Christmas is coming, holiday cards and letters fill the mailbox--and it's time to write your family's annual Christmas letter.
Want your letter to stand out from the crowd? Looking for ways to spice up the same-old, same-old Christmas greeting? Try these seven tips for a sparkling holiday letter.
Start off on a positive note
It's a trend you can count on! Roughly 95% of holiday letters begin with a sentence like this: "I can't believe the year has come and gone so quickly!" While we all feel this sentiment, it's not the happiest way to begin a holiday letter.
Start holiday letters with a cheerful bang, not a whimper about the passage of time. Try openers like, "One of the blessings of this time of year is the chance it gives me to connect with you, my friends and family." or "We've had a happy, busy year here in the Adams household!"
Even a stock "Holiday greetings from the Young family!" is a better opener than the traditional plaintive cry about the passage of time.
Shorter is sweeter
Even the most doting aunties can be daunted by a multi-page, single-spaced Christmas letter that drones on (and on and on) about the minutia of family doings. Keep Christmas letters short and sweet! Hit the year's high points, and save the day-by-day description of your summer vacation for long lunches or personal phone calls.
Write in your own voice.
Too often, holiday letters show symptoms of "writer-itis": big words, turgid sentences, piled-up adjectives. Friends and neighbors don't want to hear from Edward Bulwer Lytton, they want to hear from you! Use your own voice, and write as you speak. You'll bring a breath of fresh air--and a happy echo of your own personality--to your letter.
Keep your audience in mind
Like pantyhose, holiday letters aren't "one size fits all". Business associates won't be interested by a chatty, family newsletter, while distant cousins don't care about the ins and outs of workplace politics.
Before you start your holiday letters, picture the recipients in your mind and write in a way that will make sense to those who will receive them. Use a free printable Christmas card list to group recipients and organize cards and letters.
If your holiday letter will be sent to far-flung friends or long-ago neighbors, be sure to identify family members by relationship, not just name. Hearing that "Wallace is a happy Rebel this year" can mystify those who don't remember him well. "Oldest son Wallace, now 18, is thriving in his first year at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas" gives the reader the details he or she needs to catch up with Wallace's activities.
If your letter will be sent to casual acquaintances or business contacts, keep family stories to a minimum--or send a card instead. Sure, you sit next to that nice fellow at each week's Kiwanis meeting, but will he really be interested in a season's worth of your grandchild's soccer scores?
Resist the urge to embellish
It's a holiday-time stereotype: the braggin'-braggin' Christmas letter. While it's only natural to put your best foot forward, keep your perspective as you write. Your true colors and real personality are a lot more interesting to your friends than a puffed-up presentation of the year's events.
Be selective about photos
With the rise of digital photography, there's been a corresponding inflation in holiday letter photos. Last year's nominee for the Photo Overkill of the Year award: a holiday letter which contained over 50 tiny tiled photos of the writer's children at Disney World. Not only couldn't I see one thing about the children, I was barely able to identify the different Disney characters in each shot!
Share photos selectively and sparely. One or two great shots that illustrate your text are much better than an over-the-top photo barrage.
Finally, if you will include photos as part of your Christmas letter, use brochure paper so that photos print clearly.
Make it personal
A sparkling, informative holiday letter is underdressed if it doesn't contain a personal touch. Add a short handwritten note to your holiday letters for a warm finish.
Alpha computer geeks among us may use word processing software to personalize each letter. However you achieve it, be sure that the recipient can feel your warm--and personal--regard.