Best Holiday Cards

Updated January 2022
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Buying guide for Best holiday cards

Sending holiday cards is a great way to let people know you're thinking of them over the festive season. However, with so many cards available, knowing which ones to pick can be tough. There are a few guidelines that can help you.

First, you need to consider whether you want generic holiday cards, Christmas cards, or cards celebrating another winter holiday, such as Hanukkah or Kwanza. Once you know what type of card you're looking for, the design is arguably the most important factor. It's highly subjective, so it's worth browsing through some popular options to find a design you love. Many of these cards come in multipacks, so you also need to think about the number of people you want to send cards to this year.

Once you've learned more about holiday cards, picking the best ones for you will be a breeze.

holiday cards
A beautiful, handcrafted card is great for giving to someone special, but you'll probably want to stick to more affordable options for mass mailings.

How to buy the best holiday cards

Christmas cards vs. holiday cards

When people think of holiday cards, they're often thinking of Christmas cards, but these terms aren't always interchangeable. While all Christmas cards are a type of holiday card, holiday cards aren't necessarily Christmas cards.

Christmas cards can be religious or secular, but they always feature some kind of Christmas-related imagery, whether that's a nativity scene, angel, Christmas tree, or stockings hanging over a fireplace. While they may say "season's greetings" or "happy holidays," many have "merry Christmas" or another Christmas-related message on the front or inside the card.

Holiday cards are more generic and related to the winter season but not specifically to Christmas. They definitely don't include religious imagery, but even secular Christmas-themed artwork pushes them into Christmas card territory. If you want cards that aren't related to that day at all, look for designs of snowy scenes, polar bears, deer, holly leaves, and so on.

While generic holiday cards and Christmas cards are more widely exchanged, you can also find cards related to other winter holidays, such as Hanukkah or Yule.

Design

You can find holiday cards in a huge range of designs, so the style you choose mostly comes down to personal preference or whatever you think the recipients would like best. You can find everything from highly traditional designs to funny or cartoonish designs to stylish contemporary designs. Most include illustrations of holiday-related items or scenes, while some use photos or make the text on the front the main part of the design.

Size

Holiday cards vary widely in size, but the most common sizes are roughly 4 by 6 inches and 5 by 7 inches. These are large enough that you can easily write a personal message on the card or slip in a folded family newsletter, but they're not so big that they incur extra postal fees or look ostentatiously large when displayed next to other cards.

Multipacks

Many holiday cards are sold in multipacks. These can be small packs of up to 10 cards, large multipacks of 200 cards, or anything in between. Not only does a multipack save you time compared to choosing the cards individually, but you usually pay less per card when you get a pack of multiple cards, and the bigger the pack, the less you pay per card. When you buy a multipack, check whether all the cards have the same design or the assortment includes a selection of different designs.

Holiday cards with foil or glitter on them are difficult to recycle and therefore aren't the most eco-friendly option.

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What features should I look for in holiday cards?

Included envelopes

These cards should come with envelopes so you can easily address and mail them. If your chosen cards arrive without envelopes, with too few envelopes, or with the wrong size envelopes, it’s likely a manufacturer error. However, this isn't a common occurrence, so you can assume that you'll get the right number of correctly sized envelopes with whichever cards you choose.

Message

Almost all of these seasonal cards have a message inside, though some only have a message on the front and leave the inside blank for you to add your own message. This is fine if you're only sending a handful of cards, but if you have a long list of recipients, you probably won't want to write a greeting in each one. The messages inside these cards vary from generic to religious, so it's best to check first.

Eco-friendly

In recent years, more people have started wondering if sending holiday cards is the best choice for the environment. Ultimately, it's more environmentally friendly to forgo cards, but if you love to send them, there are more eco-friendly options, such as those made of recycled paper, cards printed with plant-based inks, and e-cards.

holiday cards
DID YOU KNOW?
The modern holiday card industry arguably began in 1915 when the Hall Brothers company started mass-producing Christmas cards. This company later changed its name to Hallmark.
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How much do holiday cards cost?

Inexpensive

The cheapest way to buy these cards is in large packs. Medium to large multipacks of inexpensive cards work out to roughly $0.20 to $0.50 per card.

Mid-range

If you want to buy cards in smaller packs or choose multipacks of more elaborate cards, expect to pay $0.50 to $1 per card.

Expensive

The most expensive cards are sold individually. These range from $1 to $2 for basic cards to as much as $10 for handcrafted cards.

If you buy a large box of holiday cards that all have the same message and don't use them all up, you run the risk of sending people the same card two years in a row.

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Tips

  • Avoid glittery cards. While some people love a touch of sparkle on their holiday cards, it's best to avoid those that have glitter because it can shed and be annoying to the recipient. Also, most glitter is made of plastic and is bad for the environment.
  • Consider the recipients of family newsletters. Some people include a family newsletter with their cards. This is great for updating family members and friends you don't see often, but your mail deliverer, grocery clerk, or the colleague you occasionally say hi to in the break room probably doesn't want to know what your family has been up to for the past year.
  • Think about paring back your card list. Wanting to spread holiday cheer is a beautiful sentiment, but if you haven't interacted with someone since sending them last year’s card, reconsider whether they should still be on your list. Cards cost money to send and wood, power, and other resources to make, so sending cards just for the sake if it is wasteful.
holiday cards
You can have personalized cards made that feature your own choice of photo and design.

FAQ

Q. What should I write on a holiday card?

A. It's tempting to save time by simply signing your name in the card, but this can seem impersonal and like you're only sending a card as a box-checking exercise rather than because you want to wish the recipient happy holidays. Write a quick message, such as "warm wishes for the holidays and the year ahead," "wishing you a wonderful holiday season," or "I hope your holidays are filled with fun." You can opt for something more creative and less formal for a close friend than you would send to your boss or an acquaintance.

Q. What's the etiquette for sending holiday cards?

A. If you're wondering who to send cards to and who to leave off your list, that's really up to you. It's fine to mail a card to anyone you want to send holiday wishes to, but most people don't expect them. However, if somebody sends you a seasonal card every year, it's nice to reciprocate. Don't worry about sending cards to people who observe a religion other than Christianity. Despite what some would have you believe, nobody will be offended by receiving a card wishing them happy holidays even if they don't celebrate Christmas. That said, to be polite it's best to stick to general winter imagery like snow scenes or winter animals rather than anything religious or specifically related to Christmas. If you're sending Christmas cards just from yourself or from you and your partner, just sign your names, but if you have kids, you might want to sign it from the family as a whole to save time, for instance, "from the Smiths."

Q. When should holiday cards be mailed?

A. These cards shouldn't be mailed too early or too late. If you're sending general cards or Christmas cards, it's best to mail them four or five days after Thanksgiving or no later than two weeks before Christmas. If you're mailing cards for other holidays, such as Hanukkah or Kwanza, mail them to arrive a few days before the start of the holiday. If you’re giving a card to someone you see in person regularly, like a colleague or close friend, there's no need to mail their card. Simply give it to them in person.

 

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