Holiday Newsletters: Pro or Con?

In Nov. 17th's blog about Pets & Parenthood, Armchair Mom brought up a good free-for-all topic: Do you like or hate holiday newsletters? I am generally in favor because they are often entertaining (intentionally or not) and a good way to stay in touch with a large number of friends and family (especially efficient for overworked parents). Plus, you can always toss the letter, unread, without offending anyone. The Washington Post's Sunday Source section recently ran a tip sheet for creating a good newsletter, most of which seemed pretty commonsensical. My guidelines for success are identical to creating a good print ad: Keep the copy short, use lots of visuals and sneak in as much humor as possible.

What's your view? Do you love or loathe holiday junk mail from your nearest and dearest?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  December 1, 2006; 7:30 AM ET  | Category:  Free-for-All
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I can't stand these newsletters. They are an ego trip for the sender. I wonder about the mental health of those who send them. Needy needy people.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 7:54 AM

I guess my take on it is, if I didn't already know the stuff in the newsletter, then I probably am not very good friends with the sender, so why would I be interested anyway?

Then again, it takes almost no effort to simply toss it in the recyling bin.

Posted by: Nick | December 1, 2006 8:01 AM

I must admit that I have become what I used to despise. Every year since we've had children, I send a holiday letter -- even after my former roommates and I used to have contests to see who received the most "gag-me-with-your-self-promotion-and-wonderful-life letter" every year. As I recall, the winner was usually a family friend who lives quite a posh life in England and whose letter were full of stuff about attending Ascot in the Royal Enclosure and Helena's fabulous hat which made everyone stare (I'll bet), my two boys at Eton, blah, blah, blah ad nauseum! The memory of their letters reminds me every year to keep the bragging down to a dull roar. And I try to make them as funny as I know how to be.

I send holiday letters because I want to let everyone know what we're all up to, and I don't have the time to write long personal notes to each person on our 125+ holiday card list. And I also want to say that while I used to make fun of these letters, I also read all that we receive, and love to hear the news contained in each one. So I'm guilty as charged, but I'm not blushing about it!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | December 1, 2006 8:02 AM

I'm ambivalent. I think it stems from the fact that I used to work in PR -- it's basically family PR. Put a happy face on your life and tell everyone about all your family's "joys" during the joyous holiday season.

I remember a couple of years back during what has become known in our family as "The Year of the Book of Job" where we suffered everything short of a plague of locusts -- deaths of those nearest and dearest to us, academic problems, unpleasant medical diagnoses, massive house damage from Hurricane Isabel, a lost job, pets that died, marital tension, car accidents and so on. I distinctly remember standing next to the computer that December with a stack of computer paper and saying to my husband, "I DARE you to write a holiday newsletter. I just DARE you." And then we busted ourselves up laughing composing various true news items and picturing how people would react if we actually sent it.

A friend of mine actually did that the next year -- sent what she referred to as 'a true holiday newsletter' which mostly focussed on midlife crisis and her doubts about her career path, as well as various and sundry disasters which had befallen the family. It received mixed reviews.

The problem is, if you only write them during the years when everything is great, then it does sound like you're bragging.
Because, I guess, you are . .

Posted by: Armchair Mom | December 1, 2006 8:04 AM

I read the newsletters. I guess most of my friends are pretty down to earth so there isn't much bragging going on. They just write what is going on. Maybe if you can't stand your friend's newsletters, the people sending them aren't really your friends.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 8:14 AM

I send them. They're nice to let people know what's going on in my life if they're interested, and sometimes a nice way to reflect on the past year or so (and at times, try to put an optimistic spin on things, though usually I'm pretty bluntly honest when a year sucked). If people don't like it, they can toss it. If people want to know what's going on with me (especially the busy ones who are hard to pin down, like I can be), they can read it. Any that are sent to me get read.

Often they result in phone calls from people I've not heard from in a while and it's nice to reconnect. And they sometimes result in reconnects after I've moved, since some people may have lost my address.

And IMHO it's always nice (in my circles, anyway) to receive mail that isn't a bill or asking for money. :)

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 8:24 AM

So far, I've enjoyed all the holiday newsletters except the one written by a friend who is married with two kids. 4 pages? And the oldest had just started kindergarten! Was there really that much to tell?! A page & a half in, and I chucked it.

My favorite holiday tip: I write holiday cards on planes. I've flown around the holidays for various reasons 4 out of the past 5 years, and the looks I get from women toting "purchased at airport bookstore" paperbacks clearly says "why didn't I think of that?"
I'm making 2 trips this week. I'll have my holiday cards out by Dec 9. Which is good, as last year, they were all out by Feb 9.

