The writing of a Christmas letter

My mom got me started on this tradition: the writing of a Christmas letter. Many times I have sat and read through her Christmas letters…so heart-warming to recreate those times in my life that have momentarily slipped out of my memory bank. I think in one of those instances is when I made the commitment to continue this tradition.

Very likely the most meaningful gift I have been given from my father is a manilla envelope filled with photocopies of all our family’s Christmas letters. One day I will get around to scanning these into a photo book. My mom’s letters were nearly all typed on a typewriter, but she found ways to incorporate a Christmas image or a Christmas tree made from “Merry Christmas from the Joneses”:


This picture is one of two bins filled with letters and cards…I started this collection in elementary, and it has now grown into the ‘preserving cards and letters bins’ for all of our family members. I am getting ready to start bin #3. Every card, letter, postcard that arrives in our mailbox (or hands) gets informally filed away. A romantic thought thinks that maybe these Christmas letters are being stashed in other households where one day a curious teenager will take hours upon hours to read each letter. Or maybe when my household is filled with grown children and grandchildren, I will sit and read and remember.


It brings me pleasure to write out the happenings of the previous year, to provide a snapshot of what our household has grown into, what the kids are into or not into, attempting to add a bit of dry humor. It provides an inlet to connect with friends and family we have failed to keep a personal connection with throughout the year…a chance to let go of a bit of guilt for not making those personal phone calls to just check in. By all means, I have missed a few years. I vividly remember the year my son was born right around Thanksgiving; his sister just seventeen months older so with a newborn, toddler and tween in the home, writing a Christmas letter was not going to happen. That is okay.

Your budget does not have to limit your letter. I have made Christmas letters printed on plain paper and simply added a gold stamped star to dress it up. I have also cut card stock to fit a letter-sized envelope and glued my letter onto the card stock. Most years I include a photograph….one year I did mail out wallets of mom and daughter…I wonder if people really carried us in their wallets. Funny thought. My favorite card format is a 5×7 folded card. Last year, I chose a similar card to this one from Minted. The inside has four sections to include an individual picture of our four children with a brief field to type a few sentences. This format is very simple and doable if you are not feeling too creative. They are beautiful, thick cards. The biggest con is that they are on the pricier side. On the bonus side, many sites offer nice discounts this time of year.

minted card

The how to:

  • add in your own humor
  • pick the format first to know how much room you’ll have to write about each family member…or not if your creativity is flying, then write out your letter first, and then decide how to format it.
  • I like to write 2-4 sentences about each child. For my husband and myself, this is sometimes combined into one paragraph or separated out when room allows. My mom’s letters were always an English teacher’s dream: first paragraph to introduce the topic (year in review), following four paragraphs each dedicated to one family member and chronologically by age, and final paragraph summed up the letter.
  • I also attempt to be consistent with the content. For example, sentence one includes the child’s name, age and what they’re into. Sentence two is hobbies. Sentence three is something funny he/she has said.
  • Pull out the thesaurus for colorful adjectives. Side note: the thesaurus used to be my favorite book. Weird.
  • Sit back and just go with it. No matter what, you have captured memories of you {and your family’s} year.