Each winter, I spend hours composing the letter to be included with the Christmas cards I send out. I write with my audience in mind – mostly relatives and far-away friends. This year I included things like the Japan and Amsterdam trips, Snowmageddon, the troubles with our HOA, and the various conventions and other events we attended. I include some photos of the two of us and, occasionally, a URL at the bottom (usually for an online photo album). I try to keep it interesting and upbeat. Every year I receive compliments from a few of the recipients, saying how much they enjoyed reading about my life.
Ah, but every year there are also those people who declare their hatred for the Christmas card letter. Not anyone I send to, as far as I know, but around the blogosphere I always come across people who think of those letters as bland, impersonal, and worst of all, nothing but a bunch of bragging.
Maybe my experience is atypical, but I’ve never gotten this impression from any of the Christmas card letters I’ve received. But then, I also might be a different sort of audience. I want to know where you vacationed or how your kid’s soccer team did this year, because I care about what happens in your life. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be exchanging Christmas cards with you. And even if I keep up with you during the year, I really enjoy the big recap, seeing which events you found most worth sharing. I don’t expect you to write it all down by hand just for me.
I admit, I am suspicious of those people who get disgusted by positive Christmas card letters. Do you not want to celebrate your friends’ and family’s triumphs with them? No, no one’s life is 100% perfect, but to me, the end of each year calls for reflecting on what you’re grateful for from the past twelve months. Why would I want to gripe about gaining twenty pounds when I could share my excitement about the new running program I just started?
For me it just comes down to practicality. In the letter, which I type mostly because my handwriting is atrocious, I cover the things I want to tell everybody. In the card, I often don’t have anything more to say than that. I’ve chosen the card based on the sentiment printed inside, so writing an additional “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” is kind of pointless. The recipient list is written from scratch every year, and though many of the names are the same from the previous year, there are always a few changes. In short, though people receive a store-bought card and a printed letter, there’s a lot of thought put into the whole process. If I didn’t include the letter, I wouldn’t see much point in sending cards at all. My handwritten notes would have to be composed ahead of time anyway or else each card would be full of scratch-outs. I do my best brainstorming at a keyboard, so if it’s going to be typed anyway I might as well just print it out instead of rewriting it. And I’ll want to tell each person about pretty much the same things, since after all I lived the same year no matter whom I’m writing to. And by that point I might as well just send the same letter to everybody.
So yes, I am a little hurt that there are people who believe that just because something was printed with a computer that there was somehow less effort put into it, or less thought given to the people receiving it. I write my letter because I want to share my life, not because I want to show it off. And I look forward to the letters I get from others, so I can share their lives too. To me, that sort of sharing and connection is the point of sending out all those cards in the first place.
How do you feel about holiday card letters? What do you feel is the purpose of exchanging cards every year?