The first Christmas cards date back to Victorian England. It’s no wonder the tradition has continued all this time — who doesn’t love to receive a handwritten card? But writing them is another story. Inscribing a simple “Merry Christmas” never seems like enough, ya know?
I used to be so focused on finding the right words that I’d spend more time thinking about what I’d write than I would writing. But, real talk: just because Christmas cards are a Victorian tradition doesn’t mean we have to be Charles Dickens to write them.
I’ve realized that it’s not about what I write or how much I write; it’s about how the message makes the recipient feel. So now, I focus on writing a message that’s warm and personal (i.e. tailored to the recipient). That’s it. Two to four sentences will do the job. Simple enough, right? To make card writing even simpler, here are a few prompts that have helped me conquer writer’s block. Just remember to sign off with warm wishes — that’s where a nice, to-the-point “Merry Christmas” comes in.
1. Say thanks
Sometimes, Christmas seems to be all about gifts. But we all know the best gifts aren’t things but people. This prompt works as well for as a close friend as it does for a coworker. Think about how this person has been a gift to you, and share that with him or her. For example, how does this person make your life better? How has this person helped you? How has this person inspired you? What about this person makes you grateful for him or her? Write it out.
2. Humor them
Whenever you’re writing to someone close to you, a surefire answer to writer’s block is to imagine you’re chatting with them. In other words, keep it conversational. Humor works well here. Remind this person of an inside joke or make light of an anecdote. Bonus points if it’s seasonal — thinking about memories from past Christmas (or Advent) seasons can help you come up with warm wishes for the present. Two examples of this are below.
“Remember that time we crammed a Christmas tree into our dorm room? You know I don’t miss the room, but I miss you! I hope you’re up to just as much fun this Christmas as we were back then.”
“I’ve been looking forward to a second (or fifth) serving of your famous fudge since last Christmas Eve. Oh yeah, looking forward to seeing you, too. In all seriousness, I’m so thankful to get to spend this time with you. Merry Christmas!”
3. Start with a song
No, not a singing telegram. (Sorry!) But Christmas songs are kind of an inspirational goldmine when it comes to card writing. Maybe you have an all-time favorite Christmas song. Maybe your Christmas playlist has been in rotation since October, and you can’t get certain lyrics out of your head. Just choose part of a verse (or verses) from a song that speaks to you, and consider how it relates to the person you’re writing to.
This method is simpler than it may sound. First, inscribe whatever lyrics you’re using in the card. Think of it as setting the stage for the message you’re going to write. I’ll use these lyrics from “O Holy Night” as an example: “Truly He taught us to love one another, / His law is love and His gospel is peace. / Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. / And in his name, all oppression shall cease.”
Next, you want to think about how the lyrics remind you of the person you’re writing about. The following message speaks for itself: “Wishing you a Christmas filled with as much love as you bring to our family. Thank you for showing us the meaning of the season.” Short and sweet.
Or take this example. Let’s say you have a friend, an attorney, who takes on wrongful conviction cases or advocates for refugees. It’d be fitting to draw on the song’s theme of freedom from oppression here: “Merry Christmas to a friend who fights injustice like a boss. The world needs more people like you.”
This method works with Scripture, too. If you’re writing to a friend who brings a lot of joy to life, check out Matthew 2:10-11. If your recipient has been bogged down with worries, Luke 2:10 can offer some reassurance.
4. Wish them well
If Christmas cards are about warm wishes, this prompt delivers. Start to think about what you wish for the recipient. This can be a more difficult prompt to tackle, because it takes looking past the superficial and thinking about what’s in this person’s best interest or even what would point this person to heaven. You can even think of it as a prayer.
Here’s what I mean: If I’m praying for this person, what am I asking God for? If I’m thanking God for this person, what am I saying to Him? This can be however specific you see fit. Here are a couple of takes.
“The Lord knew what He was doing when He let our paths cross in college, and I’m so thankful we both live in the same city again.”
“Merry Christmas and a happy new year! I can’t wait to see what great things God has in store for you this next year.”
This prompt is all about being sincere — and discrete. In other words, don’t use a Christmas card to tell your friend you wish she’d just get over her ex. You can still broach heavy subjects like death or job loss; just remember to keep the message encouraging. The two examples below show how you can put a more positive spin on tough circumstances.
“I know this year has been hard for you. I hope this Christmas brings you peace. Sending prayers your way.”
“I hope you’re able to turn to Jesus for consolation this Christmas. He’s always there for you, and I’m here for you, too.”
One last word of encouragement: The more cards you write, the more natural it’ll seem. Even if you’re stumped, take it one sentence at a time. Remember, it’s not about impressing the recipients but about letting them know their worth — after all, Jesus came into the world to do just that.