Christmas letters are so boring. Or are they?

Dear so and so... This year our family did this, this, this and - oh yes, we did some of this, too...  Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Sound familiar?  That was a pretty accurate example of my annual Christmas letter there for a few years.  It worked out great at first, since Lovemuffin and I welcomed a child into the family three years in a row.  (Gotta mention the new rugrat, and inform everyone about how the older rugrat/s are reacting to the new one, right?) 

After a while though, my letters began to sound a bit boring.  I imagined people were opening up their letters and saying “Oh no – it’s two pages long – again!  Blah blah blah…Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!”  and stuffing the letters back into the envelopes (A habit Lovemuffin has – and may I say that I don’t get it?  Why would you read a letter or card and stuff it right back into where it just came from?) or chucking them onto the counter with the bulk mail, or worse yet, dropping their letter directly into the trash. *Gasp*  So a few years ago I decided it was time to spark things up a little. 

One year I shared a play-by-play example of a typical chaotic morning at our house.  It looked like a screenplay, with each person's name next to their lines and everything. (Verrrry time consuming.)  Another year I re-wrote “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” by summarizing my family’s activities in rhyme.  And last year my letter came in the form of a multiple-choice quiz, with pretty obvious questions and a few quirky false answers thrown in the mix. (One question asked which member of the family had just gotten braces, and I threw our dachshund's name in as one of the possible answers.  Not sure if anyone else found that funny, but I sure did.)

I can’t believe it's time to write my tenth Christmas letter this year….and this year, well… I still haven't decided what to do yet. (Panic is setting in, people!)  We take our family photos today and the letters must go out this weekend (for my sanity), which means that I am running out of time, and fast!

For those of you who haven't done a Christmas letter before, I'd like to suggest you do one this year (it doesn't have to be long - in fact, I think mine are a little too long half the time).  Maybe it's the reader in me talking (or, er - typing), but I actually wish I would receive more letters - especially from friends and family who don't live nearby. 

I thought I'd share a Christmas letter ideas link to help get you started, and a few more ideas are below.

1)  Think numbers.  I found this idea on a blog, and if you're number oriented, it's a great idea.  Instead of summarizing the past twelve months by explaining what you've done, break it down by numbers.  For example - 

This year we traveled 5,600 miles, lost 12 teeth (some baby, some permanent), played 15 football games, gave 53 groundings, lost 42 pair of socks, ect.  (You can also do a matching version, by having the readers match the numbers to the facts.)

2)  Where's Waldo?  Do your own version of Where's Waldo - take a picture of your family (or individual family members) and add a lot of other pictures of people and objects to the page.  Then photocopy the entire assortment and have your readers try to find you, either all on their own, or by giving hints.

3)  Re-invent a Christmas song.  This is kind of like re-writing "Twas the Night Before Christmas".  (Make sure to inform your readers in which tune the letter should be read!)

4)   Movie Madness.  Compare family members or specific incidents to movies.  You can either make it a trivia sort of game where the readers have to choose which things go together, or do it in a more conversational way and tell a story.

5)  Mail a game.  There are many games you can create, depending on the amount of time you have to spend.  Memory would be one of the easiest (copy 2 pictures of each family member onto a regular sheet of paper and send instructions telling them to cut the pictures out), and a Monopoly kind of game (using your child's school, place/s of employment, favorite restaurants or parks as the properties, ect.) would be more time-consuming.

6)  Write a letter.  A good, old-fashioned letter never hurt anyone.  In fact, they're quite popular, and are the easiest thing to do if you haven't done anything like this before.  Here are a few simple rules to go by-

* Use the spell check feature on your computer. Your readers will thank you.

* Make sure not to brag.  There's "We had a wonderful year..." and there's "Our year was the better than everyone else's...".  Try not to do the second one.

*Date your letter.  You can do it the classic way and have the date at the top, or incorporate it into the body of the letter.  Either way, it's important - because some people do save them, and it would be nice to know in which order they were received.

*Don't go too crazy with your font choice.  It would be a crime to go to so much work and then have it so difficult for people to read that people don't want to finish it, or have to get out a magnifying glass in order to see the words.

*Have fun!  Involve your family - quote them, ask questions, incorporate pictures or drawings.  The more personal the letter, the better.

*Sign it.  This last one is my favorite.  Typing your name is easier, but taking a few more minutes to sign each one will make the letter seem all the more personal.

Each year I print out four extra copies as I'm stuffing envelopes - one for me, and three for my daughters' scrapbooks. We pull out the old letters and read through them at least once during the holiday season, laughing and tearing up (okay, I'm the only one who gets a bit emotional) about things we'd long forgotten about.  And even though I stress myself out trying to figure out new ideas, it's well worth it - because the letters will be a neat, personalized summary of our lives, long after the girls and grown up and moved out of the house.  

One last tip - and this is my personal preference - make sure to share your email address, website or blog on your letter.  I've never been contacted that way (and I send out around 75 letters), but I'm one of those people who will literally run to the computer to check out a blog I didn't know a friend had, or add a new email address to my contact list. Let the internet help keep you connected!   

So what are you waiting for?  Go write a letter already!   And oops - I almost forgot - Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year! 





L. Diane Wolfe said...

Hope you figure it out by this weekend.
This was the first year I scrapped the letter completely. Everyone got one or two lines in the card and a photo. It was a pretty amazing year in our household, but I just didn't have the time. Not if I wanted to send the cards out while it was still 2009!

Elisabeth Black said...

This is awesome! I too have three daughters within three-and-a-half years.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

What a great post idea! You are way too ambitious for me - I'm lucky to get a photo card out! :)

awesome said...

I just did a google blog search for christmas letters because I'm on the fence about starting this tradiation. Your blog put me over the edge, so I've printed this post and will use it over the coming years to write our family letters!

Thanks for the post! Adding you to my blog roll now!

Jessica L. Brooks (coffeelvnmom) said...

I know letters are a bit time consuming, but I look at them as a way to tell the people we hardly see about the past year in a fun way! For those of you mailing cards, good for you too though - it's still going brighten up someone's day when they go to the mailbox!

I finally figured out what I'm going to do - having someone ask us questions - think magazine interview, like People or Entertainment Weekly. Have to find an old school tape recorder but I think it will be entertaining to share our family's answers verbatim (wisecracks, ect.).

Maybe I'll post it after I mail them out ;)

Oh, and feel free to share the link to this post with others! =)

Dorraine said...

These are great ideas! Thanks for sharing them and I hope your Christmas letter materialized.

I love getting Christmas letters, but don't usually write one. Everyone and his brother is on facebook now and it's much easier to keep in touch.

Merry Christmas!

Anita said...

Good info on doing the Christmas letter. I thought about it lots over the years, but was never organized enough to get it done before Christmas. Maybe in the future.
I have a friend who sends me one every year and I look forward to getting it. It is filled with the accomplishments of her very accomplished children, but I'm one of the few people who still like hearing what others may think of as bragging.
And, love getting the picture and seeing how her kids are changing.