Do You Send Holiday Cards to Friends and Colleagues?

MoMA Evergreen Doves Holiday Cards | Corporette

2017 Update: We still think this is an interesting discussion of sending holiday cards to friends and colleagues, but you may also want to check out all of our posts on holiday business etiquette!

Holiday cards: do you send them? To friends or colleagues or both? What kind of cards do you send, and do you have any rules about it? It’s been eons since we last discussed which co-workers get a holiday card! (Pictured: MoMA Evergreen Doves holiday cards, $18.45 at Amazon.)

For my $.02, I think there are two kinds of people: those who send cards, and those who really don’t. I’m definitely in the first camp, although I’ll admit that the kinds of cards I’ve sent to friends and family have definitely changed since I’ve had kids. While I used to send pretty cards from museum stores and so forth, now I go to Shutterfly, Minted, or the like to get custom photo cards. But I don’t send those cards to people I know through the business (and because business is e-based, sending a physical card seems weird anyway!) — and I can’t see myself sending them to coworkers in my law school days unless I counted them a friend first, colleague second. (Over at CorporetteMoms we’ve talked about whether professional family holiday cards exist — and how to avoid sending what some of my single friends have joked about as “smug holiday cards.”)

As far as rules go, I can’t think of a time when I haven’t gone with a fairly neutral greeting like “Season’s Greetings!” or “Merry and bright!” just for efficiency’s sake. I always order a few extra in case someone sends me a card who for whatever reason didn’t get a card in the first round I sent them.

So I’m curious, ladies: Do you send cards to friends? To colleagues? What do you think about receiving them? Have you ever received one from a coworker that made you raise an eyebrow? 



  1. I’ve never considered not sending photo cards to people with whom I work. I can’t imagine if I didn’t feel comfortable letting my colleagues see pictures of my kids for whatever reason. I receive them from tons of my colleagues also (I’m in Texas in AMLaw 100). I’ve also never considered whether they are smug.

  2. I send hand-written cards. I probably send 35-40 and receive closer to 20. I would say most people at this point sent Minted-type cards with a pic of the kids or the couple and a generic greeting and a few friends send e-cards.

  3. I send about 60 Christmas cards each year. I do include a few law school friends and close colleagues on that list, and my assistant/clerks (because putting cash in a card feels less awkward to me than straight-up cash in an envelope). I don’t do photo cards, so I can’t speak to that specifically, but I don’t do anything different for the cards I send to people I know through work, because I’m really sending it to them because of our friendly, rather than professional, relationship.

  4. I’ve thought about sending some for the first time this year– I just got engaged, and we’ll be gathering the addresses of our nearest and dearest for wedding invites anyway, so I thought it might be nice to do cards with our engagement pictures (especially for relatives who will be meeting their new in-law for the first time at the wedding). On the other hand though, it seems pretty old-fashioned and, yes, maybe a little bit smug, especially since we’re 25 and have many friends in grad school or similar “temporary” situations.

    • Same age. I started sending them when I got married. Yes it’s old-fashioned and I’d hate to be thought of as smug, but I also love getting mail. I assume that many of my friends feel the same way, so I send them. I have so many friends text me about how they love getting them and then I get a ton in return! I’ve never felt like a card comes across as smug – but maybe because all of them are from people I care about and I enjoy seeing happy? When your friends are in “temporary” situations, it’s a bit more of a pain, but I have a separate list of people I need to follow up with yearly for new addresses (and that follow-up almost always turns into a nice conversation starter for catching up).

      • To my mind, the “smug” cards are actually those letters families used to send out where they just bragged about their kids’/their accomplishments and vacations, etc. Like “Little Bobby got straight A’s all year long, Sarah came in first in her piano competition, DH and I were both promoted and celebrated by going to Thailand! Happy Holidays!”

        • lawsuited :

          +1 I don’t think just sending a card is viewed as smug (I’ve been sending them since I was 18, regardless of whether I was single or in a temporary living situation or whatever), I think it’s the newsletters with photos from your Turks & Caicos honeymoon or bragging about your kids that gets to people.

        • Yes to this–no need to make them braggy. I consider them a great way to stay in touch with people who live out-of-state, even if it’s once a year. It’s more personal than facebook, anyway.

          Plus I LOVE receiving them in the mail and seeing how much kids have grown. So fun!

          I send a card every other year or so or more often if we have a big family event and happen to get family pictures (wedding/birth) or if we move and I want to let people know. Also, I keep the message short and highlight only a few things that happened, none of which emphasize achievements. For example, I might say something generic about working instead of “promoted to BigLaw partner!” because gag.

