Tuesday, December 22, 2009

In Defense of Annual Holiday Letters

I need to say something in defense of Christmas Letters (or holiday letters as the case may be).

And it’s not just because I write one.  (Actually ours is a New Year’s Letter because I just can’t get it together before Christmas, so I’ve stopped trying).

I hear a lot of Annual Letter bashing – it’s too impersonal, they’re boring, too long, no one really cares about all that stuff, or the top complaint – it’s just bragging.

Here's the thing, if you can’t brag to your friends and family about how great your kids are – who can you brag to?

I absolutely want to hear you brag about your kids – everyone should. Every kid needs to have people who brag about them! Is it worth telling us that your kid won third place in the 2nd heat of the Pinewood Derby? Absolutely – I want to know! And pictures of the winning car, please!

Should you tell us that your daughter was the little lamb in the school Christmas pageant? How cool is that? And what about the pet’s latest antics? Yes, yes, yes, this is good stuff. It gives me a window in to your life.

Maybe you're thinking that since we're friends on Facebook, I already know what's going on in your life, but you're wrong! I'm spotty with my Facebook attendance, and couldn't possibly keep up with the hundreds of "friends" I've accumulated.

People who criticize Christmas Letters are probably just jealous that someone else is taking the time to write at length about their own family. Face it; no one has time to write personal notes in all their Christmas cards. A Christmas Letter fills me in on what you’ve been up to all year. For too many of my long lost friends, this is all the information I will get until the next Christmas Letter, so I’ll take it and be grateful.

But a letter rocks it. It doesn't need to be anything fancy or clever. Sure, some people are super creative and do things like Top Ten lists or poems about their year. Good for them. If you're the type - what better way to invest your talents?

Maybe words aren't your thing, No problem - I have a few friends who send collages of pictures with comments. I have another friend who each year sends a collection of the funniest (or most poignant) things her children have said that year. And there are a few who just use bullet points, but that works too. It gets the information across.

If you need a selfish reason to write, here’s one - do it for posterity.

I’ve got annual letters that go back 25 years now. That’s a big chunk of my life history. Hopefully, someday my descendants will want to read it. If only to gawk at how we lived, back in the days when we couldn’t tele-transport and water was abundant and free. There’s important history in these letters. Something lasting. If I ever sat down to write, “my story” there’s no way I would remember all the details of our life over the years. These letters are a clue. They celebrate the things that were important to us, the events that moved us, and the accomplishments we were proud of in any given year. I wish that my grandmothers had written letters for me to read. I would have loved to have known what their lives were really like. So if you can’t write for the rest of us, write for your future relatives.

I love Christmas Letters. I open the cards and make a stack of the letters to savor over a cup of tea when the house is quiet. After I read them I think about the people who sent them and the people they wrote about. Sometimes there is a picture to study. Reading these letters is a little sacred to me. For a few minutes my heart is connected to someone whose life has touched mine somewhere in this journey. There are lots of friends I haven’t seen in years but who made an imprint on my life and heart and so I want to hold on to the fragile thread that connects us. These letters help me do that – much more so than a beautiful card with professional greetings and a quick signature. I’m not complaining – if that’s all you have time for than I’m just grateful I’m still on your list.

But for those of you who wonder whether you should write the Christmas Letter and are afraid of being boring or sounding silly or being one of those people – I’m hear to tell you - write!

Write the letter from your heart and brag all you want – there’s nothing wrong with bragging about people you love to people you love. Nothing. And there’s nothing wrong with photocopying your message to 100 of your closest friends and relatives. Or e-mailing if that's easier. It’s a celebration that you have so many people in your life who matter that you have to resort to mass mailings. This is a good problem!

So please write that letter. The people who love you want to know what’s happening in your life. They really do. Bring on the holiday letters!

p.s. If you send me a letter, I promise you'll get a copy of mine (but it doesn't make it in the mail until New Year's).

p.p.s. If you need help getting started, there are plenty of sites that will give you ideas! Here's a few-

Tips for Sending Christmas Letters

Seven Tips for Sparkling Christmas Letters

Writing a Holiday Letter

1 comment:

  1. So funny how I've never even considered doing a letter, but your blog makes it sound so interesting! I like the point about keeping a copy for future generations..could you imagine the letters from our grandparents? Great idea!