If you’ve ever opened mail in December, you’ve probably received a multi-copied holiday letter from a friend or family member. And for every one you’ve liked, there are probably five that you thought were dreadful. Most years I start my holiday newsletter over Thanksgiving weekend. I read over some of the previous years and look at my calendar and make notes and look through photos and then try to whip out a quick first draft. Then the following weekend I can finish it up and get it ready for posting/printing.
After doing a newsletter for 15 years I’ve decided I’m qualified to pass on some tips.
What’s the point of a holiday greeting? Generally to make a connection with people. Signing your name at the bottom of a card does little to further this goal. If you’re a terrible writer, super busy or would prefer to spend your holiday time doing other things, consider the photo greeting. You don’t have to have kids or pets to go this route. Just find a fun photo of yourself, take it to your local photo processor, order up a bunch and send. Easy.
If you want to go the multi-copied letter route, take some time to figure out what you want to say. Avoid making a list of your activities and accomplishments. If you’re going to do that you might as well copy a page from your day planner or send out one of your annotated grocery lists. No one wants a list of your children or grandchildren’s purchases and activities either.
Wrong: “We traded our Jaguar for a BMW, chartered a yacht for a 28 day Mediterranean cruise to celebrate Madison’s perfect SAT scores and our son cleared 7 figures on the housing development he completed after years of litigation over the so-called wetlands destruction.”
Avoid use of the word “continue.”
Wrong: “Wilford continues his weekly shuffleboard classes while I continue to be active with the Daughters of the Confederacy and Baking league.”
Instead, try to tell stories and use lots of details. Try to create a picture of something you did.
Right: “The highlight of our cruise was the twilight disco where we danced with an Elvis impersonator while the blazing sun set into a clear, blue sea.”
Don’t feel like you’re limited to events of the past year. Tell an old family story.
Use an informal conversational voice. Writing in a monotone isn’t in the holiday spirit.
Life is made up of all sorts of events and a holiday letter doesn’t have to ignore tragic events. Use your own judgment on how to approach this.
Avoid a list of your health problems. People care about your fitness but don’t need all the gory details of every replaced valve, removed organ or impaired function.
Avoid the temptation to write something that rhymes or is written in the voice of a pet, child or someone who died. I suppose this can be done cleverly but unless you’re super confident that you’re good, I wouldn’t do it.
Don’t (and I’m totally guilty of this, sorry) make it too long. No one wants to have to set aside an afternoon during December to read your holiday newsletter.
When it’s time to put it on paper, use a simple layout with an easy to read typeface. Don’t go crazy with the fonts or font colors. Include pictures. People like pictures. Or drawings. Or make a collage. I should note here that I put mine online and make paper copies that I can hand out or send to people who aren’t into that Internet thing.
If you’re a bad writer, consider doing a page with pictures only. Write a few explanatory captions. If you’re bad with computers, use photos and tape and take it to the local copy shop. Another idea might be send a holiday recipe with a story about it. There are no rules so you should do what you want as long as it’s not something that would embarrass your family. Even then, do what you want. It’s your stamp.
Finally, don’t worry if you send it after xmas. People love mail and no one will judge your for sending it out late.
If you have anything to add, comments are open.