Have you received Christmas letters this year? Do you write your own?
If you ask from me, I don’t think there is a better way to share past year’s news than in a Christmas letter. It gives a lovely personal touch to the Christmas cards and greetings we send. In the past I used to write every single – nearly hundred – Christmas letters by hand but it became somewhat time-consuming task. While I absolutely love the handwritten notes (and have a serious addiction to the high quality fountain pens ), I am hoping the recipients enjoy the computerized penmanship as far as the letters go…. maybe next year brings time for handwritten letters again.
But how to write a Christmas letter ….? Over the years I have received letters that make me say “wow” in good and bad. Some make me wonder what the point is (beyond excessive bragging). Some of them are totally obnoxiously annoying. And then there are the gems: very sweet and warm, sharing Christmas spirit and happiness. Those are the letters written in the friendliest style ever, they bring that happy smile on your face, and you think I am lucky to know these people .
Quite a few friends of mine have thought about Christmas letter but often get stuck with a writer’s block when it is time to get the words on the paper. So here are some thoughts about Christmas letters …. what to say or not, simply based on my personal experiences as a writer and reader of them.
1. Write in one (your own) voice : usually it is one family member writing the letter, so for keeping the letters easy to read, write in I form, and tell about the other family members’ news without changing the voice. It is totally fine to say ” I started a new hobby, and John got a new job “. It sounds silly to write in the third person the whole letter.
2. Reality check! Avoid sugarcoating as well as melancholy. Be yourself, nice, friendly you. Tell about your real life.
3. No bragging. Whatever you do, do not brag. Like seriously, do not brag. It’s totally fine and expected to tell about good things that have happened over the year. Everyone has successes in their year, and Christmas card readers want to read about those but, really, don’t make yourself or your family members sound like they are perfect beyond perfect. No one wants to read a whole letter about your/your husband’s/your child’s promotions, excellent grades, [just fill in the blank] …. So write about the good news in a happy, positive tone but remember to be humble as well.
4. Tell about the bad news too. It just makes you more human, more normal. In fact I really loved a letter I got from a friend of mine a few years ago: she wrote about the good things in her year as well as about her divorce. In fact she asked me before writing the letter whether she should only concentrate on the good stuff, or if she should mention the divorce. My advice was to write in the most comfortable way to her, and she did it well.
5. Short and sweet. Your Christmas letter doesn’t need to be seven pages long…. one page is maximum or you start repeating yourself. Or no one really will read it…. seriously, I don’t read Christmas letters beyond a couple of pages, and I love reading. Write, read, re-write, read, re-write – that’s how the great Christmas letters are made. (Besides, this is why I have a family blog: more stuff about our life can be read here. Our whole year wouldn’t fit into one page)
6. Personal touch : add a picture on your letter. Write a quick hand-written addressing on each of your letters. I failed these both this year, big time. Simply because I did not have any time at all.
7. You vs Me . When you list of things to say in your Christmas letter, think of your friends and relatives who are the recipients. What would they want to read? You are writing to them, not to yourself.
8. Wish Merry Christmas! So many people forget the Christmas greetings at the end of their letters. Don’t be one of them.
What do you think – how to write a charming, cheerful Christmas letter?