27 Comments

  1. Jerry

    Please settle a debate. Cards were ordered that say “Merry Christmas” on the front. Can such cards be sent to a co-worker of a faith that does not celebrate Christmas? What about a client of a faith that does not celebrate Christmas?

    (I won’t tell you what side of the debate on which I fall and I promise not to criticize anyone’s legitimate analysis of the problem. To the extent you need more facts, I am happy to provide them.)

    • Oh boy, the Christmas/holiday card dilemma.
      I have atheist and agnostic friends who are just happy to get a card for the season, and really care less about what’s typed on it. Others are horribly offended that others can’t be bothered to get a more appropriate card for them.
      I’m not Christian. My grandmother sends me a religiously-inspired Christmas card each year, and each year I’m glad she’s still around to send cards. On the other hand, I have some coworkers who feel that their religion trumps mine, and send me Christmas cards of a religious nature on purpose. I let it slide, but it’s irritating (I do feel there’s a difference between someone who means well, and someone who feels that everyone SHOULD get a Christmas card because they SHOULD be celebrating Christmas). I don’t go out and find winter solstice cards just to upset them, so I’m uncertain why they might feel it’s okay.
      If I were a client, and the person sent me a specifically-Christmas card knowing that I do not celebrate, I would think that person doesn’t really appreciate my business after all.

    • Elizabeth

      If we take away the religious aspect, the question becomes much less charged. Do you acknowledge to another person a holiday that you celebrate or that they celebrate? On your birthday, people wish you a happy birthday, you do not wish them one. If you were an American living abroad, people might wish you a Happy Independence Day. It would be strange to wish them one. Why should the December holidays be any different? My solution is to buy Seasons Greetings cards, and then hand-write in the appropriate specific greeting.

    • Chocobo

      In a business setting, I would say it is probably best not to include religious greetings for the sake of professionalism. However, in a social setting, I believe it is perfectly appropriate to wish someone a Merry Christmas, even when they do not celebrate the holiday. Presumably the recipient of the greetings does not assume that you are trying to convert them, but are wishing them the goodwill of the Christmas season that is supposed to accompany the religious holiday.

      I do celebrate Christmas and have friends who wish me a happy new year on Rosh Hashana and are pleased when I send a Christmas card in turn. Since we know each other socially, they know I am not trying to make a religious statement, and vice versa. I assume if you knew someone socially who would be horribly offended by a greeting, you would not send them a card referencing the holiday. Where the cards can cross the line is when they overreach beyond a greeting (e.g. “Merry Christmas”) and start making religious or political statements (e.g. Biblical quotes, “Keeping the Christ in Christmas”) that might not be appreciated by all people.

      Where this can cross over into work is when you know a coworker or client beyond a strictly professional setting. If you are friendly with the coworker or client and know that they would appreciate a Christmas card, I see nothing wrong with sending one to them in that case.

      Either way, I am not a fan of using cards with pre-printed sentiments, so for me the point is moot. I would purchase cards with a Christmas or holiday motif on the front, such as a wreath or a Christmas tree and write in my own greetings based on who the recipient is to be. Or if they were to be used in a mass greeting sent from a business, have the inside write an alternative greeting such as “‘Tis the Season” or “Happy Holidays.”

  2. scdeb

    Send Happy New Year cards instead. I am one of those that feels I shouldn’t send cards that say Merry Christmas–I have sent cards that say Season’s Greetings & Happy Holidays. I don’t mind getting religious or Merry Christmas type cards but I don’t appreciate someone slipping in a religious bookmark or plastic prayer card.

  3. Hi Jerry,
    This issue seems to become more heated each year. Personally, I would not be/am not offended when I receive holiday cards with a religious undertone or message, whether it comes from a friend, colleague, client or business that I patronize. I understand the frustration on both sides of the issue and tend to wish people Happy Holidays (“Enjoy the holidays!”) because it encompasses all of the holidays, not just Christmas.

