Writing a Christmas Letter to Family and Friends

by TTMK on December 19, 2013 · 7 comments

how to write a christmas letterDo you ever write a holiday letter to family and friends, letting them know about what happened during the year?

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.

My Takeaways

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?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle @fitisthenewpoor December 20, 2013 at 6:46 am

Oh my goodness! How horrible for that daughter and their grandson!

We hate those letters and would never write one either, but we actually like getting them from new families (ones with very young children). But they can come off as braggy. One parent sent us a card this year with a list of all the things her 3 year old can do (like count to 100 in German).


TTMK December 20, 2013 at 10:40 am

Yeah, it was quite eye-opening reading the guy’s comments about his grown kid. I felt for her. As for the letters from young families, yeah I know what you mean, they can be really nice to read. It’s cool to see excitement.


Nick @ Step Away from the Mall December 20, 2013 at 7:45 am

Wow! I have friends who send Christmas letters. It’s pretty cool. We never did that, but I think it’s a pretty fun idea if you keep it positive…


TTMK December 20, 2013 at 10:34 am

I agree, some letters can be pretty cool. Can be fun if done the right way, like the buddy of mine and his wife that are so thrilled about the new addition to their family.


Little House December 20, 2013 at 8:52 am

We usually receive two of these letters a year from family members. I enjoy reading them, but sometimes they are really long – depending on how many children they have. A paragraph is dedicated to each child and one of the family members has four! I don’t think I’d ever send one, though my husband and I have joked about sending a spoof letter. Maybe someday, when we have the time, we’ll send one ourselves!


TTMK December 20, 2013 at 10:18 am

That’s funny, like the idea of sending a spoof letter. “This year was special. I started the year 6’0″ tall, and finished the year 6’0 tall. So thrilled.” 🙂


Holly@ClubThrifty December 22, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Everyone in my husband’s extended family writes these long Christmas letters to go along with their cards. It makes me feel lazy! I did send out 75 Christmas cards this year…so at least there’s that =)


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