According to Hallmark Cards, Inc., about 1.2 billion greeting cards are expected to be sent in the U.S. this holiday season.

Christmas is the biggest card-sending holiday, far exceeding the likes of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. Consider that approximately 48 million greeting cards will be sold each day from December 1 until December 25.

But not every holiday card is necessarily suitable for every recipient. Some Americans simply do not celebrate Christmas and some are more religious than others.

So, we turn to the experts for advice about holiday card etiquette. Is it proper to send cards with religious overtones or cards with the message “Merry Christmas?”

Etiquette authority EmilyPost.com offers the following advice for sending cards to non-Christian friends or relatives:

“Stick to cards that offer the message ‘Season’s Greetings’ or ‘Happy New Year’—with no religious figures, messages or symbols on it—appropriate for a wide range of friends and acquaintances. Sending seasonal greetings goes beyond any particular religious holiday, and it’s long been an accepted practice to wish one’s friends well at least once a year.”

The website TinyPrints.com offers a similar suggestion:

“If you are sending Christmas cards to someone who does not celebrate Christmas, it is proper etiquette to choose cards that say ‘Season’s Greetings’ or ‘Happy Holidays’ rather than ‘Merry Christmas.’ If you are unsure, err on the side of caution and send out more generic cards.”

Another matter these days revolves around the use of e-cards. Is it proper etiquette to send your holiday greetings via e-mail and save the stamp? Not everyone agrees.

“Sure,” says EmilyPost.com. “The electronic version of the traditional card is definitely greener and less expensive. The sky’s the limit—everything from a note with an attached photo to an animated extravaganza.”

The website does provide a few notes of caution: Be certain that that your acquaintances actually use e-mail, limit the size of attachments to 1MB or smaller, and don’t share other recipients’ addresses in the “To” line. Use personal rather than work e-mail addresses, and write your message as you would on a traditional card.

Alice Bauer, who offers custom holiday products under the name Ally B Designs, disagrees with the appropriateness of electronic cards on her website herviewfromhome.com.

“Don’t send e-cards as a substitute for real cards,” she says. “A Christmas card should be an act of generosity with a personal touch. If all you have to do was click a link to send a card out, it no longer evokes the feeling of traditional winter cheer. It’s easy to get affordable Christmas cards from your favorite local design or print shop or there are great online options these days.”

Hallmark, the largest manufacturer of greeting cards in the U.S., understands the changing marketplace when it comes to holiday greetings.

“Christmas is a key time during the year when people do think about sending paper cards because it is such a time-honored and cherished tradition in America,” says Kristi Ernsting of Hallmark Public Relations. “One trend we do see growing is that consumers are sending more personalized photo cards and choosing individual cards for specific, close relationships.

“Online greetings and social media are expanding the circle of emotional connections people are willing to maintain. Perhaps because of social media, exchanging greeting cards for life’s important occasions is even more relevant and meaningful today than ever before.”

Of course, there’s nothing like a homemade greeting card to send that personalized message. Making holiday cards at home can be a fun holiday activity and help kids hone their artistic skills.

Do you make cards at home? Do you pay special attention to what holiday messages are sent to individual acquaintances? Have you switched to e-mail to deliver your Christmas greetings? Please share your thoughts and experiences with other readers by commenting below.

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