Friday, December 20, 2013

A Case for Christmas Letters

Time out from art today.  This post is devoted to a subject I've pondered much the past few Christmas seasons.

I absolutely completely adore Christmas letters - long, short, funny, braggy - whatever, bring it on.

I've noticed, as the years go by, Christmas letters are disappearing.  Greetings are sent via e-cards or festive Facebook posts.  I do understand people are busy and letter writing is falling (has fallen) out of fashion, but it's still sad.  We may have seen the post about your new cat or heard about your new job last spring, but there's a good chance we've forgotten it or the details are fuzzy now.  Christmas letters are reminders - connections - a moment to reach out and say "Hey there, you have touched our lives."  Whether long ago or yesterday, the recipient is part of your story and you want to hold on, to let them know what's happening, and hope they feel the same.  It's not (or shouldn't be) an obligation or a bother.  That's not to say it's all stress-free, but it's good in the same way planning parties can be a bit of crazy fun.

When Christmas cards and letters arrive with the bills, the day is brighter.  I sit down and savor the greetings and yearly news.  They are then put aside for my husband, who follows the same routine when he gets home.  We chat about their new news or news we forgot and I tuck the cards in a basket by the fireplace.

After New Year's, when the house returns to ordinary decor, an evening is spent sorting through the cards and letters.  Everything is saved until next year's cards are addressed.  However, I first pull out letters and photos for my Christmas binders.  My hubby and I started dating in the mid 80's and married in 1988.  Since then, every letter and every card with the slightest bit of news or touching thought has been saved.  I got ambitious several years ago and made a home for them.  We now have three fat Christmas binders.

I treasure those memory-crammed binders.

There are letters and photos from some no longer with us - the old boss & friend who brought my husband and I together, a fun-loving cousin who lost her fight with cancer, and aunts and uncles now dearly missed.  How important those pages are now!


The "title" page gains a little creativity each year.

Smiling family and friends begin the yearly parade, followed by the letters.  There is some hilarious exaggeration - one cousin discovered oil in his yard and his wife won the lottery - wink, wink.  There are sad stories and funny stories.  Of course, there are boring stories and plenty of bragging, but that's life isn't it?  It's sad and funny and boring and exciting.  Stay connected - share it all, not just the Normal Rockwell version.  I've included my son breaking a window and my small daughter sharing fender bender details with cashiers.

The binders also hold letters I've written since 1993 - the year we lost my mother-in-law and the year our second child was born.  I used to write a few lines in every card.  That was the first year I had too much news and not enough time.  So, I typed up a letter and tucked it in the cards.  Good or bad, haven't missed a year since then.

Each year, I look through our calendars, photos, and (nowadays) Facebook and blog posts.  A list is made, a theme is planned and a draft is roughed out.  Sometimes it's just a letter, sometimes a quiz, sometimes a list.  Last year it was illustrated - a benefit of the art trek.  This year has been nutso and I'm limited on time, so we're keeping it to a month by month wrap up.  Since a few of you may be on my card list - that's all I'm saying for now.

And that's my case for Christmas letters.  Maybe, if you tend to groan a little at Aunt Fannie's yearly missive, you'll cherish it just a bit this year.  And maybe, just maybe, you'll consider penning your own letter next year.  Go ahead, mark it down for the end of November.

Our basket of family and friends saying "Hey there!"

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