Monday, November 26, 2007

Those Hated--and Loved--Christmas or Holiday Letters

Christmas letters have probably inspired more parodies than any other feature of our hectic holiday season. They have been called "litanies of bombastic bragging disguised as holiday cheer," "anti-holiday letters memorializing deceased pets and reviewing all physical maladies endured throughout the year," and worse.

I confess that I am still a writer of Christmas letters. I think I inherited the idea from my late mother. After her death earlier this year, the most common comment I heard from her relatives and friends involved appreciation for her newsy Christmas cards and letters through the years. Anyone who received and read those cards and letters got a running report of her varied and interesting life, and she kept up the tradition into her nineties, with my technological help in the last years. She regretted having to give up this part of her routine a year or two ago

As for me, I've sent cards and/or letters for many years, even when I had to rush to finish them between hectic end-of-semester duties and Christmas eve. These cards have helped me keep up a current address list of old friends; when I saw an old college roommate from the 1950's recently, we still knew each other, thanks to our exchanging Christmas letters most years. I like keeping in touch with people whose paths crossed mine years ago.

Ted Pack presents parodies, examples, and suggestions for writing Christmas letters on his web site (see link below). In brief, his suggestions include keeping the letter brief and readable, keeping it light and happy, keeping it jargon-free (those on-the-job technical acronyms may not mean anything to your readers), focusing on highlights rather than trying to cover a whole year in a page, not promoting your home-based business, and above all, avoiding bragging, at least bragging without a touch of humility. I may have erred occasionally, but in general, my letters suffer only from being too long. We writers are like that.

Mr. Pack includes more specific suggestions on what to write about, as well as some humorous parodies of the worst examples. If you're a Christmas letter hater, give them another chance. I, for one, like to know what my friends, relatives, and acquaintances have been up to, and I hope that at least a few people want to hear about me. If not, they all have wastebaskets. I won't let a bit of disapproval deter me. Let's start a Christmas letter revolution. It's one way to share our life stories.

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne

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