The Annual Christmas Letter: A Family Tradition

cookiesWith the advent of email, FaceTime, Facebook and other social media—the practice of mailing Christmas cards to family and friends has slowed. Or stopped. I can keep in touch with folks I haven’t seen in years simply by clicking my Facebook Timeline.

But it doesn’t matter. I continue to write and send an annual newsletter to about fifty friends and family.

Traditions are longstanding customs and practices. Sending the family newsletter is part of my tradition. Started by my father, I continue to do it. Our production schedule involves writing the letter; then my husband combines photos into a file and prints it; then I will print labels (a time saver), fold, lick, stamp and mail.

The older relatives, the ones confused by computers and cell phones, are gone for the most part. I could probably get by without going to all the effort. But I don’t. I’m a creature of habit.

For one thing, writing a letter is a way to keep track of the past. What happened years ago is a far off memory, often blurred and fuzzy. With a glance at the paper Christmas letter, I can go back in time and sharpen those memories.

For example—here’s what my father wrote almost 30 years ago in 1986: “The years continue to roll by, faster each year, it seems . . . We have lost contact with many of our college friends and buddies; the many special friends that we made during our World War II travels, and the many more friends that we made during our teaching careers. Christmas is an excellent time to renew some of these acquaintances.”

My father typed his letter using one of those portable electric typewriters.

My newsletter for 1986 is interesting because, for some reason, I mentioned all the pets. Maybe it was because I spent so much time taking care of them!

Here’s what I wrote:

“We’ve had a busy year, and I thought you might like to hear about it. First of all, Flops and Fluffy continue to dig in the back yard, bark at sirens and scratch at the back door. For thirteen-year-old Flops, this is no mean accomplishment.”

“Poker, Fred, Boogie and Spotty continue to swim and glug happily in their tank. When we bought the four goldfish in March, I did not expect such longevity.”

Then I mention Brownie, the hamster—one of many in our future. “Brownie is a golden hamster who lives in a cage vacated by two gerbils. She is very sweet and tame. She’s only bitten once!”

I go on to mention the activities of my two children: church choir, clarinet lessons, tap and jazz lessons, tennis, basketball, swimming, and church day camp. My son starred in T-ball and flag football. He also endured weekly horseback riding lessons “where he gets to play with the stable cats.” Having seen my grandson at his sister’s horseback riding lessons, playing with stable cats must be a little boy pastime.

Looking back, I must echo my father: “The years continue to roll by….” Time flies. My children are grown up. They have children. They are going through the busyness and stress I went through—work a full day and drive children to activities at night or on weekends. Hopefully, they will survive—and some day they will look back on this busy time as fondly as I look back on mine—thanks to the annual Christmas letter.

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