        • Anonymous :

          My parents always sent a newsletter and got them from a lot of their friends. The majority of them shared family news, successes if they were major (like a parent getting a huge promotion or a kid getting into college), and maybe a family vacation photo or two. I didn’t think they came across as braggy at all. There was one family that every single year bragged about their kids grades and really trivial school accomplishments (“Susie was student of the month in algebra!”) and all the incredible places they had traveled and it came across as very braggy and over the top. I definitely think it’s possible to share the news of your kid getting into college or the incredible trip to Thailand your family took without seeming like an a-hole.

          • WorkingMom :

            There is a way to write them and a way to NOT write them. I feel like most cards either end up braggy, or a list of illnesses and physical ailments. I have a family member who sends holiday cards that are basically like a comic strip – highlighting exciting trips and news from the year (grandkids! ski trip! visit with grandma! Things like that.) It’s fun to read!

            I’ve sent holiday cards for years – before getting engaged and hand-wrote a few cards to my closest college friends and extended family. We started doing photo cards when we got engaged. I skipped them last year because I just ran out of time and decided it’s not the end of the world if I skip them!

    • I’ve sent for a few years now and I’m single and mid-late 20s. I do it mainly because a) I like getting mail in return and b) I have a lot of older family members who aren’t on social media and I think it’s nice to let them know what I’m up to since we haven’t seen a lot of them since my Grandpa died.

  5. Yep, happy sender and recipient. I use the same card for family, friends and colleague-friends, and always choose a religion-neutral greeting. For holiday-networking-cards, my firm issued attorneys cards/e-cards to send to clients and contacts, which I liked – I would feel weird sending a personal vacation picture to a pure business contact.

    For family (which for me is far-flung and extended and not everyone does fb, etc) I do sometimes include a short letter/update (it fits comfortably on the back of the photo card), and some but not all of my family also includes them. I like hearing what everyone’s been up to – yes it’s mostly good news that is shared by us/them, but who cares? I find letters no more or less smug than fb or insta.

  6. Midwest Mom :

    I think this is a “know your corporate culture” kind of thing. I’ve worked for two big companies and at both address lists were circulated for holiday card purposes.

  7. I sent Christmas cards (photo cards ordered online) last year for the first time (it was our first year as a married couple) and will be sending them again this year. They contain pictures of us with our dogs, although next year they will probably contain a kid too, as I am pregnant. Those go to family and friends (about 30 cards total), but no colleagues. I give my coworkers small gifts and include a generic card with a nice message.

  8. Pretty Primadonna :

    I send “Happy Holidays”-esque cards to colleagues and professional contacts–those I want to maintain and those I want to know, and have them know me, better. Friends and family get either a “Happy Holidays”-esque or “Merry Christmas”-esque card, depending on their beliefs.

    I haven’t done the photo holiday card yet, but I imagine I would only share these with friends and family.

    The concept of “smug holiday cards” baffles me and reeks of insecurity and general bah-humbugness.

    • The manageing partner has us pose for a firm Christmas card picture each year (IN ADDITION to the Super lawyer’s picture), but we all dress up as ELVES, except for the manageing partner, who dresses like Santa. This year, tho, he asked ME to dress up as Mrs. Claus, and made me wear a silly costume with a VERY riskee set of red tights. I hope MARGIE does NOT think to much about this b/c the manageing partner has his hand on my tuchus. FOOey on that! But he said it is all in fun, even tho I do NOT think it looked profesional of me to show my leg’s and tuchus in a firm picture.

      I am a bit woried b/c all of my cleint’s will get that picture, as well as the judge, and I do NOT want them thinkeING I am NOT profesional. DOUBEL FOOEY!

  9. I send about 100 a year, and consider cards an excellent way of keeping in touch with people. Almost everyone gets a photo card from minted, tinyprints, etc., including close colleagues in my legal or business orbit. Admittedly, I am a stationery aficionado and love the opportunity to send and receive mail.

  10. Diana Barry :

    I have 2 lists: one for work holiday cards, which I send through work, and one for ‘regular’ holiday cards (the photo cards of me, DH, and the kids), and never the twain shall meet. The actual overlap is probably 5 people, but I am not sending my personal holiday cards to all my co-workers!

  11. I have a few random but related comments:

    A) I send holiday cards with pictures of my kids to friends and family. I send them to people I used to work with but not to people I currently working with since the main point of my card is to say “hello, happy holidays, you’re on my mind this season, hope you’re well” yada yada yada. Since I see my co-workers on a weekly basis, I don’t need to send these messages.

