Tips for Christmas card etiquette

8 tips for Christmas card etiquette from Paperless Post
Paperless Post BlogHolidays > Tips for Christmas card etiquette

During the holiday season, nothing spreads cheer faster than Christmas cards. Choosing the perfect Christmas card idea requires a little creativity, but sending greetings is all about planning and following a few simple etiquette rules. Whether it’s your first year sending personalized cards as a married couple, or you’re looking to change up your routine, we’ll answer the most common questions about sending, and addressing Christmas cards, and modern holiday card etiquette to set you up for a joyful Christmas season.

Who should you send Christmas cards to?

Send Christmas cards to anyone you want to wish “Happy Holidays.” Family members, close friends, and coworkers (who you also know socially) often make the list. But this year especially, don’t forget to send a Christmas card to the older people on your list, or even those who aren’t normally on your list and who might not receive much mail. They’ll be delighted to receive a digital Christmas card with your family photos.

When it comes to crafting your holiday card list, don’t procrastinate. You’re more likely to forget someone from your Christmas card list when you make it last minute. Save yourself the stress and set aside time to work on your list before starting to send. If you make your list using your Paperless Post address book, not only can you pull contacts from past events, but you’ll have a list of mailing addresses ready to go year after year. Make updates throughout the year, and by the time the holidays roll around, your list will always be ready to go.

Should you send printed or digital Christmas cards?

holiday card etiquette for photo cards

“Very Merry” by Paperless Post.

In regards to Christmas card etiquette, there’s no right or wrong way to send Christmas cards, and both printed and digital can get loved ones in the holiday spirit. We’ll leave that decision up to you, but here are the best pros of each:

Printed Christmas cards

  • Buying stamps supports the USPS. Your snail mail goes a long way!
  • You can display printed Christmas cards on the fridge or mantle
  • Include embellishments such as gold foil

Digital Christmas cards

  • Fast and easy: perfect for last-minute sending
  • Eco-friendly: send a holiday greeting and save a tree
  • The most affordable Christmas cards: send more for less
  • No need to track down everyone’s physical address; you just need their emails

When to send printed Christmas cards

To guarantee a timely arrival, you should order your printed Christmas cards four to six weeks before Thanksgiving, which ensures you won’t run into any rush fees and allows a bit of padding for any unexpected delays. Once your order of printed Christmas cards arrives, plan to send them out the first week of December.

Deciding when to send out Christmas cards relies on when you choose to order them. The earlier you order your holiday cards, the less stressful the experience will be. It does pay to plan ahead if you want to be the first on the mantle.

When to send digital Christmas cards

If you missed the order window for printed Christmas greetings, send electronic cards! Unlike printed Christmas cards, digital Christmas cards require a lot less planning. You don’t have to wait for your printed order to arrive, address the envelope, or pay for postage — so the only deadline on your mind should be when to send. You can start sending digital holiday cards anytime after Thanksgiving at the start of the Christmas season, up to Christmas Eve.

Sending online Christmas cards is also great in case anyone slips your mind, or you want to reciprocate someone else’s holiday card that wasn’t on your original list. There’s no fuss; simply send another card in just a few clicks.

If, however, the holidays pass you by, don’t sweat it. You can always send a New Year’s card wishing loved ones a “Happy New Year.” Send between Christmas and the second week in January, and pretend it was part of your plan. We won’t tell.

Business holiday card etiquetteprofessional holiday card etiquette

“Sparkling Tartan” by Paperless Post.

You have a little extra time to send company Christmas cards since professional holiday greetings include more of a neutral greeting such as “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.” For professional and business holiday cards, you should plan to send your warm wishes between Thanksgiving and the new year.

Make sure to follow proper etiquette with professional holiday greeting cards, as they reflect your business. Use your client’s and associate’s office address rather than their home address, and use the proper titles for business associates and acquaintances.

Is it okay to remove someone from your Christmas list?

The basic rule of Christmas card etiquette is that you can send holiday cards to anyone, but you don’t have to send them to everyone. While we would argue this is the year we need holiday cheer the most, if you feel like sending your season’s greetings to a smaller group, go right ahead.

If you’re going to see someone between Thanksgiving and New Year’s at a holiday party, you can wish them a “Happy Holiday” in person. If you don’t have a friend’s new address, it’s okay to remove them from your printed Card Christmas list. Or, better yet, send them an online Christmas card if you have their email.

How to sign a Christmas card

If you’re sending solo or as newlyweds, simply sign your Christmas cards with your names. But it can get tricky when you throw kids in the mix. You can either list the parents’ names and then the children’s names or list each family member in order. As a personal touch, include the ages of each kid next to their name.

If you’re sending printed cards, you can sign your name by hand below the printed names. For a dose of adorable, have your kids sign their names below for a sweet personal touch. What better way to warm their hearts?

You can add an extra personal note or drop a longer Christmas letter into the envelope for the cards you’re sending to close friends and family. If you’re sending photo cards, add a personal note or sign on the back. Get more inspiration on what to write in a holiday card with our guide.

How to address Christmas cards

How you address each Christmas card relies on what type of household it is. Addressing Christmas cards for a family will differ from how you’ll address a card to a single person or couple. As a general rule of thumb, once kids leave the house, it’s time for their own card. Send and address their card individually. Here are a few examples of how to address Christmas cards:

Addressing Christmas cards to families with children

Use family titles like “The Clark Family,” or list parents on the first line and kids’ names on the second line.

The Clark Family

4596 Maryland Avenue, 

Pinellas, Florida 34624


Andrew & Jessica

Benji, Luke, & Sarah

4596 Maryland Avenue, 

Pinellas, Florida 34624


Addressing Christmas cards to close friends and family

Use informal titles on Holiday cards for close friends and family. If you’re sending printed cards, it’s also a good idea to include a return address, so recipients know your address. You can hand address this on the envelope or invest in an ink stamp to save your wrist from a few hours of work.

Jane Doe 

4596 Maryland Avenue, 

Pinellas, Florida 34624



Browse Christmas Cards


Ready to start sending your own online Christmas cards? Get started with our selection of digital holiday cards or printed Christmas cards at Paper Source. Feeling inspired to get into the Christmas spirit? We have a guide on throwing your best holiday party that covers everything from when to host to how to send guests home.

Hero image: “Evergreen Nativity” by Rifle Paper Co.