Each year at this time, holiday cards abound, and many include annual holiday letters. Love them or hate them, everyone has an opinion about these innocent vignettes of the year’s happenings. I confess to the practice of including a letter in our holiday cards, but only since the kids were born … thirty-some years ago.
Our recipient list had become so extensive that once we had babies, it was impossible to write an update in each individual card. Hence, “The Letter” was born. To me, composing letters is a delightful task – I enjoy writing them and look forward to receiving them. But not everyone shares my sentiments. I’ve heard some people who hate the letters describe them as anything from a joke to annoying “brag” letters.
These days, social media has made the annual letter just about obsolete, so most people are off the hook. But take into account all those who are not on social media – including great grandma or the young professional juggling her high-energy position with marriage and motherhood. Yes, they do exist, and their lives are just fine without checking minute-by-minute, day-by-day, vacation-by-vacation photos, opinions, jokes, and so forth.
Over the years, I vowed to stop writing these letters, especially when I’d overhear conversations of those berating them. But then the kids would prod me with, “What are you going to write about this year?” or others would remark, “I can’t wait to get your letter – I look forward to it every year!” Hence, The Letter continued. Soon, I only included the letter in cards to people out of state or those I’m not in regular contact with. It made sense that if I didn’t see them year-round, they might enjoy an annual update. I’m sure some would breathe a sigh of relief when The Letter didn’t appear, yet at least one of my best buds would say, “Hey, I didn’t get your letter this year!” Or those who actually did read it would remark, “I’m surprised you didn’t include (name-the-event) in your letter.” So, people are still reading them and I’m still sending them.
Alas, something unexpected has come from my self-made tradition. Those seemingly trivial letters have turned into a lifelong anthology for my family, albeit it’s via brief one-pagers highlighting all that went right that year. Here and there, my letters have included life-changing downers like the deaths of my mother and father or cancer issues that might help someone else. Overall, I like to report good things; the bad times can be remembered off the record.
For those who detest our little letters, please oblige us. Kindly recycle them without a thought and enjoy the holiday greeting. Think about what you would say in yours if you recalled only the good times, and revel in the idea that your children or loved ones may enjoy reading about those moments, however trivial they may seem to you. Keeping letters going (in any shape or form) may be my way of hanging on to the past, but it’s also a reminder of how fast the world is changing, and I want to slow it down!
In the end, if it means something to my family, it means something to me.
Abella Carroll is a freelance writer