Personally, I never have. We simply don’t do that, but it’s never really been by design. Rather, it’s just not something that ever came up – and this was the case in my household when growing up as well. Just cards were sent, and that’s it.
Nevertheless, I kind of like getting them. It’s always interesting to see what everyone has been up to throughout the year, particularly if you’re longtime friends but you don’t see them regularly. If they live out-of-town, it can be nice to get an update like that.
When younger, I thought these letters were a bit comical, but I was probably being cynical. Perhaps it’s a matter of getting older, but I now enjoy reading them. Not that there are too many that come our way here, as it’s mostly actual cards – and most of those are of the family picture variety. But what letters I do read can be quite interesting.
I’ve got two examples of letters that I’ve received, one good (this year), and one cringe-worthy (years ago). They tell me how to send a good letter, versus how to send a not so good letter.
The Good Christmas Letter
This year, I got a letter from an old friend. He and his wife became parents this year, and I couldn’t be happier for them. He had been previously married years ago (he went through a lot), so this is his second marriage. It’s her first. He’s in his late 30’s, and is absolutely pumped about being a Dad. I can relate to getting super excited about being a father, as I still am.
You can see their excitement come out in the letter. Actually it was an email with attached pictures, but I’m all about that since it’s a frugal way to do it. Anyway, they described how their lives had changed this past year with the new arrival, and how thankful they are to have family and friends with whom they could share their excitement. It was a nice letter in that it was positive, updated everyone on their year without going into minutia, and acknowledged the people who were important in their lives. Great stuff!
The Cringe-Worthy Christmas Letter
On the flip side, I recall a letter that our family received some years ago. It was from a family who we had known from as long as I could remember, back to when I was in elementary school. Anyway, that year’s letter was written only by the man, not his wife at all. That was the first hint that this was no ordinary letter.
In the letter, he went through the events of the year in a matter of fact type of tone and primarily focused on himself, his wife, and one of their two kids. The other kid wasn’t mentioned in the first 90% of the letter. I recall reading it and thinking “Wow, this seems like a list of facts and not a fun letter!”. Well, it read like that all the way to the end. Then, it took a different turn.
In the very last paragraph, it finally had a couple of sentences on the other child – their oldest daughter. All it mentioned was the following (paraphrased): “Finally, our daughter Sally (not her real name) gave birth to a son this year. She is not married, and we are extremely disappointed in her.”
Ouch! Not nice. I felt bad for her, as she’s a good person.
The first type is the one you want to receive, and the second is one that you don’t want to get. I’d say that if you’re going to send a holiday letter in future years, here are a few gentle suggestions from the perspective on a person who has received quite a few:
- Keep it positive
- Share your excitement about the good things that happened
- It’s okay to share tragedies and struggles, just don’t be hostile
- Touch on the highlights, minutia isn’t important
- Express thanks and gratitude to those who really care about you
Oh, and it’s totally cool to send such a letter via email. Why spend money on postage, stationery, etc – when you can just send it for free? Also, if you procrastinate, it’s no worry. Just hit send by the 24th 🙂
My Questions for You
What do you think about holiday letters?
Do you personally send them?
Do you have any stories of interesting ones you have received?