Holiday card etiquette: Five tips to remember this season

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Season's greetings: 'Tis the season to visit the post office, mailing holiday cheer to loved ones near and far. 

Before you drop your card in the mail, Diane Massey, director and founder of Berkshire School of Etiquette in Lenox, has a few pointers for you to remember. 

"It is a time-honored tradition," she said. "Sending a Christmas card is a personal way to stay in touch with someone you care about."

1. There's still time — but you're cutting it close: Experts say you should mail your holiday cards by Dec. 17, according to Massey. "Not too early, not too late," she said. "Ideally, you should send them out the second week of December" Worried you might not get your cards out in time? Massey says it's OK to send New Year's wishes, instead. "It can be quite nice to get something afterwards," she said. "It's not ideal, but better than nothing."

2. Handwritten notes are best: In today's digital world, it's easy to forget the power of a simple handwritten note, which is why Massey says you should put pen to paper for the holidays. "This is the time of year to pull out the handwritten note," she said. "Keep it short, brief, and address the recipient by name. Make it personal, so it's not the same note for everyone on your card list. Especially for the elderly, they love receiving notes."

3. Save the boasting for social media: Are you still sending out long holiday letters, updating your family about all the wonderful things you did? Time to tone it down, Massey said. "Keep your letter to what's new, not boastful," she said. "It's not good etiquette to say, 'Oh we went on this extravagant vacation.' Keep it short — two or three paragraphs." Also, save your photo cards for family and close friends, not business associates, she said.

4. Delete your eCards: Before you click "send," think about the short life of your electronic card. "eCards have limited impact, limited viewing," Massey said. "An actual card you can open it, feel it. Digitally, you click on it and in 10 seconds it's gone." Electronic cards are OK, the etiquette expert says, for impersonal contacts, like people you only communicate with occasionally on social media. Or, if your family is on a budget or environmentally conscious, an eCard will do.

5. Don't forget the power of 'Thank you': Thank-you notes are very important and often overlooked, Massey said. If you received a gift or were invited to an event, you should send a short thank you — no more than three to four sentences. But use common sense. "If you get a grab bag at work, you don't need to send one. If you get a present in the mail from your great-aunt, send a thank you." For Massey, etiquette is all about "caring courtesy" and showing respect.


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