Writing a Christmas card in English is one of the top December activities for EFL learners. At this time of year, many people are thinking of writing to loved ones and friends to wish them a merry Christmas or a happy holiday season. But what should you write in the card? Read on for a discussion of traditional Christmas messages and images, along with advice on how to write a Christmas card in English using appropriate greetings, messages and closing words.
Christmas Cards in Popular Culture
People in the UK display their Christmas cards in their homes by standing them on shelves, on cupboards, on tables, along the mantel piece and often on strings attached to the wall.
Writing a Christmas card in English is an excellent way to practice your English writing skills, while sending your festive wishes to English-speaking people in your life.
Writing a Christmas Card in English
Writing a letter in English is different from writing a card. Letters are much longer in general and usually you have a lot more space to write your thoughts. This gives you more time to communicate. In some ways, this is easier than writing a Christmas card or a birthday card in English
When writing a greetings card in English, you need to think about the main concept. For Christmas cards, this is of course the festive season!
When thinking about how to write a Christmas card in English, this main message at the front or centre of the card is the most important part. This message is usually created for you in a shop-bought card. If making your own card, you will have to think of your own festive message.
English Christmas Card Greetings
English Christmas cards tend to all have words on the right page in the centre of the card. They also often have a message on the front of the card, though this is also often just an image without any writing.
The front of the card and the inside right page are where you will find the main festive message, which is usually something along with lines of:
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Wishing you Peace, Love and Joy this Christmas season!
When writing a Christmas card in English you can copy these kind of phrases for the main message.
In an EFL class, younger students will enjoy making their own Christmas cards and writing a Christmas message in English using some of this Christmas vocabulary. Students can use these traditional festive greetings and choose a fun image to add to the front of the card.
English Christmas Card Phrases
English Christmas cards can also contain other longer, more interesting phrases on the front of the card. These are often taken from Christmas carols (carols are special songs sung at Christmas time, usually with religious lyrics).
For example, you might find: ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’ or ‘Joy to the World’ (two famous carols) or perhaps ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ (a title of a fun Christmas carol celebrating the nativity and featuring lots of bizarre presents, which accumulate during the song).
Other options for Christmas messages include ‘Tis the Season to be Jolly’ and ‘Deck the Halls’ both lines taken from the carol, Deck the Halls. You could also find ‘Tidings of Joy’ or ‘Peace and Love’ written on the front of the card as general festive wishes.
Other messages on the front of Christmas cards can be light-hearted references to Christmas popular culture, such as ‘Ho ho ho’ (famous words from Santa) or ‘Bah humbug’ (famous words from Scrooge, a grumpy character from the Charles Dickens novel A Christmas Carol).
Christmas Card Images
The pictures on the front of Christmas cards can be serious fine art prints or cheerful cartoons. There are many options for these images and many include winter scenes, often featuring animals such as robins.
When considering the right Christmas card to send, the recipient’s personality will suggest the appropriate image and message!
In addition to animals and winter scenes, you will also find lots of religious scenes from the nativity. These are scenes such as Mary and Joseph in the stable with baby Jesus or the three kings on their camels.
Other popular images for Christmas cards, without the religious significance, include those related to Father Christmas or Santa, such as reindeer, Santa’s sleigh and Santa delivering presents.
Other popular scenes include Christmas trees, snowmen, presents, stockings hanging by the fire and other warm, family images.
You can also buy humorous Christmas cards with jokes on the front, which are ideal to send someone who does not take Christmas too seriously.
New Year Greetings in English
When writing a Christmas card in English, the traditional greeting of Merry Christmas is often accompanied by good wishes for the New Year.
If you are writing your own message, you can take a leaf out of this book and use a New Year message alongside the Christmas message to add more flavour and interest to your Christmas card.
You might want to refer to the exact year in your Christmas message to make it more relevant.
Many people also like to add references to happiness, health and prosperity when referring to the New Year in their Christmas card. These are wishes for the recipient’s happiness and personal success throughout the following year.
For example, a formal English Christmas card greeting could be:
‘Merry Christmas and best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2018’
Or more simply:
‘Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2018’
Other traditional adjectives used to describe the New Year on English Christmas cards include ‘peaceful’, ‘joyful’ and ‘joyous’.
