Christmas Letters

All of my Christmas is basically down--the tree is stripped, ready to be put back in the box (yes, we did fake this year, and I'm actually a big fan, but I realize that debate is a post in and of itself, so let's just let it go, shall we?) The boxes for the ornaments, etc, are in my living room, waiting to be filled, and everything is taken down from my walls, tables, etc. Everything but the Christmas cards. They are still happily displayed all over my piano. I love Christmas cards. I love sending them, and I love getting them. I love picking out which font of "Season's Greetings" I get to put on the cheap cards from Target I send out. I love picking out which picture gets put on the cards, and I even like picking out the stationary I will write my letter on, and the envelope it will go in. No white envelope for me, oh no, I like the Christmasy ones, complete with Santa Claus stamp that makes everybody go "Hooray--it's a Christmas card!" And my Christmas letter is usually written right after Halloween. I love it. I know a woman who hates it. This woman is not a Scrooge. Far from it. She does Christmas extremely well, and is usually done with all of the busy stuff well ahead of schedule so that she can spend the holiday doing what is most important--focusing on family and the Savior. But when I say she doesn't like it, I am talking about the whole Christmas letter thing. She says it goes back to when she was having a particularly difficult time in her life. Ok, "particularly difficult" doesn't really begin to describe some of the things she has been through, but in the interest of TMI, we'll leave it there. She said it used to drive her crazy to get letters about how great everybody else's life was when she felt like she had nothing positive to say about hers. Her life has picked up since then, but she still hasn't worked up the courage, faith, stength, energy, whatever, to write her own letter, thinking about how painful some of those early letters were to her. So, my question is, how much of our lives should we share with others, either through Christmas letters, blogging, talks at church, whatever? Is it wrong to want to show off what our kids can do, their accomplishments, the happiness in our own lives even when we know that others are suffering? Or is there a way that we can share our own happiness when things go well in our lives and still be sensitive to other people's pain? I hope that it is the latter, because I already have next year's Christmas letter half written. I even picked out the stationary, 90% off at Target 3 days after Christmas. Gotta love it.


Anonymous sue said...

I'm with you. I love Christmas cards. I always hate to take them down. I have a friend who actually leaves hers up all year.

1/09/2006 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

There was a time I complained about mass Christmas letters, but as my life has gotten more hectic, and we have friends all over the country, I find that I love them now. There are friends I might not know what's up with, if not for the Christmas letter, and even the really kitschy, braggy ones make me laugh.

It's kind of like the advice eveyone gave me about my friend earlier this week- you CAN be happy for your own life and still be sensitive about others'. It is not always easy, but it's doable, and hopefully most of the folks you send your letter to love you anyway.

My two cents, for what they're worth.

1/09/2006 11:32:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa M. said...

I have felt that way, the way the women you described. Ethan was born the day after Christmas, and after so much time in the NICU and then a year of hearing constant diagnosises, I felt like I didn't have anything I wanted to say. I didn't want to complain about heartach and pain( Oh I leave that up to blogging now) but I knew I couldn't go through the year with out it. Sorry, but that is basically what 2004 was...

But, I too have always been one who LOVED the cards, letters, fonts and envelopes.

Once I actually sat down to write, it was not the tradtional one I had always written, but it was of love, gratitude and compasion. It took some time, but I finally came to terms with it.

I know that sounds small and maybe silly, but it was something that was really hard. I don't knwo when I will ever look at the holiday season again with out the feelings of anxiousness and reflections... maybe never.

But anyway, thats my two cents worth. *grin* I too already have my stationary for NEXT year!

1/10/2006 02:39:00 AM  
Anonymous LisaB said...

I love them. I keep mine up for a while, then file the letters and cards in a files and the photos in two albums (one for extended family, one for friends)we keep specifically for Christmas card (and birth announcement) photos.

I can relate to your friend's difficulty with Christmas cards sometimes. When we were struggling with infertility, it was painful to read all the news about babies, the joys of children, and pregnancies. But I think there's something wrong w/ a parent who doesn't want to share the joys and accomplishments of their children with loved ones. Still, I've varied the style and content of our holiday greetings over the years depending upon what our year had been like, how much time I have, and consideration of our audience/ how people might respond to what we write.

1/10/2006 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger TftCarrie said...

I love christmas cards too. I am horrible at keeping in touch with people and it is my one time of the year to find out about my long lost friends (this year I didn't send any out because we are moving in a few weeks and I thought I would send out "we've moved" cards and call it good for the year). But I, like tracy m, laugh a little at the really long-winded, braggy letters. I feel like the people that you really care about already know all that stuff and the people you've lost touch with don't need to know all of the details. I like to keep my "letter" short, sweet and at least a little entertaining. Because the only thing worse than a mass christmas letter is a Christmas card with just a name signed to it. You have to give me more than that!

1/10/2006 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger Squiddy said...

