Christmas letters. Tis the season.
We’ve all received one before right? Right.
Many are appropriately filled with joy and well wishes, others are overflowing with not-so-humble brags, and others are straight-up depressing as they detail divorce, unemployment and illness.
Some people throw them away, some people hang them up on the wall with their other Christmas cards and some people even hold annual mock readings wherein family members take turns reading the more ridiculous letters in funny voices. You know, Christmas tradition and all.
MSNBC asked readers to share quotes from some of the worst Christmas letters they’ve ever received. Here are some samples of what not to do when writing a Christmas card to your friends and family.
We got one last year in which a neighbor told us about how her husband was was unfaithful to her and information regarding his partner! It gave specifics that would have given it an adult rating. She proceeded to tell us they were getting a divorce. She also had a recent gastric bypass and gave us info on that and how much weight she had lost.
We got a letter from a niece who bragged about her “450,000 starter home” she got for a stunning $390,000. What a blow for my kids who were struggling to get a $90,000 townhouse or just to pay the rent. All this at age 26. She is now buying a $1 million plus home. I hope we don’t hear from her.
— Elizabethtown, Pa.
Excerpt from last year’s letter from friends of my parents whom we had not seen in 16 years: “We have put on a 1,000 square foot addition on the back of the house this past summer. (See enclosed digital photos.) This was Doug’s dream. He and the boys love playing on the $5,000 pool table. Personally, I think it was just a little too expensive for a pool table, but if my boys are happy, I’m even happier! Yes, I am. This addition, along with the new kitchen last year, has definitely made this a home for the ages!
— Rob C., West Chester, Pa.
When I was a newlywed and not yet a parent, we received a card that said, “If you don’t have kids, you won’t understand paragraph 4, 6, 7 or 8.
— Ann D., Fredericksburg, Texas
Several years ago I received a holiday letter from a high school chum I hadn’t seen or heard from in years. It told (in great detail) about her debilitating illnesses (physical and mental), her inability to maintain a job due to those illnesses, several paragraphs devoted to her decision not to have children due to those illnesses, the death of a beloved grandparent (that I’d never met), the demise of her parents’ marriage, and her own glorious ambition to build a house close to the local Wal-Mart. It was painful and depressing to read — not a scrap of holiday cheer to be found. I think I’d almost prefer the stereotypical parental brags.
Here’s the thing: if you’re going to send a Christmas card it’s important to stick to a few guidelines or risk being made fun of behind your back.
Writer Mindie Burgoyne suggests the following tips:
Keep news on family members to one paragraph: Some people write an epic paragraph per family member. This is great when someone has a lot of news to share but looks silly when compared to another family member for whom you have to list ridiculous things to bulk up their list. Pick a few points of interest for each person and write a couple sentences on that. “Sarah graduated from college this year and finally landed a job at National Bank.” Or “John still works at the dealership but says he’s counting the days until he can hit the golf course full-time.” Friends and family want a quick update on how everyone’s doing and that’s it.
Don’t brag: You might think you’re not bragging but detailing your recent home renovation or new car purchase is tacky. Don’t do it. And knock it off with endless paragraphs about how brilliant your kids are. “Kayla just started 5th grade and she loves it. Says recess is her favorite subject.” Boom, done. Be careful with sarcasm as well. It often doesn’t translate on paper without the accompanied facial expressions and a good portion of your relatives probably won’t get it.
Pick a couple highlights of the year and elaborate: And by elaborating I don’t mean detailing how much your daughter’s wedding cost, but how it made you feel. “We were thrilled when Lainey got married to Jake and we’re so happy to welcome him into the family.”
Be You Focused and Not Me Focused: Picture who you’re writing for in your head. That will help you shape the letter. As Mindy says, “Mention things in your letter that you’d want to hear from your closest friends.”
Keep it short: One paragraph on family and one paragraph on well wishes to friends. Nobody wants to read the War and Peace of Christmas letters.
Happy Christmas letter writing!
You can also find Monica on her personal blog, The Girl Who.
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