Dear Friends and Family:
Merry Christmas! We hope the past year has been good to you. It’s been great for us! We won the lottery, all of our kids are straight A students and working on their PhDs at Ivy League schools, we ran several marathons, never argue or fight, took several fabulous trips, and couldn’t be happier!
Does reading that make you want to read more? Probably not. But, that can often be the case with Christmas letters. The evil step-sisters of previously simple and often religious cards, these annual missives of good cheer have gotten out of hand.
I used to send friends and family a Christmas letter from the Smiths. I cleverly (well at least in my mind!) made it look like a newspaper front page and included all the news that was fit to print regarding Carla, Steve, and Kristen. Then came Facebook, texting, email, Skype, and all the other ways we now keep up and keep in touch with those we love and those we kinda like. Anything I’d include in a Christmas letter most people already know about via posts and status updates. My Christmas letter became a thing of the past.
I used to do it big too. I was never one to get a standard “send to everyone” card. I always bought several styles and themes and matched them to those I sent them to. Every year I’d also invite girlfriends over for cocoa, wine, and holiday snacks and we sit around and get our cards done while the kids were in school. It was both fun and productive. Sadly, in a move that disappointed those I always invited, the card party also become a thing of Christmases past.
I’ve always loved Christmas cards and still have a box of many of my favorites. I remember my mom sending and receiving Christmas cards and displaying them on our stairway. It was so much fun to get them in the mail. That’s how it all started. Then came family photos followed by Snapfish collages and professionally designed letters. Today it’s one more thing that society has turned into a competition.
Everyone has an opinion about the Christmas letter, which is usually chock-full of competitive musings. Some people love them; others loathe them. What most people do like are photos and personal notes and signatures. What people don’t like is excessive bragging or a mass-produced photo card with no personalized signature.
Are you planning to share your holiday glad tidings in the form of a Christmas letter? If so, make yours magical and one that recipients actually enjoy reading. Here are some tips:
- Keep it simple and keep it to one page. Anything longer than one page will be quickly dismissed by those reading it.
- Limit over-designing the letter. Use one font and include only a couple of photos. No one wants to see you, Jimmy, Johnny and Suzy in five different poses. All people want to see is how everyone looks today…not how they looked on the beach at Spring Break last March or snow skiing last February.
- Have a sense of humor and don’t write so seriously. Have fun!
- Focus on a few things, rather than a listing of many. Include new jobs, moving to a new city, weddings, graduations, and other milestones, but kids’ report cards and vast array of activities is tiresome. If you must brag about something, preface it with something like “allow me to boast for a minute…”
- Keep in mind that you’re writing a CHRISTMAS letter, so include something with the holiday spirit. Include an interesting family tradition, your favorite holiday recipe, or shre why this year’s celebration will be special.
- People don’t want to hear that your life is perfect. No one’s is so include some “cons” with all your “pros.” It’s okay to include major surgeries, a death in the family, or surviving a flood, but skip minor surgeries or setbacks. Suzy may be an honor student but she didn’t make cheerleading and learned valuable lessons from not doing so and is enjoying having others cheer for her on the cross country team!
- Personalize every single one with a handwritten note at the bottom.
- Most importantly, be yourself! Don’t try to be someone you’re not and don’t make your family out to be Ward and June’s bunch either. We all have issues and challenges and admitting it endears us to those we are so desperately trying to impress.
One last idea I’d like to suggest, and one that I still try to do, is place all the cards you receive in one big basket. After dinner, when they come in the mail, or anytime you want, talk about the person who each card is from and how you know them. In today’s spread out and mobile world, our kids don’t often know our high school friends, college buddies, and even some relatives and former neighbors. Read the card from these special people in our lives, tell your kids about them, and maybe even say a prayer for them.
Do you have any other tips or suggestions for Christmas (or any holiday) letter or card? Please share!