonable amount of time.