While U.S. Thanksgiving may be the kick-off to the Christmas shopping frenzy, I think it should also launch the snail mail holiday card season.

Because of email and social media, you’re likely receiving fewer paper cards, so you appreciate what you receive all the more. Like me, you probably display them as part of your holiday décor. When you look at a particular card, you think about the person who took the time to send it to you.

write personal holiday messagesI don’t pay as much attention to the people who email me a Christmas card, even less if it’s a Merry Christmas update on Facebook or Twitter. The less effort people expend on holiday cheer to me personally, the less time I spend thinking of them.

I’m no Scrooge. That’s just human nature, which you need to consider before you decide how to send your holiday greetings.

Make it personal

A few years ago, motivational speaker Dave Howlett prompted me to go back to mailing cards. He insisted that everyone should send thank you cards every week. Inspired, I bought cards and sent them out for a while.

Life got busy and my enthusiasm flagged. Now I’m down to sending Christmas cards to the folks I should have been thanking throughout the year.

Even better is a card with a personal note, thanking individuals for something they did for you during the year. The note has to be individual, such as thanks for cheering me up when my father got sick or taking the time to help with research for an article.

Your thank you list

At a time of the year devoted to being grateful, you should have an easy time coming up with a list of the people you want to thank. Here in Canada, where Thanksgiving is but a burpy memory, I’m planning to buy mine today, before the best ones are sold out.

Of course the cards must be printed on recycled stock. It’s even better if the proceeds go to help a charity you like. And don’t forget the secular cards for people who won’t appreciate anything about Christmas.

Like me, many of you will be using the holiday season as an excuse to stay in touch with many people you can’t think of a special reason to thank. You’re just glad you met them. That’s where email cards and other mass communication come in handy.

Group communication

I’m an expert at these. Over the years, I have written many Christmas messages from executives to their employees, customers and other important people. So let me share what I’ve learned.

As with individual cards, these messages have to be personal. Because you can’t talk about other individuals, you have to write about your own experiences and emotions, especially those that you expect the people on your list will relate to.

For example, your dog’s fascination with the first flakes of snow, tracking down that sold-out toy your daughter is expecting from Santa or sinking your teeth into that luscious shortbread.

My point is: be grateful, personal, emotional, visual, sensual and authentic. People will not feel any closer if they think your assistant simply merged a mailing list and mass holiday greetings template.

I sent an earlier draft of this post as a guest submission to Copyblogger. Sonia Simone declined, explaining that most of their readers don’t have snail mail contact lists. What a shame. While new media gives us more choices, it should not displace the old, especially in cases when it works better.  Don’t forget that most of us still listen to radio. Besides, it’s so easy to find snail mail addresses online.

Get cracking

Many of you are probably why I’m writing about Christmas cards when it’s still more than a month away. It’s because every year I wish I had started my cards earlier. After all, people are more likely to notice the cards that arrive before the Christmas rush. And I’ll be pleased to have more time in December for all the shopping, decorating, partying and visiting that make the holiday season so special.

It’s too early to know what I’ll write on my blog. I know it will be more personal than my usual advice about writing and communication and my efforts to hype my ebook Write like you talk—only better.

When my kids were young, there was no end to the heart-warming and humorous tales. As teenagers, they’re embarrased if I write much about them, amazing though they are.

My aging parents are more likely to stir the gooey emotions that bubble at Christmas. For 10 years, I’ve tried to make the holiday special, knowing it could be my mother’s last one.

At our Thanksgiving dinner, for the first time,  she was unable to lift the wine glass to her mouth. I did it for her–many times. On the front porch after dinner, as  she struggled to hold onto her cigarette,  I teased her about being tipsy. She laughed.

She doesn’t laugh much any more, so those moments are precious. Almost like those increasingly rare Christmas cards. They will be treasured.

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42 thoughts on “Get personal with your holiday cheer

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