    Having said that, I would be hesitant to send cards to clients wishing them a Merry Christmas unless I knew for certain they celebrate the holiday. Because it is such a touchy subject for some — and you might not know who — you may be at risk of alienating a client. I have actually heard people say that a business not smart enough to send secular cards is a company that he won’t do business with. Short-sighted? Perhaps, but there may be others who feel the same. And yes, there may also be those who would say the same about a business who won’t use the words “Merry Christmas”, but this is where taking a moment to personalize the message can take care of things.

    So to answer your question, can you send a “Merry Christmas” card to a co-worker or client of a faith that does not celebrate Christmas? Yes, you can. Should you? I would say no — make the effort to recognize that person’s faith or beliefs, if you know them, or go with a more sincere, generic greeting. It’s not about you, it’s about the other person, and they will remember that you made the effort.

  4. Ashleigh

    I think there is also a difference between a card with a snowman or something generic along these lines that says Merry Christmas and sending a card with a nativity scene that is bursting with religious verses that says Merry Christmas. The heavily religious card seems like you are shoving Christianity down someone’s throat. The snowman card seems more like “Happy holiday that happens to fall when it is snowy outside.”

  5. Jerry

    So it seems like some more facts might be in order. The cards say “Merry Christmas” on the front and have an ornament. (Actually, to be more specific, the cards say “Merry Christmas” in multiple languages and arranged in such a way that the words form an ornament.) There is nothing otherwise connecting the card to Christianity than the words “Merry Christmas” — there is no creche, no star, no Bible verses. Does this change anyone’s analysis?

      • Elizabeth

        I wouldn’t be upset, but I wouldn’t think much of it, either. We live in a society of multiple religions and beliefs, and those kinds of cards (to me) just indicate people who refuse to acknowledge it. This goes double for a company – surely they must realize that many clients do not actually celebrate Christmas! I suppose it depends on the region where you live/work. I can imagine some places being more homogenous. But where I’m from, you don’t see much of this. Most businesses send Season’s Greetings or New Year’s cards.

        I still think the best thing to do is to use Season’s Greetings cards and hand-write in a more specific greeting if you know the religion of the addressee.

        Personally, I buy both Hannukah and Christmas cards and send them to the appropriate people.

        • I used to live in the Northeast where people did pretty much as you suggest: Buy a season’s greetings card, then fill in the blank inside with a personal greeting. However, here in Southern America there are a few who fight against a perceived War on Christmas, and send out cards detailing exactly who they believe is the real reason for the season. It grows tiresome for me. Most people are not like this however, and I certain don’t intend any negative generalizations.

          • Vanna Keiler

            Hi Jerry. I agree with the general consensus here. Most of the commenters, like myself, are used to getting these cards and irrespective of beliefs, are not personally offended by them. However, we may not represent the “norm” of your company’s recipients. If you know the recipients and can anticipate how they will respond (hopefully positive), then by all means send the cards. If you can stop the order in time to switch to a more generic, seasonal sentiment that would probably be the current business-savvy thing to do, or how about ordering a second, smaller batch for the clients?

  6. Ginny

    My father passed away on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I had already purchased my Christmas cards which are very upbeat. Should I send out Christmas cards this year? Should I include a note about his passing? and Should I mention that the cards were purchased before his death?

    • Country Girl

      Ginny, I’m so sorry for your loss. The decision of whether or not to send out a card is really your choice, and I think friends and family will be understanding either way. You absolutely may send out the upbeat Christmas cards you have selected.

      You may choose to keep the two events separate, or you may choose to add a special sentence about him in your card. Additionally, if you are adding a newsletter in your cards, I think it would be lovely to add a paragraph dedication to your father.

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      I am very sorry for your loss. I think you should send the cards anyway. You don’t need to mention his death as your family will already be aware of it and don’t need a reminder. The cards may bring a little Christmas joy to your family in this difficult time.

  7. M. K.

    Our immediate and extended family occasionally enjoy lunch or dinner at a casual, family-owned establishment whenever we have the time to get together. The get-togethers are decidedly informal. There’s no designated host; a date is selected by consensus a week or two in advance. Usually, one person will pay for the meal; and while there is a little back and forth, since more than a few family members want to pick up the check, it is always resolved congenially amongst those in attendance.

