Ideas for Christmas letters

I love this time of year when you get real mail (not just bills)! Letters from long-lost friends and family who are updating you on their year. Sometimes it’s the only time you hear from them. It’s exciting to get something besides bills once in a while. My favorite letters though are those that are more than a signed card or a letter bragging about how great someone’s kids are. If you are looking for creative ways to send your Christmas cards this year, I’ve put together a few ideas. If you’ve tried something unique for your letter in the past, I want to hear about it! I am always looking for different ways of staying in touch in a creative way. I like the challenge of trying to write something true, engaging and succinct. Merry Christmas!

1. Write a simple letter. Be cautious that you aren’t bragging. Instead, have a conversation with your friends and family, by being transparent about the ups and downs of your year. My husband wrote our letter in 2010 for a different perspective and with genuine meaning. Be real.
2. A newspaper. I wanted to send our cards via e-mail this year to save money. So, I tried to be more creative and include more pictures to make it worth the reader’s while, since I was clogging their inbox with a big file. I had a lot of fun with this one.
3. Photojournalism. Another great idea for an e-mail letter is writing a story with pictures. I suppose you could mail this, too, if you have a high-quality printer or don’t mind using a lot of  ink. Send humorous and serious candid or posed snapshots from the year that highlight your favorite moments. Keep captions short and sweet. My parents one year did a really cute page with three pictures: their wedding, them biking on a tandem (their favorite pastime), and a current snapshot, which was for a major anniversary. Captions read “What we think we look like.” “What we feel like.” And “What we really look like.” Simple.
4. Send a postcard. I bought the Avery post card weight perforated paper one year. I printed a picture on one side and a short review of the year on the other, with the appropriate spaces for address information. Saved us some money on stamps and envelopes.
5. A letter from your child or another member of the family. This works especially well if you completely commit to the idea. Don’t get too distracted by what you thought you needed to write in your letter. Really make it from the child’s perspective and you’ll keep it interesting and usually funny for the reader.
6. A letter from your pet. Don’t have kids? Don’t worry, you can send a letter from your cat or dog or other pet. The best letter we’d received last year was from friends who sent a letter from their cat. Animal lovers will appreciate this one but so will those who aren’t.
7. An easy to read but not always easy to write top 10 list. It’s a great way to give people highlights from the year without going into too much detail.
8. Period piece. Write your letter as if it were 1892 (the year your house you just moved into was built) or the 70s (‘cuz you just bought a VW Beetle) or 1940s (because you celebrated your parents anniversary). Use slang and colloquiums that reflect the time. We received a card recently that had an old-time photo in b/w (where the guys have guns and the girls are wearing lots of feathers and lace). It includes language like: “They dun had a little girl child on the 11th of January. She’s ’bout the sweetest thing if you don’t mind my saying so.” In 2011, my son had a Star Wars themed party so we used our family photo and I wrote it from that perspective. I didn’t have a lot of time so it was quick and easy.
9. Write a letter with each member of the family writing his own highlights from the year. For young ones, write what they say, not what you want to write for them!
10. Graphic design. If the focus of your year is travel, emulate the look of a ticket or passport for your letter. The birth of a baby, a baby announcement. Schooling, a diploma  or certificate. If you are a teacher, send a “test” about your year (include the answers, of course)! You get the idea. Have the letter look the part.
11. In 2009, we did a Mad Libs theme. Takes a little participation from the recipients but we’ve had a lot of fun with this one!
12. Exaggerate/parody. Take every day events or important happenings and make a big deal of them (or completely make them up) just for fun. Tell a joke or a story, like many of you do in your blogs, but make obvious where there’s any thread of truth. This especially works if you are aiming to be more entertaining than informative. And your friends and family who know you will appreciate it best. You have to be able to be creative and discerning with this though. When done right, it’s heeeeee-larious.
13. Photo cards. You know  you’ve seen them. This is the simplest greeting you can send but is still fun to receive. If you change nothing else, send a photo that has personality, instead of a posed family shot where everybody is smiling and wearing matching clothes. No family really looks like that. I’m guilty of this, too, though. We want to look good!
14. An idea that would work well in an election year is a campaign letter. Tell all your friends (a-hem, your constituency) about all the great things you did this year. Don’t forget “We’re the LAST NAME HERE. And we approve this message!”
15. If you have a child in school or if you’re a teacher, a crossword puzzle (or maybe you are just a fan of crosswords!), quiz or  other academic activity can be creative and fun. It takes a little participation from your readers but there are those who will appreciate it!



9 thoughts on “Ideas for Christmas letters

  1. great ideas! Really like the idea of having each family member write their own “update” to the letter. Also, the Top 10 list, a simply and easy way to make sure family and friends know what’s going on in your life.

    thanks for sharing! – send real letters, write online

  2. Lots of great ideas, especially the one about not bragging! I’ve been doing an annual Christmas letter since 1984, and I enjoy the challenge of making it something everyone enjoys!

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