It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, well maybe not too much, but with November almost over, and with the holidays just around the corner, it is time to think about shopping, Christmas trees, decorations, and Christmas cards.

Although these days it doesn’t seem that as many people send Christmas cards as they did in the past (to be sure, it’s been a few years since I last sent out Christmas cards) I have always been one of those firm believers that what you write inside the card is just as important as the specific card you choose for a family member, friend, or colleague. Indeed, the message itself became my own special present to that person and hopefully it would be something that he or she would remember long after Christmas had come and gone.

It’s probably true that most people who are caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season may not take the time to sit down and carefully compose a “Christmas message.” Instead, they rely on the card’s message, sign one’s name and leave it that.

On the contrary, writing a message does not take that much time and depending on who you are going to send that card to, the message is important and thoughtful. In fact, one of the things that I have always enjoyed about sending Christmas cards was spending an afternoon or two writing those special and thoughtful Christmas messages. For some of the recipients of those cards it might be one of the few times that we have corresponded over the year and as such, that Christmas message becomes all the more important.

Of course what you write also depends on the person and how well you know that person. Aside from the usual “spirit of the season” fanfare, in the messages that I have written, I have tried to capture not only the holy nature of the season with the birth of Christ but also extending best wishes for spirit of the season in giving and spreading good cheer. After all, that is what the holiday season is all about.

(For non-Christian holiday revelers–Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindi—it goes without saying to choose those generic, non-Christian holiday cards but that doesn’t mean your message has to be a generic one. It is a good time to reflect on why this person you are sending the card to is important or special to you.)

If you have been out of touch with the person for a while now would be a good time to catch up on things but not too much. The most important thing to remember is that this is a “Christmas card” and you don’t want to stray too far from the spirit of the season. Talk about their family and wishing everyone happy holidays but don’t talk too much about the problems you have been having this year.

I know that when I receive a Christmas card from someone I really appreciate the effort that went into the message they wrote inside the card. If someone just signed their name I would think that he or she doesn’t think that much of me to write just a sentences. I might even think that by not writing anything or just a word or two that the person is just going through the motions of sending cards.

Finally, I believe that what we write in the card is just as important as the special card we pick out for that person. It’s part of the spirit of the season and makes that Christmas card all the more special for the person who reads it.