    B) My holiday cards tend to be seasonal greetings rather than Christmas cards since we have close friends and family from all religions and beliefs.

    C) I enjoy receiving cards from my friends and family as well. We usually get 20-30 cards each season and display them in the living room as part of the holiday decorations. Last year, I put ribbons around the staircase and pin these cards on the ribbons. I need to do something different this year though.

    D) If friends feel “smug” about receiving your cards, are they really your friends? The point is to be happy for your friends but if receiving a card with a picture of your friend and their kids makes you feel that bad, I think you need to re-evaluate your situation. Something must be wrong. I know some people go overboard and write about all the great things they’ve done in the past year (trips, awards, recitals, etc.) but as a friend, you just be happy for them. I wouldn’t want a friend to NOT send me a card for fear of making me feel jealous or sad. That’s totally not the point.

  12. anon a mouse :

    I send holiday cards to friends and family. Co-workers are included if we socialize outside work, thereby putting them in the “friend” bucket.

  13. I used to feel compelled to spend a ton of time doing things like sending holiday cards, but lately I’ve concluded that these fall firmly in the category of emotional labor and that my husband would never think of wasting his free time doing stuff like this. The last couple of years, I have only sent cards to people who truly mattered to me (i.e., a few close friends who live far away) and to people from whom I received cards.

  14. Anonymous :

    I would love to send them to friends, but none of my friends really send them – I usually receive less than five a year, and a couple of those are from friends of my parents. I’m 30 and everyone’s on facebook so a newsletter would be a bit redundant but I still love the idea of getting and sending a photo card. But I feel weird about sending them to people who don’t send them to me so I probably won’t send any out. Also, DH is Jewish and although they are called “holiday cards” he says they’re really a Christian thing and Jews don’t send them, so we wouldn’t be able to send them to any of his family members.

  15. Anonymous :

    I send photo cards to personal friends and family. I send a pretty stock and often created by my marketing department e-card to business colleagues. If I have a work contact where that is inappropriate they get nothing. I send a very generic holiday neutral card with a handwritten note to everyone on my team (ie my direct reports on down) thanking them for their work. I get my direct reports gifts as well and it is usually food/treats that the family can enjoy.

    I send my boss nothing (we don’t work in the same location) but I send my former boss who is still at my company a personal family photo card because we are more personal friends than colleagues. She threw me a baby shower and we often do drinks outside of work, etc. and we no longer work together.

  16. I am not a Mom, but was interested in this discussion and linked over from the main Corporette page. I LOVE receiving cards from my friends with pictures of their families, kids, pets, sock puppets, etc.! However, every year I found myself feeling self conscious about sending my own photo card or any sort of “highlights” about my year since I don’t have children. I feared that others would see me as the “self-involved childless person.” A couple of years ago, I finally overcame this crazy notion and sent a cute New Years card with a picture of me and my husband and a couple of random bullet point highlights about the year (i.e. that I took my first camping trip that year and that my husband started remodeling our master bathroom). I got so much great feedback from everyone on my holiday card list (friends and family only – coworkers/business associates get generic cards) that I realized I was being silly all those years. I agree with the commenter above – don’t worry about smugness! If anyone has an issue with your holiday card having cute pictures of your family or touting your children’s accomplishments, there is some other issue going on and, frankly, you would probably offend them no matter what you did. For my part, here’s one childless friend that’s voting for more “smug” holiday cards from my parent friends!

  17. Handwritten note :

    I love sending and receiving holiday cards. I never feel like my friends’ cards are smug or braggy, but I do have another complaint. No one seems to write a handwritten note, or even sign their name! Handwritten notes seemed to have been replaced by a collage of tiny photos instead (many of which I’ve already seen on social media) and a pre-printed greeting and signature. I love the thrill of snail mail, but maybe I’m just a snail mail purist — it’s always such a let down to open a pretty card only to find that there is not even the smallest effort at warmth or personalization. I think it’s much more fun to get a card with a quick handwritten note or at least a signature.

    • gingersnap :

      I send photocards, and wonder about how to make them warmer/more personal- do you have suggestions? I’ve started adding a brief (pre-printed) paragraph to the back (the equivalent of a Christmas letter when your household is two adults and two cats), and I use pretty washi tape to seal them (might try sealing wax this year). I’m not sure that signatures/short canned messages really make that big of a difference, and it can be callenging figuring out where to place them/what sort of pen won’t smudge.What would you, as a recipient, like to see?

      • lawsuited :

        I guess the point is that if the message is handwritten people don’t necessarily know that you’ve also written it on 5 (or 45, for that matter) other cards, whereas a pre-printed message is obviously canned. So, on your end, writing the short message makes no difference, but to the recipient it feels more special.

