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(Deliver the letter, the sooner – the better!!! Christmas Letters through the years)

The Christmas greeting has morphed considerably over time. When I was younger, most of the cards we received were just that – cards. These were of the secular or non-secular variety, designed by a stranger and signed by the sender -relatively boring compared to today’s greetings, but we enjoyed them immensely back in the day…

Since then, our communication styles have been radically altered by social media. Nowadays, one can have daily (or at least weekly) communication with their Ex-college Roommate, their 5th grade Art Teacher and their Next-door Neighbor’s Cousin. We are “reaching out and touching someone” constantly…

But, we still love receiving our Christmas Mail. I don’t know what it is about the allure of the Christmas Greeting, but this is the only time of year I actually walk out to the street, and check my mailbox. January-November, I leave all the bills and the junk mail for Jimmy to retrieve, but the holidays are a different story. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, I check the mail once or twice a day – racing my kids to get to the mail first.

Approximately 10% of the greetings we receive are generic cards, 80% are Photo Cards and perhaps another 10% are sent by the overly ambitious writers of the much-maligned Christmas Letter!

THE HUMBLE CHRISTMAS CARD:

These are sent to us mostly from the older generation. For whatever reason, these folks don’t care to send us a picture of themselves or a letter updating us on their lives, so they buy a box of cards and sign them. We love hearing from the Card-Signer Generation, and are touched that they thought of us. It’s reassuring to know they are still kickin’ and it’s a reminder to keep them on our list for next year.

THE PHOTO CARD:

This is by far the most popular Christmas greeting. Snapfish and Shutterfly have elevated this genre to an art form. You simply go online and choose a design you like. There are a plethora of available styles, with spaces for you to drag and click your favorite pics of the year. Some of the designs are created for just one large picture (the whole fam), some for a grouping of 2, 3 or 4 smaller pictures (each child individually featured). But, the really challenging designs might have a variety of spaces in different sizes, requiring you to prioritize your very own kids- the decision as to which child’s face goes in the larger ornament and which goes in the smaller, could potentially stir up some holiday drama. One of my friends met this challenge head-on by featuring her dog in the larger space. Who can argue with that?

We adore poring over the picture cards and are heartened to see our friends and their offspring posed in front of such exotic locales, as The Great Wall of China, The Eiffel Tower and The Parthenon. It quite literally fills our hearts with Yuletide Joy, to know that, while we are slugging around in the trenches of our common everyday lives, you and the kiddos are checking items off OUR Bucket List. Receiving your Photo card is the fulfillment of our every Christmas Wish – its almost as if we had been there with you….

THE DREADED CHRISTMAS LETTER:

Why does the lowly Christmas letter have such a bad rep? I’ve been composing an annual Christmas letter since way back when my kids were cute. By the time we settled down in Oklahoma, we had a Wait-List of people who wanted to receive our letter, should someone happen to die and create a vacancy…

So, it was with a large and generous heart that I randomly decided to include our new neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. _, on my Christmas Mailing List, the VERY FIRST year we met them!! One day, a week or so after my letter went out, I asked Mr. _, if he had found time to read it. To which he responded, with a dismissive wave of his hand, “Oh, I never read those!” I was livid…. Much to the despair of his innocent wife Mrs._, (who, seemingly can’t control her spouse any better than I can control mine), I made sure my letter never darkened his mailbox again. Surprisingly, Mr. _ has managed to push on successfully through life, but only because he doesn’t know what he is missing.

In Mr. _’s defense though, most people have bastardized the original intent of the Christmas Letter, with their sophomorically transparent attempts at Self-Promotion:

“And then, in July, we almost missed our Red-eye from Rome, which would’ve prevented us from attending Junior’s Eagle Scout Award Ceremony”

Or:

“As this year’s Valedictorian, Sissy was faced with the difficult choice between giving her Class Commencement Address or singing the Star Spangled Banner at The Olympic Opening Ceremony that same weekend”

Some people even brag about their spouses: (Really ???)

“When she isn’t carpooling the kids around, volunteering at our Local Homeless Shelter, teaching Step-Aerobics or facilitating a Ladies Bible Study in our home, Honey continues to pursue her passion for 18th Century Chinese Poetry!”

These Seasonal PR Campaigns are the REAL reason people avoid reading Christmas Letters. If you really want your friends and loved ones, dotted around the country, to know how superior your life is to theirs, don’t insult their intelligence on top of it…

Just get on with it, like this :

“Merry Christmas! Our kids are straight A students, as well as accomplished award -winning athletes. Our marriage continues to be a Beacon of Hope in a Fallen World. We bought a new Porsche with the money we saved on the great interest rate we got, when we built the new house. If you ever find yourself in our neck-of-the-woods, we’d love to give you a tour of the place, but call first, to make sure we aren’t abroad!”

I, on the other hand, compose a letter every year delineating the mishaps, humblings and utter embarrassments of my family’s year. I consider this Tell-All an act of pure and genuine selflessness, as nothing puts the “Merry” in Christmas like an honest and realistic glimpse of someone else’s Failings and Family Dysfunction…

(In defense of the picture I include in the letter – I guess I still think my kids are cute!)