Once again it’s December, and that means, in the immortal words of American poet Tom Petty, it’s Christmas all over again. No matter how digitally sleek and cloud-based the world becomes, every holiday season we all devolve to a more primitive state where things we can touch and feel have value; no one gets excited about getting a holiday ecard, after all, but real, actual old-school paper cards rule the day. Maybe it’s due to distant memories of finding $5 bills from our grandparents inside? That was the best.
Ah, but what to write in your old-school cards? You can’t be one of those lazy folks who scrawls MERRY XMAS or SEASON’S GREETINGS and your indecipherable signature. No, you need an appropriate quote, selected not just for the season but also for the recipient. As always, books have your back—here are a few suggestions for the perfect quote to write in your cards this year.
For anyone who dreads that trip home for the holidays: “A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.” (Exiles, by Garrison Keillor)
It’s a strange twist that most of our Christmas celebrations include a lot of stuff we’d rather not be doing—and Keillor, as usual, just gets that, offering the perfect comforting quote.
For anyone who can’t be where they want to be at Christmas: “Call a truce, then, to our labors—let us feast with friends and neighbors, and be merry as the custom of our caste; for if faint and forced the laughter, and if sadness follow after, we are richer by one mocking Christmas past.” (Christmas in India, by Rudyard Kipling)
Kipling’s poem about celebrating the holidays while far away from your home is sharp, beautiful, and will reduce to tears anyone who can’t get home this year.
Paperback $6.00 | $6.95
For the stuffy and overly formal: “I sincerely hope your Christmas in Hertfordshire may abound in the gaieties which that season generally brings, and that your beaux will be so numerous as to prevent your feeling the loss of the three of whom we shall deprive you.” (Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen)
This quote can be used two ways: Ironically on your hip and happening friends or unironically on someone who takes the holiday—and themselves—far too seriously.
For your goth and emo pals: “Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.” (A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens)
Not everyone likes the cheerful ending of A Christmas Carol; some folks prefer the beginning and middle, in which Scrooge is an epic meanie and is terrified by ghosts.
For the traditionalist: “It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” (How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss)
Dr. Seuss has provided generations of people with innocent, childish quotes for all occasions, and this one is the perfect fun quote for your friends and family who consider Christmas to be Serious Business.
Paperback $9.95 | $10.99
The obligatory Potterverse quote: “One can never have enough socks. Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.” (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling)
At this point the Harry Potter fandom is probably bigger than just about any other ethnic, political, or religious group in the world. That means you have at least one friend or relation who has memorized the rules of Quidditch. This quote will delight them.
For the Bah Humbugger on your list: “People, generally, suck.” (The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror, by Christopher Moore)
Direct and to the point, this is the Down With People quote your dark, edgy friend will appreciate.
For those suffering from holiday depression: “I felt overstuffed and dull and disappointed, the way I always do the day after Christmas.” (The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath)
Contrary to popular belief, the folks who find Christmas intolerably cheery and depressing don’t need cheering up, they need to be understood. This quote “gets” them.
Paperback $15.71 | $17.00
For your friend with pagan sympathies: “Midnight, and the clock strikes. It is Christmas Day, the werewolves birthday, the door of the solstice still wide enough open to let them all slink through.” (The Company of Wolves, by Angela Carter)
Ideal for someone who loves celebrations but prefers to think Christmas is all about werewolves being born.
Finally, perfect sincerity: “I heard the bells on Christmas Day / Their old familiar carols play / And wild and sweet, the words repeat / Of peace on earth, good-will to men.” (Christmas Bells, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
If you’re not looking to make a statement, soothe someone, or comment ironically on some aspect of the Christmas season, this quote from Longfellow is sincere, beautiful, and perfect.
Now, go forth and start signing holiday cards so you can spread holiday cheer—or holiday sarcasm, depending on your life goals.