From Barb, in Massachusetts where it is so warm it’s hard to believe it’s almost Christmas
So gang, holiday letters, how do we feel about them?
I have a friend who always starts his, “Well here it is, the bane of our existence, ‘The Christmas Letter’ wherein we tell our friends about our fabulous lives, great vacations, what our overachieving children are doing and how our lives are so much better than theirs…”
This is followed by a humorous account of his year that never fails to give me a smile.
I started sending my Christmas letter in 1995. I had recently left a place where I’d worked for twelve years. Though I was more than done with the job, I missed the people, and in those pre-internet, pre-social media days, it seemed like a good way to keep in touch. I also sent the letters to my husband’s large family and other friends we didn’t see from one end of the year to the next.
I had to make some refinements to my distribution system over time. When she was alive, it drove my mother crazy that her sister in Chicago got the letter and she did not. My explanation, “You already know everything in it,” did not suffice, so immediate family, including my parents, brother, and later, when they were grown, my kids were added to the list. Some years, when we would see my husband’s aunts and uncles through the year, I would skip sending them “the letter.” That didn’t work, either. “No Christmas letter this year?” they would ask. So they got themselves added permanently.
The letter, of course, goes with the whole card ritual. I always start looking for my cards in October and pick them with care, and they carry a theme for the year. So the year I signed my Maine Clambake contract, I chose Crane’s dancing lobsters. The next year, when the book came out, it was a gorgeous illustration of antique books from the Museum of Fine Arts. Last year, there was an Eiffel Tower on the card, commemorating our two and a half weeks in Paris during the summer.
I admit that I am a seasons person. I always change up the decor in our house for the time of the year. When I worked, I loved the rhythm the business brought, the January sales meeting, the July user conference, the fall industry conference, and then budgeting, planning, board approval, close-out the year, begin again. That, added to our family rhythms, governed by the kids’ school schedule, made the world feel a little safer and more predictable, a good counter-balance to the frequent unknowns of working in a startup and raising teenagers.
Card-writing became a part of my Christmas ritual, fit around work and other obligations, along with cookie-baking, decorating, gift buying and wrapping, throwing and attending holiday celebrations. For years, I went to my company’s holiday party in Vancouver and wrote the Christmas letter on the Saturday plane ride home. It was the emotional transition point from closing out the year at work to focusing on family traditions.
I love the letters, which document our family life for twenty years. And I love my little ritual that I carry on. But that’s all about me. I often wonder, in this age of Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, what I am doing. Who, at the far corners of my existence, doesn’t know what my family and I are up to (or couldn’t find out, if they were really curious). I’m even documenting my life via this blog.
I carry on, because I still love to get them from others, but every year it becomes a bit more of a decision.
So how do you feel, dear readers. Holiday letters, yea or nay?