I believe it takes some selflessness -- which we all need -- to enjoy most Christmas newsletters. Sure, they are often cheesy bragfests, but these people love you enough to want to update you on where they are in life. Who has time to say the same thing by phone or handwritten card to every person we care about?
I'd love to hear even the sad or challenging things going on in the lives of my friends and family. But again, I have to come out of myself to really appreciate them.

1/10/2006 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

A friend of mine's mother actually writes the most interesting Christmas letter I've ever seen.

She puts the good, the bad and the ugly in it- with a fair dose of humor to temper- but it is sooo honest. I am sure there are folks who have no idea how to take it when they get it, but I absolutely love it- very refreshing after some of the boasty-my-life-is-perfect-in-every-way letters.
You KNOW they are lying their pants off!

1/10/2006 02:22:00 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

I love getting Christmas cards. It's the one time I run to the mailbox every day terrbily excited about what might be waiting there for me. I was really anxious to take Christmas down by New Years this year, but I was so sad to see the Christmas cards go, that I took a picture of them while on the wall.

About the oversharing thing: I used to heckle my mom for having "Christmas Card Friends" - those friends from college or early married years she kept in touch with once or twice a year. Now I'm a mom myself, I totally understand about having Christmas Card Friends, and have them myself. Their letters mean a lot to me. I want to know about their really happy things - even during hard years for myself, and their challenges, too. This year, we had friends that had a son dignosed with autism. As hard as I'm sure it was to include that in her letter, I'm so glad she did, so I can be aware and even pray for them.

On the flip side, something to think about. I think it's common to joke about Christmas letters being sent to brag about family accomplishments. This year we had a huge family difficulty that changed our little family forever; it was one of the top defining situations in my and dh's life. For those reasons - we had to include it. I'd never thought, while writing a Christmas letter before, about how difficult it would be to share sad/hard news (wording everything just the right way took a lot of work) since I was always worried about oversharing the exciting or even boring things from the past year.

Dude, did I just threadjack? That was super long. Feel free to edit.

1/10/2006 02:22:00 PM  
Blogger Tigersue said...

I love Christmas cards, I'm not a big fan of Christmas Letter's. There are several reasons I suppose, some of which have been touched upon. I have seen the ones from my MIL, and often I feel that she brags about her oldest son's family, and her youngest's son's family, meanwhile the rest of us are lumped in the they are still here category. I have children that struggle with school, but they are not dumb, they have had speech problems so they lag behind in nearly every subject. So it is hard the read about the "straight A kid", or the one that seems to do everything.
Like other's I like the letters that really tell something, like a trip taken, or something significant learned that year, milestone events.
Yet with the advent of the "Christmas" yearly update letter, I miss the hand writen note, that lets me really know, that I'm thought of more than just a typed writen standard letter. Is that selfish. The cards I cherish most, the letters I chersih most are the ones that have something very personal in them just for me, and my family.
That is what I really want, and what I really miss.

1/10/2006 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger Em said...

I was sneaky this year. I included a link to my blog in all my christmas cards. That way people who actually care can find out all they want about how I am doing, and those who don't bother - their loss. It's not as easy to read as a short Christmas newsletter, but sometimes a whole year just doesn't fit on one page. Just an idea.

1/10/2006 06:28:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

I have a friend who called them "brag letters" and thought they were in poor taste.
I think there is a good way to mention what is going on in your life without insisting that your family is perfect.
Orson Scott Card wrote a great article about it (I think) that I read last year.
He pointed out that the people you send them to are your friends, they are supposed to care about you and want to know how you are doing. I wonder if I can find a link for it.

1/10/2006 07:13:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I think, more than the letters, if people would include a photo (or a photo page?) that would mean just as much, if not more. I really would like to see what everyone (and their kids)look like.

We never get as many cards as we send out, much to my disappointment. Not even from family. That hasn't stopped me from sending them though.

We do include a little (brief!) letter telling what we've been up to (basically), but usually it's my husband's ruminations on the year. He tries to be funny, and generally succeeds.

1/11/2006 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger a spectator said...

I love letters and view them as a source of history. I do think, though, that most people's letters include too much--one sentence per person would suffice in most cases (especially whent he family has 12+ people!) I find the worst offenders on bragging are Moms about their kids, so I wish families would get their individual members to write (or dictate) their blurb when possible.

1/17/2006 12:04:00 AM  
Blogger Bon B. said...

This is just fun! I was checking out whats new on mormonchic, and read the article on blogging. I am now hooked.

Anyway, I enjoy reading the Christmas letters that I recieve from family and friends. That being said, I do wonder what percentage of the letter is actual truth. When some of them are telling me what brilliant, perfect, helpful little 3 (THREE!!) year olds they have, I find myself thinking "Are you kidding? I know this kid. I spent three days with him at the family reunion, and brilliant, perfect, and helpful are not what I remeber!"
My very favorite letter was one my friend sent this year. It had an ABC theme. For example "A is for Andrew, he grew three inches this year" Little short blurbs like that. Very cute!

1/19/2006 01:09:00 AM  

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