10 Ways to Ensure Your Christmas Letter is Used as Kindling

Christmas Letter Photo

The most requested photo.

It’s that time of year again, time for the beloved tradition of the annual family Christmas* letter. These letters are often a chore to write and for many, to read. Last Christmas, my mother-in-law asked me if I was tired because the letter wasn’t as entertaining as usual. You can’t please everyone.

I skipped one year thinking no one would care, but we actually got phone calls and notes requesting one. I know, shocking, right?

This year, I will send our 23rd letter inside a traditional Christmas card along with a family photo.

Family 1993

For more than two decades, I’ve forced my family to pose in front of the tree or under a picturesque pine frosted in snow. It almost always ends in tears, mine or the kids. My husband cries on the inside.

Choosing a card is usually the first step and I’ve developed some unbreakable anal retentive habits. For example, I can’t buy a card with three snowmen on the cover (or three stockings, or two penguins) because there are four people in my family. It’s like I’m killing one of them off.

circa 1997

I’ve tried to order photo cards or pre-printed cards to save time, but when the holidays roll around, I can’t go through with it. My mother’s voice echoes in my head that at least once a year, everyone deserves a personal note or hand-written signature.

Below you will find 10 things I’ve tried to avoid doing in my letters. It’s personal preference of course, and along the way, I may have been guilty of one or two of the things on the list . . . but never more than two in one year!

10 Ways to Ensure Your Christmas Letter is Used as Kindling

  1. Start out with a complaint, you know, something original about the cold weather or how fast the year went by.
  2. Brag about your kids’ trophies or grades without acknowledging they’re on parole, slated for rehab, or at least halo-free.
  3. Share the cost, make and model of your new car, or other luxury purchase. Nothing says Peace on Earth like taking inventory of our stuff.
  4. Detail the exotic vacations you’ve enjoyed while we’ve been stuck at work. You didn’t take us with you. We do not care.
  5. Write it from the viewpoint of a family pet. Seriously. We dare you.
  6. Whine about how everyone starts celebrating too early. Because your timeline is universal and everyone should fall in line.
  7. Rub your busy holiday itinerary in the noses of the lonely and depressed. They need to know someone is more fortunate. You’re providing a service, really.
  8. Describe all the medical procedures undergone by you and your relatives. Include lots of squishy details about incisions and bodily fluids or anything in the hemorroidal area.
  9. Include lots of photos, at least 12, and make them tiny, so we need a microscope.
  10. Make it more than two pages long and single space it. Why wouldn’t we want to know more about your family than we do about our own?

10 Ways to Ensure Your Christmas Letter is Used as Kindling

One of the reasons I still do a letter is my husband loves it. He’s not what you’d describe as a touchy-feely guy, but the fact that he let me dress him up in long-johns for a Christmas photo tells you something.

I wanted to include some of the awful photos, the ones where you can tell someone has been crying but they reflect poorly on me. Do you still send cards? What about a letter? What’s the worst card or photo you received?


*Christmas is what my family and I celebrate so that’s what I write about. Feel free to substitute the word “holiday” or whatever holidays you and your loved ones celebrate.


6 Thoughts on “10 Ways to Ensure Your Christmas Letter is Used as Kindling

  1. Ha Ha Ha! This is cute. Love the red long johns! Now I’m all inspired to write a Christmas letter… keeping in mind your advice, of course. Thanks for sharing your tradition!

  2. LOVED this…hilarious. I remember our card drama. It was a drama or a farce. I had them dress up for “Christmas Around the World”. Each year a new country. The dog quit when she had to wear a sombrero. We also did pirates and American Gothic Christmas. The best pics were the outtakes. Sharing on FB

  3. This is awesome 🙂

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