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Holiday Card Etiquette Among Friends: An Interview with Eliza Browning

Published: December 9, 2010 | Last Updated: December 1, 2021 By | 4 Replies Continue Reading
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Eliza Browning offers tips on Holiday Card Etiquette…

Getting a hand-written card or note from an old friend or even a new acquaintance always gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. The increasing rarity of that gesture makes it even more special.

But like many others, my own holiday card list has dwindled in size in recent years. I suspect this trend is due to a host of factors: growing pressures to conserve time and energy; the urge to keep things green and paperless; escalating costs of both postage and cards; the surge in the use of instant e-cards and emails; and the desire to craft more personal messages than can be found on a card written by someone else.

Massachusetts-based Crane & Co is older than me. They’ve been in the paper business for more than two centuries, producing beautiful stationery and cards, for personal and business correspondence. (They’ve also held the contract to produce U.S. currency for the past 130 years.) Even with that rich history, the company is embracing the shifts in customs and etiquette brought about by new technologies and changes in the way we live.

“Crane has been in the social networking business since notices to gather patriots were tacked to The Liberty Tree,” says Eliza Browning, a seventh-generation member of the family-owned company. With a master’s degree in journalism and international affairs from Columbia and digital media experience with CNN, ABC News’ London bureau, and the Associated Press, Elizabeth is Director of Crane Digital. I was happy to ask Eliza several questions about holiday cards and notes:

Is there any obligation to send holiday cards or notes?

Many people use the holiday season as a way of staying in touch with family and friends. Sending holiday cards, family letters and thank you notes is a tradition for many and a thoughtful way of sending season’s greetings, no matter what you celebrate. You are not, however, obliged to send a holiday card. It’s purely a matter of choice and entirely up the sender. Many of us enjoy sending cards because it has become increasingly less common to open a note that has arrived in the mail.

Have traditions changed in terms of Christmas letters/holiday cards?

At Crane & Co., we’ve been making personalized holiday cards for more than 150 years and we’ve been supplying paper for those who make cards since the end of the Civil War. One of my favorites from the archive is the 1942 Christmas card we produced for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt are shown sitting at a table at the White House wishing “happier times to come.”

Although the act of sending holiday cards has not changed over the years, the type of card always does. Engraved cards are perennial favorites, but Letterpress and photo cards are both used frequently. Photo cards are a terrific way of giving a glimpse of your family each year.

What are your thoughts about sending holiday e-cards vs. mailing a physical card?

Holiday e-cards are becoming more and more popular for people in search of a convenient way to send greetings to loved ones. Many prefer this alternative because it is often less expensive and more convenient.

Still, nothing compares to the touch and feel of a physical card. If you want to make a lasting and personal impression, I recommend sending a paper card, though I do understand the attraction to e-cards.

Should I be acknowledging or thanking friends for the cards I receive?

You are under no obligation to send a thank you note or a return holiday card to acknowledge the reception of either. The sender should not expect to receive personal acknowledgments. If you do happen to see someone from whom you have received a holiday card, we recommend you thank him or her in person. This may sound easy, but it is often difficult to keep at the top of your mind. That’s why I hang all of my holiday cards on a string at home until after the holidays. It’s a nice decoration and is also a good way of remembering who sent you what.

Previously on The Friendship Blog:

How have your holiday card habits changed?

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Comments (4)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    . I would like to clarify that I have never received a holiday card or any card by any group or any other religion such as the one I wrote about in my question. Never, ever. While I have received holiday cards with a message about helping the homeless or even about global warming, I have never, ever seen those cards with handwritten messages by the sender to adopt their view or else……. I’d like to avoid discussing the pros and cons of any religion or political view on this blog or even in life, actually … but my original question was a sincere question as to what an etiquette expert (who is writing on a friendship blog!) would do when a holiday card is received with an overt, “you must join my religion” message.

  2. Liz says:

    While I wrote about a religion in my reply, take out what religion and replace it with a political view, a global warming view, homeless, money, etc. and the message is still the same. What a friend promotes can be very offensive, especially if it is done in an overly strong and persuasive manner. I know to stay off these subjects in this blog so that we all can enjoy it. I’m not trying to promote any certain view – although I can’t deny my own.

  3. Liz says:

    For me the true meaning of what Christ taught us Christians was tolerance. Many times biblical verses are understood differently by people & it leads to the old “my way is better than your way”. That said, it is important to Christians to teach what we believe. Christmas cards are about the birth of Christ, and even the most simplest of messages still really are promoting Christianity. Your friend’s card sounds like it is more aggressive than the usual. I have a friend like this & while she promotes a deeper relationship with God, she also hates certain immigrant groups to the point that I told her to stop with the emails.
    So, if you feel strongly that her card is offensive, I’d speak up about it. She may be mad and not be able to continue the friendships over it – that is a chance you will take. I’d bet that she feels that this is the way to bring believers to Christ & won’t back down on it. It makes me sad when I’m told to be a better Christian as I see the judgement in that message & we are not to judge.

  4. Anonymous says:

    What do you do when a friend sends you a card at the holidays and it is not merely reflecting her personal choice of religion but is urging you and everyone else to do the same? My friend sent us all a card urging us to become Christians or, if we already are Christians, to become more vigilant Christians, and to urge other people to become Christians. The card said that if any of us were having personal, financial, health, or problems, the problems would improve once we had decided to become real Chrisitans. People of other faiths or no faith were offended. Her closest friends and I even talked about it and tried to decide whether someone should tell her not to do this because she was offending certain people. Some of us felt we should say nothing. Others felt we should speak up. My feeling is that it might not be a good idea to tell her what she can and cannot send, but on the other hand, if no one tells her how some people reacted to her card, she won’t know. Can you please advise us? Thank you.

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