The holidays are about a lot of things: family, big dinners, religious services, decorating, making cookies and (let’s be honest here) presents! Whatever your holiday traditions are, a gift or two may be in your future. That’s why this time of year, it’s especially important that you know how to say “thank you.”

Saying ‘thank you’ in person

“The nicest [thank-you] of all is the one you give in person,” says Cindy Post Senning, an expert on manners for kids. (Her great-grandmother was Emily Post, who wrote about manners in the early 1900s.) Senning says you should make eye contact with the gift-giver and say something nice. such as “Thank you! What a great gift!” If you don’t love the present, you don’t have to lie, Senning says. But you can find something to say that makes the gift-giver feel appreciated. Try: “It was so nice of you to think of me.”

If your holiday party includes a lot of aunts, uncles and cousins, all opening gifts at the same time, it may be hard to thank everyone in a special way — especially when all you want to do is check out your new Cool Baker Cake Pop Maker.

For those times, or for relatives who send you presents but whom you don’t actually see over the holidays, it’s time to write a thank-you note. (Be honest: Did you cringe when you read “thank-you note”?) Don’t think of that as a chore. Thank-you notes are a “nice way to connect” with people and to make your relationships stronger, Senning says.

Thank-you notes are easy

Writing them is easy, too! “A thank-you note is just two, three sentences,” Senning says. “That’s all it takes. It’s just, ‘Dear Grandma, Thank you so much for thinking of me. I always enjoy the gifts you send. See you soon!’” It doesn’t take a lot of time for you to write a thank-you note, but it will mean a lot to the person getting it in the mail. (How excited are you when you get a letter in the mail?)


One way to make sure that thank-you notes get written before the holiday break is over is to be prepared. Ask your mom or dad for some nice paper, a pen and some stamps before you receive your presents. That way, it will be easier to get started. Senning recommends having a family thank-you-note party where everyone sits around the dining room table after the holidays and writes their notes together. As a treat afterward, everyone can have popcorn or ice cream!

Other ways to say thanks

Some family members, Senning says, might prefer a thank-you phone call, and that is fine, too. Her kids always called their grandmother to say thanks. A nice conversation over the phone might mean more to some people than a thank-you note.

As far as e-mailing or texting a thank-you note, Senning says that it’s better than nothing. The whole point of saying thanks is to express your respect for the gift-giver and your appreciation for the gift. People go out of their way to give you gifts; it’s only fair that you should go out of your way a little bit to say thanks.

— Moira E. McLaughlin