When to send Christmas and holiday cards (and when is too late)

A holiday card with gold greenery, poinsettia, and cardinals beside a red envelope on a wood background with a spoon and marshmallows.
Paperless Post Blog > Holidays > When to send Christmas and holiday cards (and when is too late)

We’ve all been there: standing in a post office with a stack of festive, personalized holiday cards with 10 more items still on the holiday to-do checklist, only to have the postal worker say that the cards will arrive late. How do all our friends and relatives manage to get theirs into the mail so soon?

Sending Christmas and holiday cards doesn’t have to be a massive (glittery) headache. This year, try digital holiday cards in hundreds of designs that are easy to customize with photographs of the family, and can be sent out right on time for the holidays—even on the same day. Find the right design and learn the best times to send out digital or printed cards from our expert design partners who’ve graciously shared their industry tips below. 


When is the best time to send Christmas cards?

Left: A portrait of Sabrina and Eunice Moyle in their studio; right: A pink holiday card that reads “Tis the season for elf care!” and features elf illustrations.
Image courtesy of Hello!Lucky, photo credit: Amanda Marmer; “Elf Care” by Hello!Lucky for Paperless Post.


According to Eunice and Sabrina Moyle—co-founders of Hello!Lucky—the best time to send Christmas cards is shortly after Thanksgiving. “We like to send printed cards the week after Thanksgiving so that recipients have time to open and display them, if they choose, before Christmas,” they say.

For business holiday cards, the timing can be a little later. Plan to send greetings from your company by the second week of December. The Moyles follow this rule, as well. “For our business, Hello!Lucky, we usually send a digital holiday card the second week of December.  With so many people working remotely these days, a digital card is the best way to make sure that everyone receives some cheer in time for the holidays!”


Meet the experts
Eunice and Sabrina Moyle are co-founders of Hello!Lucky and creators of the ‘Tis the Season for Elf-Care advent calendar from Workman Publishing.
Hannah King manages all personalized products at Paper Source and is an enthusiastic lover of great design and heartfelt correspondence in all forms.
Chelsea Shukov is the founder and creative director of Sugar Paper.


An infographic chart describes when to send Christmas cards using info from this blog post.


When should I send online Christmas cards?

Digital Christmas cards are easy, classic, and available in every style. That’s why many people already choose to send online holiday cards instead of printed ones. Plus, your timeline can be much shorter. Paperless Post’s wide array of digital Christmas cards is perfect for any occasion—not to mention, you also get to avoid waiting in line at the post office.

For online cards for friends and family, the Moyles prefer a send date that’s closer to Christmas. “For digital cards, we like to send them out the week before Christmas, during the peak of holiday excitement.” 


When is it too early to send Christmas cards? 

Most industry experts advise waiting till after Thanksgiving is over so you don’t overpower the previous holiday. However, planning when to mail Christmas cards isn’t the only task on the holiday schedule. You’ll still need time before mailing day to take photos, design the cards, and have them printed. 

“In our continuous quest to make the holidays more peaceful, we feel like the best time to create a printed holiday card is in October or early November,” say Eunice and Sabrina Moyle. “We like card sending to feel meaningful, not like one more thing to check off the to-do list. Giving ourselves more time helps us enjoy the tradition.”


Left: A portrait of Chelsea Shukov; Right: Two hands holding Chelsea’s light blue holiday card and envelope.
Images courtesy of Chelsea Shukov.


Chelsea Shukov, co-founder of Sugar Paper, suggests an even earlier start to get the best deals. “We always recommend ordering holiday cards in September to take advantage of any discounts and get ahead of the holidays,” she says.


When is it too late to send Christmas cards?

If you want your Christmas cards to arrive before December 25th, you should send them no later than December 12th—unless you’re using Priority or Rush Delivery. Domestic mail can take anywhere between three to seven days to arrive, and that range gets even longer during the mail-heavy holiday season. And think of it this way: if you’re a bit behind, you can always change the wording to make it a “Happy New Year!” card instead.


Left: Hannah King’s holiday card with a photo of her, her husband, and her cat with a tartan background; Right: A portrait of Hannah King in her home.
Tartan (Square)” by Oscar de la Renta for Paperless Post; Image courtesy of Hannah King.


