In Defense of the Christmas Letter

I spent the weekend writing our annual Christmas letter… oh the pressure!

I mean, I write for a living. (Not to suggest that I could actually live off what I make writing, but you get the point.)

There’s a certain expectation, even if it is entirely self-inflicted, that the holiday letter should be somewhat entertaining if it is written by, well, a writer.

That, and people are funny about the Christmas letter. Let’s face it. Some love them, some hate them, but no one seems to be indifferent when it comes to having opinions about the holiday form letter.

And it’s not just the letter people have strong opinions about.

Then there’s the whole issue of what do you call it? Am I going to offend my non-Christian friends by proclaiming Christ’s birth on my Christmas cards? Am I going to offend my Christian friends by saying Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas???

Seriously, I think about these things.

And what about pictures? Once a friend proudly informed me that they don’t put family photos on their Christmas cards because that’s not what Christmas is really about. I couldn’t help but feel a little bit sheepish about sending holiday cards with my kids plastered all over them that year.

I do admit, I rather miss the sentimental Christmas cards of yore with their rugged manger scenes and picturesque wintry villages, but I also love seeing family photos, and we usually pin them up on the side of the fridge where the kids can enjoy them too.

How about you? Do you send Christmas letters? Photos? Cards?

Do you even do Christmas mailings anymore?

See that? There’s another angle. There’s a whole camp of people now that feel there is no point in sending Christmas cards because we all keep up with each other on Facebook anyway. To say nothing of blogs…

These environmentally friendly types have decided to reduce their carbon footprint (and holiday commitments) by sending e-greetings instead.

See what I mean? Pressure from all sides!

In the end, of course we should all handle the holiday greetings however we prefer, but I want to make a case for the Christmas Letter (or, you know, holiday letter, for those who aren’t religious — I don’t care what you call it. I just appreciate the sentiment!)

You see, I love letters — whether they’re personally hand written or the generic form letter that goes to the entire address book, I love hearing from people and what they’ve been up to. And I love writing them. I have fun recapping our year and sharing our lives with friends and family.

And you know what else? I like getting mail!!!! Anymore, Christmas is the only time of year that it is fun to check the mailbox, and lately Christmas greetings are getting more and more scarce. I miss them.

I guess I’m just a letter writer at heart. Back before the World Wide Internets were born, I used to write lengthy letters to my friends. In high school, I’d pass notes, in college, I’d write long letters to my high school friends back home. After college, I would write to my college friends and the families I used to babysit for and pretty much anyone who lived far enough away to warrant a postage stamp.

Over the years, my writing has morphed to the internet, but I still enjoy keeping up with everyone, and I look forward all year to getting deluged with holiday cards and letters and photos… whatever people care to send, I will happily receive them, read them, and put them up on the fridge for our family to enjoy.

So listen up, you over there. Get to work! Send me a letter this year. Let me know what you’re up to! Even if I privately mock you for making it sound like your kids are perfect, I really will be happy to hear from you and who is doing what and where you traveled and what your kids are doing now.

It’s only November 13th, so you still have plenty of time. Get on it.

Join The Conversation

23 Responses

  1. Hi Jo-Lynne, I’ve enjoyed following (ok, stalking) your blog for a while now! I’ve been thinking about starting the Christmas letter tradition now that I’m married and older and don’t get to see some of my distant friends and family as much anymore. I wasn’t sure if people are still doing this either. I know my parents still get annual letters from the long-time-Christmas-letter-writers at their church and I always love reading them to see what people are up to since I haven’t gone to that church in 20+ years. Being a bit of a writer myself, I think Christmas letters are much better than just sending generic holiday cards. And the family photos are one of the best parts! I think you should keep it up for sure!

    1. Thanks! I know people are busy and they take some time and effort, but I think people are generally appreciative and enjoy them. I say go for it. You don’t have to do one every year, but it it’s nice to do one every so often – especially for those who you don’t “see” online.

  2. I’ve never written a Christmas letter or gotten one either. Even when I was a kid I don’t remember ever getting one. But Christmas card we do get and I love them!! They kids do too. We’ve never sent Christmas cards though. And this year I want too. But I do also like the cards that have family photos or kids photos on them. 🙂

  3. My husband writes the Christmas letter. He puts photos on the front and a letter on the back and it gets mailed to everyone. The letter lists what’s happening (hopefully without bragging), encourages people to come visit, and usually mentions snow at least once, since we do live in NH.

    One member of our family sends a great Christmas letter with lists of baseball games he’s attended, airports he’s been to and a section written by his dog. It’s corny as anything and I look forward to it every year.

