Writing Christmas Letters

by Susan Mathis

I knew friends and family expected to hear from me at Christmas, but I wasn't excited about writing one more holiday letter. Then I had an idea.

Every year, most of my extended family read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," so I simply changed the words and created "'Twas a Year of Adventure." I rhymed a story of the whole year's family events — and judging by the response of the recipients, it was a hit.

I didn't intend for it to become a tradition, but it did. A few years ago, I grew tired of writing one more version of the poem, so I wrote a regular letter. Wrong move! I had a dozen family members and friends complain because reading the poem had become a tradition for them. I now take much more pleasure in writing it each year. Writing the annual family letter doesn't have to be a chore — it can be a fun family event. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Mix it up

There are lots of ways to format your letter. If your children are young, photos or simple drawings with captions may be a hit. With older children, a theme letter can be fun. Choose a theme, and make it a family project. Theme options may include:

  • Name acrostic: Use the letters of your family name to tell about your year.

  • Family news: Let everyone be a journalist and write an article for your newspaper.

  • Top 10 list: Your list might include the year's best family events, funny sayings or moments to remember.

  • Family firsts: Record anything from your child's first words to your family's first trip to Wisconsin.

  • Family statistics: Give people a snapshot of your year through numbers. Be creative! How many soccer games did your kids play? How many gallons of ice cream did your family eat?

Tweak the timing

Do you feel too busy to even think about writing a letter at Christmastime? Make Thanksgiving, New Year's or even Valentine's Day your special time to connect with family and friends. Establish it as a tradition, and your loved ones will look forward to it.

Take notes

If you've finished your letter or couldn't quite get it done this year, here's a way to make next year's letter easier. Throughout the coming year, keep a family calendar where you can quickly record events. Then next year, simply review this calendar to draft your letter's content. If sports, special events, activities, growth milestones or achievements are highlights in your family life, record them and use them as the basis of your letter. Just be sure to include information about each family member.

Whether you choose Christmas or a different holiday, e-mail or snail mail, a specific format or a variety of styles, try to stick to it. If you're not a writer, don't worry. People aren't looking for polished works of art; they simply want to connect with you and know more about your family. Your letters also become a record of your family's history, and maybe you'll create a family tradition for others, too.

Susan Mathis has edited 12 Focus on the Family publications and is the founding editor of Thriving Family.

Copyright © 2010 by Susan Mathis. Used by permission. ThrivingFamily.com.


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