Last Christmas when I told my college age son Ryan that I was considering foregoing our traditional Christmas letter that I’ve penned for most of his growing up years, he said to me, “Mom, you have to write your Christmas letter. You’ve always done one. It’s a tradition.” I had ordered the Christmas photo card, but the letter seemed daunting. Two weddings, one engagement. Life with work and kids.
But, I wrote the letter anyway. And did again this year.
I was inspired early on in our marriage to pen a yearly Christmas card for family and friends. My mother-in-law had been writing one since her early married years and included a family photo in the correspondence. And my parents’ good friends the Fritzsches had been writing a Christmas letter for years.
What it does, I have found, is serve as a record of your family’s life over the years. Though the letter for us changed over the years, its basic function has been a way to keep in touch, to let people know the little milestones in our children’s live, to connect.
Some years, I have included a photo with the Christmas letter while other times a photo card has part of the goods inside the envelope along with the letter. Still other years I’d Xerox a photo onto the letter itself so as to save a step and money. Some years, the letter and card are sent after Christmas. I’ve skipped a year or two in our 28 years of marriage. One year I skipped and announced that I was expecting another child.
One year, when we decided to focus on making gifts rather than purchasing I dug up all the Christmas letters and accompanying photographs and placed them in a notebook, in chronological order. I added a cover to the notebook, wrapped it up for under the tree, and sat with the kids to read each of the letters and to look at the photos. It was fun to see my children individually point out each picture or read my take on the year, which doesn’t always measure up to their view, but that’s okay.
You forget what year certain milestones happen and it’s nice to have a recap of the year in one location. It’s a way of reflecting, remembering.
Though my children do skim the yearly Christmas letter, they didn’t seem to think it was a big deal in terms of importance.
So, when my 21–year-old last year noticed — or cared — that I wrote a Christmas card was eye opening and refreshing.
Now, that my oldest son is married and out of the house, one of my twins, 16, asked me if I was going to write our Christmas letter! He went on to say that I need to write this letter. I had wanted to write one at the time, but once again, it was a busy time for me. Africa trip to see my wonderful daughter for one. Planning the Faith & Culture Writers Conference for another thing.
These are boys saying these comments to me made me ponder the topic of tradition in this blog post. The tradition of writing Christmas letters. Kids like traditions. Yes, traditions take time and energy and effort, but they are worth it.
Christmas letters allow us to remember. We think we will recall little details or our lives and in the lives of our children but as time goes by, we forget. As we write a yearly holiday letter, we are required to look back, to reflect, to ponder.
And, then year-by-year, we can skim through the letters and remember.
I’ve seen some families where the children pen the Christmas letter while others are written in the first person by each member of the family. I savor my basket of Christmas cards and letters that old friends and family have sent me this year. I read each of them. I know they took time to write them.
Some people have criticized the Christmas letter tradition as brag fests while others call just think they are a waste of time. Who wants to read them? Some of those same people who did not understand the value of the Christmas letter have years later sent me a Christmas letter!
One thing I must say regarding the Christmas letter and card is that I always include a photo of my husband Chris and me in there, and not just photos of our children. We receive a lot of photo cards and letters during this time of year, with many of them photographs of just the kids in the family.
But, I think if you are going to send along a photo, let us see how adorable your kids are! Because, chances are we do not know the kids as well as the parents. Having the adults grace the photo, helps place the kids on into the context of their family. And, if we are talking about remembering and wanting our children to remember, they need to see us parents in the pictures.
Christmas letters force me to slow down during this busy holiday season. It makes me think of each person I am addressing a letter to. I like to personalize my Christmas letters, though there have been years that I have not done that. With the world of technology we are immersed in, Christmas letters are a way to do something physical. Something tangible. Connecting with folks is so important to me. There’s nothing like receiving a letter in the (snail) mail from others, and I know others feel the same way.
So, each year, if you are one of the people who receive a Christmas letter from me, thanks for reading and for keeping in touch.
I know it’s worth it. People care. You care. Your kids care. And, you’ll appreciate it later in life.
Oh, and guess who is now writing his own Christmas letter: my son Ryan and his wife. Yep, as newly weds they’ve written their first Christmas letter accompanied by a photo card! See, they do care. And they do notice.