    • I started adding a handwritten note last year and I think people appreciate it, even if I just re-write something that was printed (hoping they are doing well, wishing a happy holidays, etc.) and then sign it. Yes, it’s just a short/canned message, but it shows that you aren’t just sending them out to a million people without regard for who the recipient is. If I’m good friends with the recipient (as opposed to the friends/family of DH – who I usually talk into writing some of the personal notes anyway), I will write something about the next time I will see them or congratulate them on something I saw on social media or their card.
      Figuring out the pen was the hardest part of this because most of the glossy cards will smudge. Now I just order cards on a non-glossy paper so that I don’t have to worry about it. Most of the card companies have a paper option that will work.

  18. lucy stone :

    I love love love holiday cards. My husband and I started sending them the year we bought our house. We probably send close to 100 and receive between 75-100. I love seeing all my cousins grow up and the babies my sorority sisters had five years ago grow into little people. At work, I send to my direct supervisor and the colleagues in my office suite.

  19. Rebecca in Dallas :

    I’ve sent cards every year since we got married. I choose 3-4 pictures of us throughout the year and make a card on Shutterfly or one of those sites.

    Honestly, this year I don’t want to put any time or effort into it. I might mail a few cards to friends or family out of state or who don’t have Facebook.

    I really do enjoy getting cards, though! I love seeing pictures of my friends’ kids.

    I don’t send any cards to coworkers unless I also socialize with them outside of work.

  20. I just received a Thanksgiving card from a friend and colleague. I thought that was so nice. “May you enjoy a bountiful Thanksgiving, a joyous Holiday Season and a healthy happy new year.” And what a good way to avoid the religious holiday stuff.

    • Aunt Jamesina :

      Ohh, I like the idea of a Thanksgiving card! I also love the French tradition of sending them out at New Year’s. That way the holiday season stress is behind you. This millenial has never sent out cards, though

  21. I love seeing people’s families and hearing about their lives via holiday cards. I would never think it’s smug. It’s like pre-Facebook. You only see the good stuff.

    Ironically, I would feel VERY smug about sending out what my year was like as a single 33 year old. “And then there was the time I was bored and just flew to Dallas to see Josie!” I don’t know why. Like here is my dog (who is so cute I mean COME ON) in 4 different outfits.

    I’ve never sent holiday cards though. I am in my parents though, and I love that. So, maybe someday if I have a family.

    Business wise, we order firmwide cards and I grab a handful and send them to about 20 colleagues. I hand write a note in those.

  22. Can we talk about how I feel bad throwing them away but have been on a real cleanse lately? I don’t send them but, what do the senders think? Pitch or keep…

    • I have a big box that I throw all of mine into. I’ve been doing it for years (and include wedding invites, bday cards, birth announcements, etc.) and it’s nice to find them a few years later. I’m pretty anti-clutter but I find a designated box does the trick.

      Agree that cards are less fun when they don’t include any personal handwritten message.

  23. I send a photo card of my family to family, friends, and coworkers/colleagues who I would have dinner or drinks with. I also buy a box of regular “seasons greetings” cards to give to coworker including those I supervise (admins with $$ and token gifts to attorneys) and friends at work who I don’t consider outside friends.

    With regards to the photo card, it really is good to consider those in a different life situation than I am. this year I wanted to send a photo with my children in a really “cool photo” but my childless sister told me that to those without kids it reads too braggie/staged. I’ve also been told by a childless (but married forever) friend that photos of only the kids is obnoxious since she wants to see the whole family. So I try and strike a balance. whole family on one side, cute/fun kids on the back. And then generic cards for those who need something different. I love stationery and looking for cards is a fun evening hobby, I ordered from Paper Culture yesterday and am excited to get my order and start writing notes. But everyone is different and I do not expect cards from everyone I give them to.

  24. I send cards to my immediate family members, close friends,Secretaries and to various Departments who have been instrumental in helping me get my work accomplished during the year. I will give small gift cards to individuals who have been especially helpful. And, my cards generally read, “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” I get cards in return and I enjoy receiving them.

  25. Anonymous BigLaw Associate :

    I don’t send cards to either friends or co-workers. I get my parents and my fiance a card for the holidays, that’s all. I get a few cards from friends, but have never ever gotten one from a co-worker. I send corporate cards to my clients.

    I don’t really have any feelings about cards. I don’t really see the point of them, and they sort of feel like a meaningless formality to me. But if others want to send them, I don’t have any thought that they are “smug” or something like that.

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