Sunday, December 21, 2008

In Defense of Christmas Letters

I don't think a day goes by in this season when I don't hear a criticism on reproduced Christmas letters. The slams come in two forms: a lament about the demise of the fine art of letter writing or a disdain for bragging.

I am here to publicly stand up in favour of Christmas letters. As you might have guessed, we usually send one.

Objection #1: Demise of Letterwriting:

While I would love to write long handwritten (or even typed) letters to our 17 sets of aunts and uncles and and the two dozen or so friends we make a point of making contact with at Christmas we have other things we are doing in December: Christmas concerts, family get togethers, shopping, baking, celebrations, singing carols, church services, gift wrapping and let's not forget about the decorating and the related negotiations. The only available hours are the ones after the kids are in bed, which in December is about 10:00 p.m. And we do need to do some of that wrapping then.

If we did any kind of handwritten note, it would probably be something like "Merry Christmas, Best in 2009". I admit that I have stopped even signing our letters. It's December 21st and the next thing to do address Christmas envelopes so signing and personalizing 40 or so letters would mean these would be Easter cards.

Objection #2: Disdain for Bragging

I know that for all the mockery that goes on, there must be people that write letters that goes something like this:
We couldn't be prouder of Davey for earning 17 Cub Scouts badges this year, the most in the Province of Ontario. He also won the district science fair and the judges all told us personally that it was the best project they had ever seen and they fully expect Davey to win Nobel prize for Physics within the year. Of course you will all know about his painting that is hanging in the National Gallery. We are sure you all saw him interviewed by Peter Mansbridge on the national news. For those of you that missed it we enclose a DVD of it. He is also being Scouted by 3 NHL teams plus for the national swim and ski teams.

Meanwhile Janey continues to excel at ballet. We had to decide on which of the 13 offers we should accept for her to play Clara in The Nutcracker, all from international ballet companies. She is also modeling on weekends and we expect her to be on the runways of Milan when the spring collections are released. She had 3 books published this year and we enclose a copy of one review that compares her to Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. At age 6 she has completed high school and her Bachelor of Arts with concurrent majors in history, sociology, english, economics and political science.
Either the people we know are much less accomplished, less prone to exaggeration or more modest. Regardless, my heart jumps when I open a letter and see a 2 page single spaced letter with newsy tidbits about family vacations, children's activities, job changes, house changes and increasingly the illness of parents or family members. Call me crazy, I want to hear the news from people I care about but I no longer see or hear from during the year. I brashly assume that our circle want to hear simliarly from us.

My Rules for Christmas Letters

1. I will write nothing that will embarrass anyone (except maybe my kids).

2. I send them to people we don't see regularly. So we don't hand them out to coworkers, neighbours or friends from church. The only people in town that get them are our immediate family and that is just so when an Aunt says "that is quite something in your daughter's letter" my parents won't have to pretend they have read it.

3. We don't send them to people we barely know, like someone I met in the Starbuck's lineup in 1996.

4. After a few years of not receiving a letter back, people are crossed off the list. But our list never gets any shorter as some in town friend will move away and they will be added to the list. Some friends I have been exchanging letter for 15 years and have not seen the whites of each others eyes in that time.

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With that great buildup, let me just warn anyone reading this that happens to be on our Chrismtas list. You already know our Christmas greetings are coming late. But I actually did not write a letter this year. It's a photo montage with captions. So this may actually be more bragging than our regular letter, but our kids are adorable and we want you all to know it.

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