The first two arrived after Thanksgiving. Nestled in with the catalogues were two promising looking envelopes. I could hardly wait! Setting aside the stack of junk mail, I made myself a cup of mint tea and sat down to read the early batch of holiday letters. I can almost hear the collective groan out there, but really, I do like those missives from afar. I love hearing from my project-teammate from grad school, my college sorority sisters, home-town high school friends, and family far-field. Letters to my little sea-side town arrive from the world over: Turkmenistan, Thailand, Indiana, California, Upstate New York and New York City. Even the most techno-forward will tip their hat to the warm-fuzzy feel of writing letters during the holidays. There really is nothing like a well written holiday letter. By the same token, there are few things as painful as a poorly written holiday letter. As you sit down to reflect over the past year and compose your own, here are some guidelines to consider.
Things to Avoid:
Boasting and Bragging ~ If life has been dull, take a vacation, or even an adult education course. Creative license in your holiday letter, more often than not, comes across as a thinly veiled cry for help. As with cheating on exams, the only one you are fooling is yourself.
Too Much ~ While we do want to know what you have been up to, we do not need to know ALL of the details. If you are devoting one paragraph per month, chances are you have begun your biography, not a holiday letter.
Depressing ~ Life is not fair. There are years when things have not gone as hoped and/or as planned. If your past year has been so dismal there is nothing positive worth sharing, it may be better to take a year off from your letter.
Airing Grievances ~ Journaling is a fabulous way to make sense of one's life. Using your annual holiday letter to hang out your dirty laundry, usually by taking cheap shots at those who are unable to defend themselves, is simply not appropriate.
Odd Writing Styles ~ Unless you are well known by the general public for your creative and insightful writing style, please don't write from the point of view of your basset hound, your infant or even about yourself in the third person. It is just creepy!
Things to Do:
KISS ( Keep It Short & Simple) ~ Yes, we want to know what is happening in your life. One page, single sided, with a reasonable font so that we can read it without a magnifying glass.
Worth A Thousand Words ~ Do add pictures! We love seeing what you have been up to: vacation pictures, new house pictures, pictures of your family hanging out with your dog. Now-a-days even your local copy place can help you add a picture or two to your letter.
Just The Facts Ma'am ~ O.K., maybe not just the facts, but do write an accurate reflection of the events in your life. No need to exaggerate or embellish, people receiving your holiday letters already like you. No need to impress us; just share from your heart.
Illustrate With Examples ~ For your overarching comments, include one or two examples. The details, supporting facts or funny stories are truly what make the letter. Don't just say your dog is smart. Tell us about the time she hid your car keys behind your rarely used exercise bike to delay a visit to the vet.
Remember The Reason ~ In addition to your update; be sure to include well wishes to others. After all, the holiday letter is part of your season's greeting to others.
Proof, Edit, Proof, Edit, Proof, Print, And Then Send ~ Need I say more?
As the holiday cards arrive, I eagerly await to hear from all my distant friends and family. While I love the picture cards, I must admit, I am always a bit sad to see everyone grow a year older without knowing any specifics that have transpired. Inquiring minds want to know. So, please, do tell ~
Happy Holidays from Jodi, Marianne, Winston (The Mannersmith Team)