These traditional expressions can seem slightly formal, so some people like to make their wording more casual by adding their own lighter message when writing a Christmas card in English.
‘Merry Christmas! Here’s to a fantastic 2018 – hope to see you all in the New Year!
‘Here’s to’ is an informal way to say you are wishing for something in the future – it is like giving a toast at a celebration or party, hoping for a great result in the future.
Merry or Happy? Choosing a Greeting…
The word ‘merry’ is interchangable with ‘happy’. These words both mean the same thing but ‘merry’ is more old-fashioned and is traditionally associated with Christmas greetings.
When writing a Christmas card in English, some people avoid using the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’ if they are trying to keep their festive greeting accessible to all, including those of different religions and those who don’t celebrate Christmas.
For example, a more universal greeting could be useful when giving cards to lots of people such as at school, university or a club, a communal card or a card to colleagues at work, if you don’t know their attitude to Christmas.
In these circumstances, you could opt for ‘Season’s Greetings’ or the catch all phrase: ‘Happy Holidays’. These both avoid any religious connotation or reference and are simply a reference to the time of year.
Of course, if you want to celebrate the religious significance with your English Christmas card, you can choose a traditional Christmas greeting and image.
Beginning a Christmas Card in English
When writing a Christmas card in English you may want to start with ‘To…’ and the person’s name. Or you could just the person’s name. You can then follow this with your message.
Alternatively, you could use the recipient’s name in the Christmas greeting itself. For example: ‘Merry Christmas, Elizabeth! Or ‘Festive greetings, John!’’
When writing a Christmas card in English, you might want to add further text. This is especially true if you are writing to a person you haven’t seen in a long time and want to use the opportunity as a way to write a letter in English.
Adding a message to a Christmas card is also a great way of writing a shorter letter. As there is less space than a normal letter, you don’t feel pressure to write too much. This is especially useful when writing a Christmas card in a foreign language, as it is less daunting!
If you want to postpone writing a full letter and simply want to send a Christmas card for now, you could also add something along the lines of: ‘I will write properly after Christmas!’
English Christmas Card Messages
Christmas messages in English cards could have as much extra information as you like. Many people like to write their longer message either underneath the greeting or on the other inside part of the card.
Most printed messages in Christmas cards are on the right side and so you could write a longer message on the inside left page.
If there is no printed message on the right side, you can write your own Christmas message in English using one of the greetings previously mentioned. Even if there is a message already there, many people like to write their own greeting anyway to add a personal touch.
Common adjectives to add flavour to a Christmas card include: ‘wonderful, ‘lovely’, ‘brilliant’, ‘fantastic’, ‘excellent’, ‘great’ – these all add a casual, relaxed touch.
For example, an English message in a Christmas card to a friend could be:
‘Happy Christmas, Laura!
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a fantastic New Year.
All the best for 2018!
Lots of love,
Ending a Christmas Card in English
Your sign off will depend on your relationship to the recipient. In the UK, most family members will sign a Christmas card with ‘love’, ‘love from’, ‘lots of love’ ‘with love from’, while others might use ‘best wishes’ or leave this part off altogether and simply sign their name.
In English, we also often use a series of ‘X’s to mean kisses. These are for platonic friends and family, as well as romantic partners.
Some people use the kisses instead of a sign off. For example:
‘Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas and New Year!
To add an extra message to your English Christmas card, you might want to ask how they are, what you have been doing that year and you plans for next year.
The content of an extra message in your Christmas card will depend on how often you see the person and how often you write letters to each other.
If you haven’t seen them in a long time and will not see them again or write again until next Christmas, you might want to write a longer message. This could include all your latest news and any updates on your activities, holidays, job and family.
Share your thoughts on writing English Christmas cards
Will you be writing a Christmas card in English this year?
Do you have a favourite standard greeting message?
How do you begin and end an English Christmas card to friends, family and more distant acquaintances?
Do you prefer traditional, religious, light-hearted, artistic, cartoon or funny Christmas cards?
Do you have any more tips to help English learners write a Christmas card in English?
Share your tips, thoughts and ideas on writing English Christmas cards in the comments!