Hannah King, Manager of Custom Print at Paper Source, reminds us of the reason for sending holiday cards on schedule. “I love when we receive holiday cards early so that we can have all of the holiday greetings from our friends and family up and on display for as long as possible—so I try to keep that in mind as the sender, too.”


A card with an illustration of mistletoe with gold berries beside a card scheduling popup from the Paperless Post site.
Mistletoe Christmas” by Rifle Paper Co. for Paperless Post.


Really though, what should you do if it’s after December 12th and you haven’t sent any cards? Don’t throw in the red-and-green towel yet. Simply send a digital holiday card instead. It can be customized and delivered in less than five minutes, as long as you have your address list and photographs ready. 

If you really want to take the stress out of sending holiday cards, customize your online design ahead of time and then schedule your sends for the date you want them delivered. While the rest of your friends and family are waiting in line to buy stamps (or waiting for their printed cards to be delivered), you’ll be kicking back with a cup of hot cocoa watching your favorite Christmas classic. 


Who should I send Christmas cards to?

Left: A man and his young son smile as they look at a card with a handdrawn heart on it. Right: A card with illustrations of red and green elves wrapping presents and doing tasks reads “Have your-elf a merry Christmas.”
Image via Adobe Stock; “Helpful Elves” by Hello!Lucky for Paperless Post.


Just like a party guest list, your Christmas card recipient list can be as long or short as you’d like. Ms. Shukov says, “I love staying in touch with friends near and far, and watching their families grow.” 

The Moyles agree, adding, “We also love receiving digital cards—mostly from friends overseas—it’s an easy way to stay in touch. Holiday cards remind us that life is all about friends, family, and connection.”

If you only want to send a few cards this year, consider including:

  • Close family members
  • Close friends
  • Close coworkers
  • Your boss

If you’re sending a digital holiday card or you got a great discount on a bulk set of Christmas cards, add:

  • Extended family members
  • Childhood or school friends
  • Colleagues from other departments
  • People you’re not connected to on social media
  • Your kids’ friends’ parents
  • Neighbors
  • People you see often—hair stylist, doctor, dentist

Quick tip: Don’t toss the guest list from your wedding or last big party. Many people use these lists to build a Christmas card recipient list for years to come.


How do I keep track of Christmas card addresses?

Our industry experts all recommend using a spreadsheet to organize addresses for Christmas cards. Spreadsheets are easy to update when addresses change, and you can easily upload them to Paperless Post so your list is automatically in your address book.

When collecting addresses, it helps to be resourceful. “I keep a physical address book and collect envelopes of anyone who had a change of address,” says Ms. Shukov. She then uses that to create her holiday card list in spreadsheet form. “My holiday card list is saved as a spreadsheet so I can easily update it. I use a calligrapher to address my envelopes each year and they often appreciate receiving digital address lists.”

When a recipient’s address changes, the Moyles also have a system. “After we mail our holiday cards, we keep a stack of cards returned due to address changes,” they say. “In the quiet days after the holidays, we refresh our mailing list—reaching out to friends via email or checking for a new address on the returned envelopes—so it’s ready to go the following year.”


When is the best time to send other winter holiday cards?

While Christmas card timing is based on one date—December 25th—other winter holidays have different timelines when it comes to mailing out greeting cards.

“I am a big advocate of ordering and sending holiday cards as early as possible in the season,” says Ms. King. “For printed holiday cards especially, this gives plenty of time for the cards to make their way to the recipients and for adding special touches.” 

For each specific holiday, the dates below are good guidelines for planning when to send your holiday cards. However, if you’d like to skip the post office and its unpredictable timing this year, go digital! Find custom designs for any holiday, add personalized features like a Photo Gallery Block, and take advantage of the ability to schedule-send cards in advance to prevent future headaches—all on Paperless Post


When to send out Thanksgiving cards

A card with a gold oval border and gold leaft vine beside a matching envelope says “Happy Thanksgiving.”
Nouveau Foliage” by Paperless Post.


The date of Thanksgiving changes every year. But since it’s always on the fourth Thursday of November, you can send your digital holiday card anytime that week or send your printed Thanksgiving cards in the second week of November.


