Ah, ’tis the season to reconnect with friends and family—and what better way than by writing an engaging and meaningful holiday letter?
In this age of fast communication, writing a letter lets us to slow down for some quiet reflection that can help us rediscover what really matters in life while reminding us of the fun, poignant, or amusing moments of the past year that we can share with others. Here are ten tips to crafting a letter that will satisfy you and your readers:
Choose a few highlights of the past year
Then share briefly about how you felt about them: What were you thinking as you watched your daughter receive her high school diploma? What was the best moment of your family vacation? How did it feel to hear your husband got that new job?
Be personal but avoid giving too much information
You can talk about that surgery, but you may want to think twice about sharing what kind of surgery it was, the day-to-day recovery process dealing with bandages and stitches, and how much it cost. Too much information just makes people uncomfortable.
Keep updates short and as positive as possible
A good approach would be: “We went on a family vacation to Disney World. Junior gave us a fright by getting away from us, but security returned him safe and sound.” A not so good approach: “We went to Disney World and Junior ran away, setting us on a hot, frustrating search that felt like it would never end till security finally found him and by then the day was ruined.”
Avoid bragging or appearing like you are
A good approach: “We added a sun room to the house. It’s been our dream for a long time.” Not so good: “We added a 1,000-square foot sun room to the house. This addition, along with the new kitchen last year, has definitely made our house a home for the ages!”
Include only a few of your best photos
Avoid including lots of photos that are too small to identify people, places, or objects easily. Instead, be selective and share only a few of the best. And be sure to use quality paper so the images print clearly.
Tell them what and who you’re thankful for
A fun way to collect ideas for your holiday letter is to use a “family blessings jar.” At the start of the new year, set out a jar and every time something good happens or somebody thinks of something they’re thankful for, jot it on a piece of paper and drop it in the jar. At Thanksgiving, take out the papers and read them as a family. Include a few of these notes of gratitude in your letter.
Share that famous family recipe
Including any holiday recipe you like will do, but if you have a favorite family dish that’s not only delicious but also has special meaning for you, then share it with its story. Everyone can relate to the connection between fond memories and good food.
You don’t always have to write a newsy holiday letter. Try a creative approach: Write a letter from the perspective of your pet. Do a “Famous Family Quotes” letter. (The best way to write one is to collect the amusing things your family says throughout the year.) Or do a “Top Ten List of the Year” letter. (This letter can be short and sweet, with a list of the ten most exciting things from the past year.)
Take a walk down memory lane
If you’ve had a difficult year and don’t want to mention it, write about a treasured holiday of the past. Describe the people, their hair and clothing styles, the music, the weather, the food and, if possible, add a few photos with captions. These details can bring to life holidays of the past for others, and hopefully will encourage your own heart.
Share your sincere holiday wishes
At the close of your letter, share a personal and sincere message of love. If this was the last holiday letter you could write, what would you say to the ones who matter most in your life? What do you wish for them? It’s okay to be a little mushy. The holidays are the perfect time to express those things you might hesitate to say in person.