Tips for writing a Christmas letter everyone will enjoy

I have to confess, I already ordered our Christmas cards.
I love getting mail, and Christmas cards and letters are some of my favorite mail!
I got a head start this year, which has me thinking about the second half of sending out Christmas cards:
The letter
My contribution is always getting the card done.
For the past dozen years, my husband is responsible for our Christmas letter.
Not everyone likes a Christmas letter though.
I want to share some tips with you on how to write a fantastic Christmas letter everyone will love to read.

Stick with short and sweet

Our Christmas letter will never be longer than the front of one 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper.
It will not be two sided or multi-paged.
It may be single spaced with small margins and 10 point font though!
If we receive a Christmas letter longer than the front side of the paper, my husband will not read any further than the front side of that paper. 
A good Christmas letter should hit the high points of the year, not the play by play details of our latest trip. Save the details for your next coffee date.  
In our letter, each family member gets a paragraph about that person's yearly highlights and there is a paragraph for the whole family summing up our year.

Write in your own voice

It's always more fun to read something when you can "hear" the person who wrote the letter.
No one wants to read a stuffy letter, they want to get a glimpse inside the family that wrote the letter.
No one wants to read a boring letter.  Keep it interesting.
And funny.
Anything is more fun when it's funny.

It's not time to brag

This is a big one!
If there is one thing people hate the most about Christmas letters it's how much people embellish their life over the past year.  Most people you send your Christmas letter to know you.  They know your business from Facebook, they have seen your kids in detention or been present when you unloaded about what a flop your last vacation was since your kids fought the whole time, your luggage got lost and you broke your toe while kicking your dog.  Don't fool yourself by writing in your letter that Tommy is perfect and your vacation to Cabo was amazing!  Be honest.  As a side note, people also don't want to hear about your new car or your bonus and they definitely don't want to hear about your smart well behaved look better on paper kids.

Be real 

It's o.k. to write about your recent vasectomy, or the job change that you made after you were laid off.
One of the best Christmas letters we ever received {and which subsequently sparked Mike's interest in writing a Christmas letter} included all of the nitty gritty life details.
It was real, and it was honest.
But it was funny and lighthearted too.
{names and identifying information have been changed to protect the writers identity}

Once again, we have the good fortune to be able to hope that 1999 has been as good to you and yours as it has been to us (our year hasn’t been that sensational, we just don’t want you to think yours has been better than ours).  Y2K eve finds the Smith's of Cleveland healthy (we all have the flu) and happy (Diane’s going through menopause, Ally and Katie are in finals, and I’m increasingly envious of Katie's college experience), and blessed by regular contact with loving family and friends (we don’t read your letters either).  OK, the Hallmark portion of this missive (I don’t actually know what this means, I’m just trying to sound intellectual, unfortunately coming across as condescending and erudite—oops, there I go again), while true and genuine (yeah, right), will now close as we move into the hard news:

Katie accepted Chad’s marriage proposal in April and dumped him in August
We feel almost as sorry for him as we do for Jamie

But don't be too real

The reason my husband could write about his vasectomy is because he doesn't take himself too seriously.
This is the exert from our 2005 Christmas letter.

In other Mike related news, we (read “Rachel”) have nominated him to take one for the team, in order to prevent the increasingly common occurrence of new children finding their way into our family photos.  By the time you read this, Mike will have gone under the knife, in order to ensure that, if Rachel should squeeze yet another child out of her tiny little frame, it will not be his.

Christmas letters aren't the time to fill people in on the bowel troubles you have or how Uncle Adam fell off the wagon or that you need surgery on your corn.  Leave some of life a mystery!
Those are my tips for you.
Do you have any you would add?
What are your thoughts?
Do you love or hate the Christmas letter?
I'm going to be sharing highlights from our past Christmas letters this week.
Stick around, you won't be disappointed.

1 comment

NaDell said...

I make a postcard. Each person has two little lines (and we have four kids!) That's enough and I bet everyone who gets it, reads it. The other side has pictures from the year. Plus, postcards cost WAY less to mail and I print them 4-up on a sheet of paper.

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