  4. I am the same as you – I love to send and receive snail mail and yep – this is about the only time of the year (except maybe my birthday) where that happens anymore! I for one will be making Christmas cards, especially since we took the time to do family photos over last weekend. Plus, I do keep the photo cards to look back on… 🙂

  5. We send Christmas cards with a 4 x 6 picture inside. We don’t write a letter though, too much pressure for me! I do read all the letters I receive and love hearing updates from people.

  6. I love Christmas mail! I love Christmas letters. I know some people don’t like the “letter” but I do one every year. I try to be honest and one year after moving (from the city to a small town) I got in so much trouble because I joked about living in small town America. Apparently some people didn’t appreciate my humor-those people got taken off the list. I also like to look back at our old letters as a recap of where we are in our lives!

  7. I’ve contemplated writing a Christmas letter, but never went through with it… too much pressure worrying if I covered everything or if I sound like an idiot. I do, however, enjoy getting them, they mostly come from my aunts & uncles and a couple of friends who both have a higher education – maybe that has something to do with it… the more intelligent, wiser you are, the more comfortable you are sharing via a letter. Eh, who knows!

    On the point of whether to say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays… do whichever you want. Personally, I enjoy getting the Happy Hannukah or Joyous Kwanzaa holiday greetings… I feel honored that they include me in their celebrations.

  8. When my brothers and I were young I know my mother always wrote Christmas letters – then life got busy (we became less cute) and the letters turned into generic cards. Then even that stopped with time and ever increasing busy lives. All that being said, I think it is a great tradition! As with any other holiday tradition, I think it is all about what matters to you, the sender. During the holiday season when I have friends and family around I wish them a Merry Christmas, our holiday correspondences are always Christmas cards with a Biblical message somewhere in it because that is what is important to us! When I visit friends during Hanukkah, I am happy to receive the greeting “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy Holidays” and I return the selected greeting. I’m not sure how we have gotten to the place we are at where saying “Happy Holidays” has become offensive to those celebrating a select holiday, and vise versa.

  9. When I was first married..16 years ago…we used to get so many Christmas cards that I didn’t know what to do with them. Last year we got 6 or 7. I think it’s sad that people don’t take the time to send them anymore. Personally, I don’t want an e-greeting or a mass “Happy Holidays” FB post. I cherish those few cards we got last year and I LOVE seeing how their kids have grown and what they have been up to. Life is so busy and so tech-y….it’s so nice and thoughtful of them to take some time and think of our family! I still send out dozens of cards! And….yes…my kiddos are plastered all over them too!

  10. Love the new look of your blog!

    I am so bah humbug about anything holidays right now. I don’t want to think about it, I don’t want to decorate, I am a scrooge right now. Your post gave me a bit to think about. So, in order to try and get in the spirit, I at least updated my blog to a holiday theme. Maybe the rest will follow?

    Have a great week.

  11. We sent them up until a few years ago. At some point I just stopped. It seemed braggy even when it was totally not meant to be. I just felt weird about it. We are down to the point where I just do a photo card every other year or so. To *relatives* who live far away and old family friends who live far away, I will send a shorter letter. To friends and family who live nearby or whom we see somewhat often = just a photo card.

  12. I made pretty cards last year….and then never sent them. GAH! I like the idea of them – seeing/hearing how people are. But then in the end – what do you DO with them?Keep them? throw them away?

    It all becomes very complicated. And it’s an expense – a good $100-$200 to make cards/pictures/copies/get stamps.

  13. I have been sending a Christmas letter for about six years, about the same length as my marriage. It seemed a good way to stay in touch with our combined group of friends and family. We don’t see most of our friends and family because they live in other states or countries. Since my memory isn’t that great (grin), I start writing the letter in January (keeping the paragraphs by month – I delete the month headings before I send out the letter). By the time Christmas comes around I am amazed at what is in the letter, since most of it is a faint memory to me by then. This year I am looking at using an online Christmas letter service. Just don’t have the strength this year to send out the cards. I am sending a few out to those I really don’t see (such as friends overseas) and talk to on FB. I am all for Christmas letters and cards. I love to get the letters and know what our friends are up to now days. I think the cards make beautiful additions to our yearly Christmas decor! PS. I understand those that do emails, though. Many of my friends are traveling consultants, so to get even an email is fantastic! I always believe it is the thought and Christmas spirit that counts. As for Christ in Christmas and in the letter, I don’t hesitate to say Merry Christmas! and talk about what we do during the year that may involve church activities. It is part of our life. I just don’t push “religion.” Fill the letter with love and I would imagine most will just skip over what they don’t want to read.

  14. Chuckling because ever since we had kids, I debate every year whether to ‘steal’ the time to send cards & get a letter written, but I missed reading this post in Nov.
    Glad I did manage to get off photo cards, a letter & school pix to boot, but barely managed to get them in the mail before Christmas! ; )

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