Sunday, December 18, 2005

The recent flap over the official White House Christmas card (which didn’t have the word “Christmas” on it) has put me in a quandary. I own a business with clients of different faiths and am wondering what kind of seasonal greeting I can send that will be appropriate for all. Should I send Christmas cards to Christians, “Happy Hanukkah” cards to Jewish people, and more generic “Season’s Greetings” to those about whom I am not certain?

I am Christian myself, but I don’t wish to offend anybody who might not care to receive a card with a Nativity scene or even one that has “Merry Christmas” printed on it.

A: You didn’t say how large your business is or how well you know your individual clients, which would have helped to answer your question.

In general, if you are sending a great many cards to a diverse clientele, it is better to send a generic “Happy Holidays”-type greeting or perhaps even a New Year’s card (which is noncontroversial and therefore about as safe as you can get).

If, however, you have customers who are predominantly of one faith or whose religious affiliations are known to you, it is a very thoughtful gesture to send separate Christmas and/or Hanukkah cards or to take the time to inscribe the recipients’ names along with “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” on one of the more generic cards.

A handwritten inscription, by the way, is extremely important because it adds an individual touch to your greeting and demonstrates to your clients that you appreciate their business enough to convey your personal best wishes at this special time of year.

Address your questions on etiquette and protocol to Kevin Chaffee, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002 or send e-mail to

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