    On one such occasion, we were taken by surprise when the restaurant owners informed us that a family member, who chose not to join us that evening, had called in to pay for our dinner.

    If a person intends on treating their family (or anyone, for that matter), is it appropriate to pay without being present? How about showing up just to pay? Or should they invite their guests out and inform them that they will be paying?

    • Jerry

      Is this really a point of contention, or are you just curious about the etiquette? I’ll take the charitable view and assume that you’re merely curious.

      The short answer is that etiquette allows people to do nice things — even as a surprise — for other people. (This assumes, of course, that the person who does something nice doesn’t do the nice thing in an attempt to guilt you into doing something unpleasant: they can’t ask, for example, “I bought you dinner, so can you detail my car?”) There is nothing wrong with someone paying for dinner even if they do not attend. Think of it as though someone gave you a gift card to the restaurant and told you to have fun. Nor is there anything wrong with telling someone that you’re treating when the initial understanding was Dutch treat.

      • M. K.

        I apologize for misleading you in my explanation of the situation; I am genuinely interested in the etiquette.

        Before posting here, I had consulted my mother’s old copy of Miss Manners as well as the 18th edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette, but both books only address paying a bill when a person is in attendance.

        The act itself was unprecedented in our family and the more mature family members would have preferred if the person in question had come by to pay. Perhaps it’s because we’re related, but I don’t consider them to be ungracious. Since my research didn’t provide any basis for their feelings, aside from my understanding that the wishes of one’s elders should be respected, I wanted to consult the forum.

        If there are any personal reasons behind their feelings on the matter, I am definitely not in any position to ask, nor would it be appropriate to disclose them on the Internet.

        Thank you for your response; perhaps my family will be more open to the idea in the future.

        • Alicia

          I wonder if being family the thought of the elders of the family was not to impose persay but that they would have wished to have time to spend with the person more then the money spent. I wonder if the thought of the person who was so gracious as to pay was that they were unable to attend and were wishing they could attend and thus wanted to send their warm thoughts in the making of a kind gesture of paying in advance when they could not attend.
          But both of these thoughts assume the nice side of people. In absence of other evidence it is my habit to assume that people mean well it generally makes a more pleasant life.
          Money is tricky and it is hard sometimes not to step on toes but most likely everyone meant well and I would take it as such.
          Oh and yes you can pay a tab when not there and it is considered the same as any other gift. I have done it meaning it as a surprise gift for a friend when I could not be there in person. I also have had someone call ahead and pay my and my friends bar tab at our favorite place as a thank you.

          • M. K.

            Thank you for the advice.

            If that person’s intent was as you had proposed, this could be a situation where the family needs time to grow more comfortable with the idea, as it has never happened before.

      • M. K.

        Personally, I’m still confused by the matter. I think it’s a nice gesture, but it was the general consensus amongst the more mature members of the family (my parents, aunts/uncles and grand aunts) that, at the very least, the individual in question should have come in person to pay. I’m trying to understand the reasoning behind that.

        It’s entirely possible that there are other circumstances involving this person that I’m not aware of. If that’s the case, it really wouldn’t be my place to ask.

        • The person has already gone out of his/her way to pay for everyone. Now the mature members of the family believe this person should stop what s/he is doing, get into a car and drive over just to pay in person? That seems a bit unfair to the one who was generous.

          • M.K.

            I can’t really make an assumption or inquire about their intent.

            It could be that they would have preferred that person’s presence rather than their generosity.

            It’s also possible that they’re all very accustomed to having someone to politely contend with and personally thank at the time. You have a good point, so thank you. Hopefully they’ll become more open to the idea.

  8. Catherine

    I’m starting to address my Christmas cards and I have one family member who is married, but uses her maiden name. How do I address the envelope?

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      Ms. Jane Doe and Mr. John Smith (or with the names reversed). If it doesn’t fit on one line, use two lines and indent the second.

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