Friday, November 27, 2009


Are you ready to begin writing your family's annual Christmas letter but don't know how to start? There are a lot of websites with writing tips and templates for publication. Do a Google search for "writing Christmas letters."

Some of the sites you will find include, and

A compilation from these sites and comments from online contributors yields the following suggestions to consider before you begin writing:

Start with a festive greeting. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, whatever. It's a good place to start. If you have an odd sense of humor, you may wish not to show it in this beginning line. Keep it nice.

Be yourself. Write like you speak. Maybe include quotes from family members to make your letter sound conversational. Of course, if you speak roughly, or the quotes from your family should, uhhh, stay in the family, you may wish to clean that up. Again, keep it nice.

Make a list of the highlights of the family's year. Include vacations, home renovations, births, weddings and other happy news. You might want to keep the list short. Believe it or not, no one really cares to know about everything that happened to you or your family this year.

Ask each family member for a list of five things they would like to share about themselves in the Christmas letter. Yes, it's not all about you. Be inclusive. Who knows, maybe the husband, wife and kids might have a different perspective on what happened this year.

Don't brag. It's OK to write about something good happening. But keep it low-key; don't present your life, or your family's life, as perfect. One Web page contributor wrote that her family was so fed up with bragging Christmas letters that they held a reading at the end of the season and voted on the most obnoxious letter. She and her family then burned the "winner."

Be creative. Some folks use puzzles, or multiple-choice questions as formats for letters. Others write in the "voices" of their non-speaking babies, or dogs. Of course, being too "cute" can be a turn-off.

Be colorful. Include photos or other artwork to dress up your letter. Remember, a picture is worth 1,000 words.

Have fun. Try to entertain, as well as inform. Include funny or bizarre stories if you have them.

If your year has been lousy, tone it down. It's appropriate to make reference to problems, but try to find some good things that have happened to you. One Web page contributor wrote that he spit his coffee across the room when he read his mother's Christmas letter. She wrote about his lousy love life and the fact that he had lost his job. Months later, when the mother and son resumed speaking, she agreed to show him future letters before they are sent out. Christmas letters should not be "tell all" memoirs.

It's not "all about you." Add some personal warm wishes for the recipients of your letter.

At the end, add a personal note and personal signature.

For what you really should not do, check out the book "Christmas Letters from Hell: All the News We Hate from the People We Love."

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