I’ve been sending out an Annual Christmas Letter since 1984. The first letter was a way of responding to all the notes that were in the Christmas Cards I had received that year. People were summarizing their year with glowing accounts of how successful their career was, how brilliant their children were, and how “Martha Stewart” their lives were. I could have written a similar letter, I suppose, but there is a cost to using that kind of creative license. No, I wanted to talk about my family in the most truthful way I could.
And the truth was, we were an average Canadian family, except we moved around a lot. My husband’s job was the catalyst for many of our moves, but sometimes we moved houses just because it seemed like a good idea at the time. We had three kids and a cat who had to adapt to our nomadic circumstances.
So, I could have written about my husband and his successful career. But it was much more fun, and instructive, to expose his learning curve in home renovations. The kids did reasonably well in all the schools they attended, but it was more interesting to speculate about why the eldest knew that the back doors of police cars couldn’t be opened from the inside. And while we all enjoyed reasonable health most of the time, one year my entire letter was dedicated to how our family was coping with a child who had cancer.
My letters are rarely sent out before Christmas. December is sometimes a big month for us, so I often have to wait until December is over before I can adequately summarize our year. One year the letter went out just before Valentine’s Day! I figure the Christmas season is busy enough without obsessing over THE LETTER! I capitalize THE LETTER because it has taken on a life of its own. It has become my little gift to everyone I send it to, and I put a lot of effort into writing it. Friends appreciate it, and if they haven’t received it by the end of December, they ask me where it is!
My first letters were typed on a typewriter and then photocopied. When I got a computer, the letter looked much better because I didn’t have to white-out mistakes! Simple text editors were adequate in the beginning, but eventually I wanted to insert clip-art and use different fonts. I’ve experimented with several ways of doing this. Last year I used Word, and this year I will try Office Publisher. Both of them can be converted to .pdf documents to attach to e-mails. It is an excellent format that is small in size, and readable by just about everyone. There are several free .pdf document converters available for download. I snail mail The Letter to anyone who snail mails a Christmas card to me. I send an e-mail attachment to anyone who sends their Christmas greetings to me by e-mail.
This year, I will be writing a story about bats, stepladders and scotch whiskey. But December isn’t over yet. Who knows what else will happen before the year is over!
There are some excellent websites with suggestions for writing Christmas Letters. Take a peek at this one for some good ideas: Christmas News Letter.