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Writing the Christmas Letter

Writing the Christmas Letter

I love to get Christmas letters. I get them from people I care about, but with whom I’m not in close, regular contact.

The letters fill me in on the important details that I need to know in order to pick up where things left off the next time I see that person. They tell me things like “my father died last August,” or “my daughter is expecting a baby,” or “we finally took that trip to China we’ve been dreaming about for years.” Getting such letters is one of the things I look forward to about the holidays.”

As a boy I witnessed my parents writing and mailing an annual Christmas letter. Now that I am a parent I carry on the tradition. I consider it one of the responsibilities of maintaining a friendship. An annual letter is different than keeping in touch with social media. It is more thoughtful, poignant, and lasting.

I’ve made it a family affair. I write the final version but I include the children. In late November I give them a blank piece of paper and then I ask:

– What are the most important things that happened this year?

– What would you like to do again if we could?

– What makes you happy?

– What is the best thing about being the age you are?

– Did you meet anyone interesting this year?

They have never let me down when it comes to sharing wonderful memories.

If you are already penning an annual letter, good for you! If not, let me presume on you and give you some direction.

1) Shorter is sweeter. It is best kept to one-two pages. I once received a single-spaced thirteen-page letter. I confess, I did not read it all—reverting to skimming.

2) Be economical about photos. The ease of taking photos does not mean you should include an excessive amount. I have received letters full of tiny photos too small to decipher. One or two good, clear photos are best.

3) Track your annual correspondence by keeping a “sent and received” log. If years pass and I haven’t heard from those to whom I send the letter, I consider whether or not to continue. One year I added a paragraph at the end of the letter asking the reader to contact me if they wanted to continue to receive the note. Many did not respond and I focused my list the following year. That January was busy as many communicated, “I didn’t hear from you and missed it.” That resulted in some doing the polite thing and resurrecting the habit of contacting our family at Christmas as well.

4) Keep a copy of it. I have many I have penned over the years. It’s a great resource for our family history and I know it will be treasured by future generations.

Why not start the tradition of a Christmas letter in your family? If nothing else, it will give you a chance to say who is important in your life and why. It serves as an annual opportunity to show appreciation for the friendships you have.

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