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photo credit: catchesthelight via photopin cc

photo credit: catchesthelight via photopin cc

Christmas letters are a way to keep up with family and out of town friends. In this electronic age, we can keep up on facebook to some degree and on email and even text, but this is a bit more personal. And if you are like some in our group of family and friends, some are not online. The nice thing about a Christmas letter is that it can be mailed or emailed.

Another helpful thing about a letter is that it gives you an opportunity to look back over your year to see what blessings you have received and what sadnesses and struggles you have come through.

For years, I kept up with newsletters at Christmas, but the last few years I haven’t done well at all!

This year, I will have to write a letter or I will lose contact with a lot of people. We moved to Huntsville, AL last year (Spring 2013) and the forwarding worked from our old address for a year. Now, we have moved again (Spring 2014) so I will have to send a letter with the new address. I will have to get with it and write a letter. It won’t take long. I just have to sit down and do it!

What goes in the letter?

Keeping up with friends that you don’t see all the time is what your goal audience is probably going to be. My personal philosophy is not to send Christmas cards to people I see all the time. But some people send them to all their friends. Frankly, it gets way too expensive for us.

That’s why I send a letter. When the kids were home, I usually included a picture. Often I still do with some pictures of the grandchildren.

Things to include would be big changes in your family since the last year: new members, members who have passed away that year, big honors like graduations, etc. and job changes would be some examples.

Other big events in the life of your family that you think they would like to hear about. Personally, I don’t really care that much that your child got on honor roll unless school has been a big struggle and they had to work very hard to get there. I don’t think I’m unusual.

It is interesting to hear your child is learning to play a certain instrument…expecially if he/she has been working at it a few years. That is impressive and represents a lot of work. The same goes for a sport they are active in or the plays they are involved in.

What makes them unique in your family? What about your family sets you apart? What about the year has been the same as always? What has stood out? Telling what your family seems to stand for (not what you wish it stood for) What has stood out for your family this year? These are the things that make the letter special to family and friends.

How to avoid sounding braggy

I was surprised to hear people who thought that these letters are considered to be brag sheets. I always enjoy reading them to learn what is happening with old friends. I must be a little geeky that way.

I would recommend that when you are writing a Christmas letter, try to strike a balance between the positive events in your life and the difficult ones that you feel free to share. It will come across as a brag sheet if all you talk about are the ways you and your family excel. By bringing in a little about some sadness or struggles you are dealing with, you come across as much more human and less braggy.

You don’t come across more humbly by having a more gloomy letter either. I’m just calling for a balance. If it has been a gloomy year with a lot of losses, you might have to think about some hopeful words to add to balance out your letter…if they are honest. Sometimes it just takes some thought to get some perspective on the events of your year.

Of course, you can be honest if it has been an outstanding year…or a really awful one. But often, there are some people who send out the same kind of letter every year that indicates that they always have a stunning year…every year.

Let’s get real! That isn’t real life! Most of the time, it is a mix. Occasionally, we have a really bad or really excellent year. Try to have your Christmas letter reflect the truth of your year. You don’t have to pass on every bit of the truth, but let everything you say be true…and reflect the balance of your year!

So, enjoy updating friends and family with your Christmas cards or letters.

  • Keep them honest and balanced.
  • Find ways to share briefly and appropriately how Christ affects the life of your family…no sermonizing. Keep it real and don’t force it.
  • Keep your letters brief (I’m not always good at following my own advice).