My New Year’s letter

The annual Christmas letter, a holiday tradition.

Has anybody else noticed a sea change in the Christmas letter? You know, those holiday missives that arrive with a Christmas card, the one, sometimes two, or even three-page printout detailing all the sender’s news of the year, every tidbit about their family, including news of work, marriages, travel, new grandchildren, divorce, abdominal surgery, root canal. So far this year all the Christmas letters I’ve received have been via email. So glad more people are getting on board going paperless.

I have to say I’ve never been a fan of the Christmas letter. For starters, why are they always so long? Also as a barista friend recently said, it takes an enormous ego to think anyone else wants to know all this stuff.

My principal peeve about Christmas letters is that element of bombastic bragging. For example, as I struggle to figure out another way to serve chicken after 40-some years of making chicken, I’m supposed to be happy to read about your two weeks in France? Or your daughter got engaged this fall? Nice. Well, so did my son. Does that mean I’m expected to commune with you over lattes to exchange Bridezilla stories? I sure hope not.

My husband has a relative who authors his family’s annual Christmas Letter. We used to live a half-hour’s drive away from this relative, but in 25 years we only physically got together twice. He’s a nice enough guy, but that should tell you something. I am aware he and his wife have two daughters and one got married and had a child and then got divorced. I can’t recall if the other daughter married. I think not. For years, this man’s Christmas Letter has been packed with breezy news of canoe trips, camping trips, the annual pilgrimage they make to California to visit his in-laws. In later years, the letters detailed his wife’s various surgeries and medical procedures, including cataract surgery and a knee and then a hip replacement.

In my family, my stepsister’s husband is the Christmas Letter writer. He styles his writing after Garrison Keillor, the Lake Wobegon dude, which given Keillor’s current #Me,Too troubles, may not be the best writer to emulate. Some years his Christmas Letter is kind of grim. For example, two years ago he described in detail his battle with high blood pressure, and last year it was his mother’s cancer treatment. This year he devoted two single-space typed pages to their kitchen renovation. After a few years of bad news, I was relieved.

Regrettably, I don’t think the Christmas Letter is going away. Many folks are sentimental about sending and receiving them. I’m thinking the time might be ripe to replace it with the New Year’s Resolution Letter. Possibly putting one’s resolutions down in writing and sending them to a dozen or so of one’s closest friends is the best way to make those resolutions stick, especially the resolution I make every year, which is to start a diet. My resolution for 2018 is to try to be more kindly towards the Christmas Letter and not groan when one appears in my mailbox. After all, somebody did take the time to write and send one (even if I don’t want to read it).


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