Holiday And Christmas Card Etiquette After Divorce

Christmas card etiquette

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

The holiday season is such a fun time to go to your mailbox. Why? Because you probably get some beautiful holiday and Christmas cards from family and friends. You get to see everyone’s kids, how much they’ve grown, and smiling, happy faces. You also get to send your holiday cards, spreading good cheer and your kids happy faces. But what happens when you get divorced? Should you still send holiday cards? This article addresses holiday and Christmas card etiquette after divorce.


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What should the return address label read?

What should the greeting say?

How should you sign the card?

Can you still use “The Smiths?” even if “The Smiths” aren’t living in the same house any longer?

Will people think it’s weird if your ex isn’t in the picture? (literally?)

Should you even send them?

These are all really tough questions, especially if this is your first holiday season and Christmas as a newly separated or newly divorced person.

Several years ago, when I got separated, it was during the month of August,  so four months later, when  the holiday season came around, sending a card didn’t really appeal to me. I was thinking, ‘We’re not a family anymore,’ ‘We’re broken,’ ‘Does anyone really want a card from a divorcee and her two kids?’

Looking back, that was the worst way to look at things, and a terrible way of thinking.


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Of course you are still a family, you are definitely not broken, and yes, everyone who loves you wants a holiday or Christmas card from you and your kids! There, that’s your holiday or Christmas card etiquette right there!

Here is some holiday or Christmas card etiquette for divorce:


1. The address return label can just have your address on it, or you can still have it read, “The Smiths,” or, just have it be from you.

There are no right or wrong answers. It’s a personal decision.



2. The greeting can be anything you want it to be!

Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year…The beauty is, divorce or no divorce, these sentiments apply.


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3. I sign my cards every year with my name (I changed back to my maiden name) and then my kids first and last names.

Again, all of these things are your decisions and there are no right or wrong answers.

The only wrong answer is to not send a holiday or Christmas card after divorce because you are embarrassed or you think people don’t want one from you.


Be strong. Be tough. Send your holiday cards this year!  You technically have until January 15th (in my opinion) to get your cards out, and if people receive them after Christmas, they will appreciate them even more because yours will come solo, and not with dozens of others that come right before Christmas.


Receiving a holiday card from you tells people a few things:


1. You possess grace, strength, and courage.  You have the confidence that your family is just as special as people who are married. (which is true.)

2. You care about saying Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to people you love and care about, and your divorce isn’t the center of your universe.

Sending holiday or Christmas cards after divorce is empowering in a way. It sends a message that the spirit of the holiday season doesn’t go away because you got divorced. It also screams independence and confidence, and in a subtle way, it shows people you are going to be just fine.


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Lastly, I want to address the question, does divorce change WHO you are sending the card to? Probably. For example, you might not be sending your soon-to-be ex-in-laws a Christmas card this year. But what about mutual friends, or friends who knew your ex first?

The best holiday or Christmas card etiquette is, take the high road. If you want to send someone a card, just do it. I bet no one ever said to themselves, “Shoot, I wish I wouldn’t have sent a card to so and so.”


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The recipient might be shocked if he or she gets a card from you, probably in a good way, though. Don’t worry so much about what people might think. In other words, if you want to wish someone a Merry Christmas, there’s no rule that says you can’t.

Like this article? Check out, “20 Things I Wish I Could Have told My Newly Separated Self”

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    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at:

    15 Responses to “Holiday And Christmas Card Etiquette After Divorce”

    1. gg

      I’ve never been the type to send out holiday cards, but you’re right, it’s a great way to connect with people who live so far away.

    2. corrinne manera

      This article is 100% how I have felt this holiday. After nearly 3 years I am planning on putting cards out. I love to give and receive them however I struggle with how to sign them. My children are in their college and just post college days and I am still including their photos. Thank you for putting this out! Joyful Season to you!

    3. Deborah Ganem Yon

      For the kids’ sake, is it helpful to say it’s also from their dad? I think it would make them feel bad if we exclude him from THEIR family.

        • Deborah De La Rosa

          This is such a great piece and thanks for sharing. I was going back and forth about sending cards, but this article convinced me that I should.

          It makes perfect sense to enjoy the holidays and live for right now!

    4. Karen L Kitto

      This post is old, but it’s what came up when I searched “Christmas cards after divorce”. My husband and I have recently separated (3 weeks ago) and I am one of those old fashioned folks who ALWAYS does a holiday card. I like the idea of doing still doing it, but I do feel a little stuck on who to sign it from. Putting all our names (him, me, our two daughters) seems a bit fake. But just doing me and the girls seems passive-aggressive somehow. Thoughts? Also I used to do several smaller photos (him and me, him and kids, me and kids, kids together, all four of us, etc.) but this year will just feature the kids and leave us out entirely. But it seems cheesy to sign it just from them — although that is also my temptation…

      • Sylvan

        I was searching for the same reason, and wanted to share my thought – There is NOTHING passive aggressive about sending a card from you and your daughters, without your husband. He can send his own with them if he wants, too. It’s just the reality of how you and the girls are spending your lives and your holiday now. I imagine many friends and family would appreciate the clarification, and would be confused at what the situation is if you included your (ex?-)husband.

    5. Emily Blanchard

      After nearly 15years and many attempts with a few cards sent, I still feel awkward. I just cannot celebrate the destruction of my life and family. I have a great career. I have a great family and beautiful children and grandchildren. I probably need a therapist, again.
      This is a really nice website to read – thanks!

    6. Debra D

      I have always sent out photo Holiday cards with all four of us (and dog) pictured. Not sure what to do this year as we are newly separated. Our kids are grown; one in college and one graduated. I would still love to send something personal but am not sure what to do. Would appreciate suggestions. Thank you!

    7. Sean McHugh

      Very often, friends of a married couple will find it awkward dealing with someone who is suddenly single. It often leads to a loss of their closeness. Sending Christmas cards is a good way to break the ice. Doing that and not discussing the breakup will put your friends more at ease and will show them (and your ex) that you have strength of character.

    8. D

      We have sent cards for years and although recently (amicably) separated I have no plan to stop. Just need help with how to sign the card (including both names). Anyone have an example?

    9. Catherine

      Divorced for years and sense ex family prefers not to hear from me. Never thought it would be so painful as I came from divorced parents and as a child it never occurred to me how a ex family may prefer.

    10. Dor

      Yes definitely send holiday cards!
      Put your pic and your kids pic and your pet too
      Put your first name and the kids names
      For the return address, I cut off the last name and used the address.
      Be proud and keep the tradition going!


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