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Christmas Card Rules

christmas decorations and Christmas cards on white wooden background

Did you even know there were rules for sending out Christmas cards? I guess the appropriate term would be “Christmas card etiquette”, but if the people who are receiving your holiday cards are critiquing your ‘etiquette’, I think it’s time to edit your list of recipients, don’t you?

In my last post, I showed examples of how to make your own Christmas cards, so I thought it might be appropriate to give you some rules, information and advice before sending them out this year. I have been sending out Christmas cards for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, my mom used to let me send them out for our family, which consisted of going through her address book and addressing envelopes for all of the people who had a little star next to their name. My parents sent cards to most of the people in their address book because, back before social media, that was one of the most common ways that people had for staying in touch with friends and family.

Here are some things to think about when sending out your holiday cards:


Christmas cards and postage get more expensive every year, and those are probably two of the main reasons that holiday cards aren’t exchanged as much as they used to be. One helpful idea for cutting costs is that you can make your own cards, as I demonstrate in my last post, “Christmas Card Making Party – Great Ideas for Homemade Christmas Cards”. There isn’t really a solution for the constant increase in postage rates, but my suggestion would be to send your cards to the people who will appreciate them the most.

Since I send cards every year, I keep a list or spreadsheet of the names and addresses of those we send cards to regularly. A lot of people make a note of who they also receive cards from each year. If you haven’t received a card back from someone for a few years in a row, there are several possibilities as to why they may have stopped sending them. Sometimes time just gets away from people or they take a year off from sending out cards. Sometimes the expense of cards and postage just get to be too much in addition to all of the other added expenses of the season. It is also possible that the person has moved, and you aren’t sending your cards to the correct address, so this might be worth looking into.


Do you have the time and/or desire to make your own to send out this year? It’s a big project, so maybe you will decide to make five or ten, for your closest friends or family. Maybe you will choose to find some cute boxed cards. LovePop has incredibly beautiful cards available, so that might also be something you choose for a few special people on your list. Or maybe you will decide to order your cards from a place like Zazzle or Shutterfly, where you can have your family picture(s) made into your holiday cards. I always love seeing family pictures, especially from people who I don’t have the opportunity to see very often.


I will admit that I feel pretty strongly that it is worth the few added minutes (or seconds) it takes to simply sign the card yourself, even if you have your cards pre-printed with a greeting, a note and/or your names. I appreciate each and every card that we receive from people over the holidays, but there is definitely disappointment when I open the card and find that nothing at all has been written inside. I will go so far as to say that it feels more business than personal when that happens. I mean, even the cards we receive from our accountant and dentist usually have a signature from staff members on them.

Most cards (mine included) have a pre-printed paragraph or letter that gives a little update on how the family is doing and if there have been any life changes they want to share. Still, in those cases, it’s still nice to write something personal in the card, even if only to write something like, “Merry Christmas! Love, Mike & Sue” at the bottom of the card. It’s just a small effort that makes it feel more special.


According to etiquette experts, there are actually correct ways to address people on the outside of the envelope, based on their marital status, etc. On reading about this, I learned there is quite a lengthy list on the “do’s and don’ts” of addressing them correctly, but I think it’s a bunch of formalities that don’t belong on something like a Christmas card. Remember, these are YOUR Christmas cards. You don’t have to follow any rules. Sending out holiday cards is a labor of love, and you have the right to do whatever feels right for you.


When you are sending greeting cards through USPS, a typical card can be mailed for the cost of 1 postage stamp. In 2021, a 1-oz First-Class Mail postage stamp costs $0.58 at the Post Office.

To be eligible for mailing at the price for letters, a piece must be:

  • Rectangular.
  • At least 3-1/2 inches high x 5 inches long x 0.007 inch thick.
  • No more than 6-1/8 inches high x 11-1/2 inches long x 1/4 inch thick

Greeting Cards and First Class Mailing Items

Greeting cards are available in various shapes and weights and include the popular “musical” cards. Many of these cards weigh more than 1 ounce, and, if the card appears to be square, it could be subject to the $0.17 non­machinable surcharge in addition to the applicable letter-size First-Class Mail postage. Often, the envelopes for these cards are marked “extra postage required.” Due to their size, many musical greeting cards exceed letter-size standards and are classified and priced as large envelopes (flats).

In addition, note the following:

  • When a piece of First-Class Mail exceeds any one of the maximum measurements of a large envelope, it is classified and priced as a package.
  • When a First-Class Mail large envelope or flat-size piece is a box or has contents that make it rigid, it is classified and priced as a package.

Another important note is to make sure to include your return address in the upper left corner of the envelope. If you accidentally forget to put a stamp on one or have the wrong amount of postage or send the card to an incorrect address, you want the post office to be able to send it back to you.

calendar page


December 1st – December 10th, but if they haven’t gone out yet, don’t panic!

In an ideal world, you’d mail your Christmas cards on December 1st. This will give them plenty of time to arrive by Christmas and will make your recipients feel the holiday love leading up to the big day.

Estimate about 2 weeks for your mailing time (especially this year as the USPS might be facing similar delays as in 2020). Also consider that the post office doesn’t deliver on December 24th or 25th (postal workers have families too!). Count the days from December 23rd — this gives you December 9th as your 2 week buffer, but, again, do NOT panic!

It’s not an exact science. And if by some chance your Christmas cards arrive a few days after Christmas, just know that your recipients will still feel the love and joy from your greeting. Many people enjoy receiving Christmas cards after the 25th because it keeps them in a holiday state of mind (the Christmas tree is still up after all).

I hope this post was at least interesting, if not informative for you. We live in a world of text messages, emails, Snap Chat, Instagram, Facebook and the list goes on! In other words, there is no shortage in the ways we can stay in touch with the people we care about. But there is still something special about receiving a Christmas card in the mail, and I, personally, hope it’s a tradition that doesn’t completely disappear. It’s a way that we show people we care about that we took a little time and thought to wish them well in the busy holiday season. 

Thanks for taking the time to read my post. There is so much to celebrate this time of year, so take time to appreciate that. And enjoy all of the celebrations that the next few weeks bring you!

Xoxo Teresa


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