When to send out Hanukkah cards

A Hanukkah card with a blue border of abstract shapes with gold accent lines and a small Star of David beside a gold envelope with matching liner.
Groove” by Paperless Post.


The first night of Hanukkah falls on the 25th day of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar, giving it a different date in the Gregorian calendar every year. 

Determine when the holiday falls this year—usually around early or mid-December, though sometimes it’s as early as late November—and send your digital Hanukkah cards by the first day of Hanukkah or your printed cards 2 weeks before the first day of Hanukkah.


When to send out Kwanzaa cards

A Kwanzaa card with colorful illustrations of a kinara, a gift, and photos of a young family beside a black envelope with a green, gold, and black striped liner.
Seven Principles” by Paperless Post.


Like Christmas, Kwanzaa has a set celebration date—December 26th through January 1st. Schedule digital Kwanzaa cards to send on the 25th or 26th and printed cards in the second week of December to avoid the holiday rush.


When to send out New Year cards

A black “Happy New Year” card with numbers counting down from 10 to 1 beside a silver and gold envelope with gold confetti all around.
Count on Me” by Paperless Post.


The good news about sending New Year cards is that the post office volume goes down a lot after Christmas. It’s also acceptable to receive them a few days after New Year’s Day. You can send digital and printed greetings for the New Year between Christmas and the second week of January.


Christmas and holiday card etiquette

Left: An outline of a smartphone with Paperless Post’s Photo Gallery Block featuring a child’s Christmas drawing. Right: A smiling child holds a pen above colorful pieces of paper with a woman holding scissors behind her.
A Photo Gallery Block on Paperless Post; Image via Adobe Stock.


There isn’t only one way to design and send Christmas cards, but there are certain etiquette rules that keep everyone on the same page. Follow the suggestions below for Christmas and holiday card etiquette that add just the right touch of tradition and sophistication.

  • Try not to brag: There’s nothing wrong with photos of beautiful weddings and families, but for those who don’t have those things, skip the “We’re so lucky” wording and let the photos speak for themselves.
  • If someone sends you a card, send one back: Order a few extra cards for those surprise holiday cards you’d like to reciprocate.
    • Be sensitive about religious messaging when sending to people who don’t celebrate Christmas: For recipients who celebrate other winter holidays, check out 60 beautiful holiday card ideas.
  • Double-check addresses: When someone moves or a card is returned, reach out to get the right address. “I do inevitably find myself texting folks at the last minute to snag a new address or to make sure I have the right one before putting their card in the mail,” says Ms. King. 
  • It’s okay to remove people—but use discretion: If you haven’t heard from certain relatives or friends in years—or they never send you a card back—it’s okay not to send them a card (or you can send them a lower-effort digital card). But don’t make the decision lightly—you never know whose day you’re brightening with your kind holiday gesture.
  • Make it personal: “My favorite thing about sending holiday cards is taking the time to write a little note to each person we send a card to and to think of them as we enter such a special time of the year,” says Ms. King. And if you’re struggling with what to write in your cards this year, browse some Christmas card wording suggestions for inspiration.
  • Add a special touch: The Moyles try to add a little something special to their greeting cards each year. “We like to buy holiday-themed stamps and hand-address the envelopes if possible.” Ms. King adds, “My favorite thing to do is to add some festive washi tape to the envelope flaps.”


Start the holiday season right (now)

A holiday card with ornate gold and holly leaf border beside a green envelope with gold liner on a background with a gold ribbon bow.
Dickens” by Paperless Post.


Christmas and holiday cards are about maintaining connections during a special time of the year. Whether you’re sending a classic paper card, an online card, or following a Christmas card trend, your family and friends will experience those warm fuzzy feelings once they open their mailbox—or inbox.

For lovely Christmas greetings with a designer twist, try the “Norway Spruce” Christmas card or the festive “Dickens” holiday card. Have a little fun with the newspaper-style “Holiday Times” card, or put your whole family in a snow globe with the “Snow Bubble” holiday card. No matter which card you choose, or how many photos you decide to feature, the tradition of sending holiday cards guarantees that the season is sure to be a happy one this year.


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