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Holiday letters (love them or loathe them?)

Raise your hand if you like to send Christmas cards, or email holiday greetings.  Now, raise your hand if you include a holiday letter.  I’d love to know how many people still follow this tradition.  I have always loved cards, and as we moved a lot, have often included a letter to update friends and families on where we were currently living and working.  We weren’t the easiest family to keep up with.  Once we had kids it seemed like the easiest way to share kid news and photos, though now I admit the kids almost make me too busy to write the letters!

But there seems to be some controversy about holiday letters, and every year it buzzes louder and louder.  Someone is always saying we shouldn’t write them, it’s a waste of paper.  Others say the letters aren’t genuine and are more about outdoing others than connection.  In short, the holiday letter is either treasured or vilified – there’s not a lot of middle ground!  Here we have a few tips and ideas for your holiday cards and letters (if you write them.)

Ideas to keep your holiday letter fresh:

  • Write a holiday letter, but let your flaws and foibles show!  It’s okay to share more of your life and not just the sparkly bits.  Don’t rave and brag, but tell what’s been happening, ups and downs.  If you feel pressured to brag and keep up, maybe you should reconsider who is on your Christmas card list.
  • Include photos – let’s face it, most families want to see photos of the kids, if you have them. If you love photos, send one of the whole family!  But listen, if you’re taking special photos for the occasion, go easy on everyone.  Aim for clean and tidy kids, and smiles all around.  This may not be the time to force kids into uncomfortable dress clothes, nor may it be time to force teens and preteens into matching outfits.  Really, aim for fun, relaxed and just a tiny bit festive.
  • If you aren’t into writing a newsy letter, why not share something else?  Share a favourite holiday recipe (especially one that you are known for, or always bring to large gatherings.)  Find a few interesting holiday cocktail recipes (yes, including mocktails) and share them.  Share your favourite memories of holidays past, or ask your family members to share theirs and then put them together to share with others.
  • Get your kids involved!  Share funny things your kids have said or done throughout the year, let them write the letter, make the cards with them or make art to be made into cards.
  • Enclose copies of photos of your kids in cards to close family, let your kids add a special piece of artwork for special friends, or tuck in a sheet of holiday stickers for households with small children.  Just be sure to add an extra stamp at the post office to make sure it reaches its destination safely.

Tips to get your holiday cards and letters done easily:

  • Create a holiday card list!  I write a list of all the people I want to send cards to.  Then, I address an envelope for each one and as I do, I check off the names.  Once I have written the card and sealed the envelope up, the name gets crossed off the list.  I like to do it this way because in good years I will address my envelopes early.  I don’t need a lot of holiday spirit to do it, and it also gives me time if I need to reach out to a few people for new mailing addresses.
  • Find something to do while you write – I find it’s more fun to put on Christmas movies and really immerse myself in it.  Even just doing it while you watch television is great – if you just do a few on each commercial break, you will get through them and not feel like it’s a chore.
  • Start with cards for people who live the furthest away.  I find if I am running a little late in my card sending, this helps me catch up.  It can take a while for cards to make it through busy post offices, so if you have cards that need to leave the country or travel thousands of miles east or west, get them done first and get them mailed.  As the days go on, you can continue to write and mail cards that don’t need to travel so far.
  • Remember, there is no rule that you need to send cards!  There are many ways to stay connected over the holidays.  Send cards if you love them, email a greeting if that feels natural, pick up the phone and call your closest friends and family.
  • Keep a copy of your Christmas card list saved on your computer, or if you do it the old-fashioned way, tucked in the back of your address book.

Will you send cards this holiday season?  How many do you send?  Do you write a Christmas letter?

Tell us what your friends and family can expect to find in their mailboxes this December!


Writer, editor, recovering chocoholic. Most often found writing, drinking coffee, and chasing kids. Find her on Twitter @littlemissmocha.

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