It comes from loving to write and actually wanting to put in a personalized note. I love every card I get, whether it's got a letter, a note or simply a name. In fact I have one friend who, as a looong running joke, never actually signs his name!

A big congrats to parents who actually have time to do newsletters or even cards. And a note to self to remember to feed the fish when I get home.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 8:26 AM

I don't send them, but I don't mind getting them. Of course people write about the good parts of the year, do you really want to read a soap opera of everyone else's problems or bad news? There is nothing wrong with people choosing to accentuate the positive, personally I am tried of people who are always complaining and moaning about how bad their life is.

Posted by: wls | December 1, 2006 8:31 AM

We send 'em every year, but we try to keep it humourous, at a length of two pages, and with plenty of pictures.

For us, we just don't have much time to keep in touch with all of our family members, so this is the best thing we've come up with to let them know we're still alive and what we're up to.

And like someone said, if they don't want to read it, it's no skin off my back -- just recycle the paper, that's all I ask.

Posted by: ilc | December 1, 2006 8:34 AM

I LOVE holiday newsletters. I have several friends and relatives who send them every year and I look forward to catching up. It almost always triggers a phone call or two that may not have been made otherwise.

Everyone is way too busy these days - I don't understand how a one page summary is a bad thing.

Posted by: DINK | December 1, 2006 8:35 AM

I like pictures of the kids.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 8:41 AM

I also love to receive newsletters. It's a great way to catch up. Keep them coming!!!

Posted by: experienced mom | December 1, 2006 8:42 AM

I started sending newsletters 3 years ago, and it's just me, my husband, and the pets. (Though our first child is due around Christmas. Poor thing won't make it into the newsletter if it makes an appearance after the 15th.) It's never a brag-fest that makes you throw up a little bit in your mouth. It's meant to be light and funny, and it's a great way to make sure everyone has your address (especially when you move as much as us), phone number, and email. Just don't take yourself too seriously. Mentioning how little Katie got into the best pre-school in town is pretty pathetic, but it will give your recipients something to laugh about behind your back.

I LOVE getting them from my friends, who are a sarcastic and hilarious lot. The best part are the after new year's letters we get in response. It really stimulates other people to catch back up.

And whoever said your REAL friends don't need them, loosen up. I talk to my mom all the time, and when she didn't get one last year, she specifically requested I send one. How often do you get to read something a loved one actually takes time to write and edit?

I really love them. They should make you laugh, even if your laughing AT someone, and not WITH them. Just remember that when you send them out!

Posted by: atb | December 1, 2006 8:42 AM

If someone wants to take the time to write I will take the time to read it - usually only a few minutes (read it in the bathroom instead of the Reader's Digest). I have one family member who goes through the entire year of ailments and surgeries. We all read it and laugh. Most of the others are nice as our family is spread from Maine to Alaska to Texas.

Posted by: KB Silver Spring | December 1, 2006 8:49 AM

I LOVE the newsletters. I enjoy hearing about the lives of friends who are far away. It makes me happy to hear other people's happy news.

I know lots of people think its bragging, but I'm so tired of all the negativity in society today. It is more acceptable to bash your husband than it is to say that he's terrific and helpful. Its more acceptable to be fed up with your kids than to truly enjoy them and say so. So keep the letters and good news and letters coming. There's nothing wrong with accentuating the positive.

Posted by: Moxiemom | December 1, 2006 8:54 AM

I LOVE holiday newsletters...I wish everyone would send one!!!!! I also love it when people tuck a picture into the holiday card. There was once a For Better for Worse Cartoon in which the two parents were sitting down reading the letters that came in holiday cards, looking at the pictures, and thinking of how nice it is at this time of the year to remember and be in touch with all of the people who care about you. To me, it's disappointing when people just sign their name in their card...what fun is that???????????

Posted by: Love 'em | December 1, 2006 8:55 AM

I loathe these holiday newsletters. I read them only b/c people go through the trouble to do them. However, and this has been without exception in my case, they are simply a means of show casing Their Wonderful Lives. What they bought. Where they traveled. How their children are The Most Gifted Children Ever. There is little/no humor or funny stories that are endearing.

I see holiday cards as wishes for other families during the season and in the new year, not opportunities to brag. Very often that is what they are.

Posted by: JS | December 1, 2006 8:56 AM

I read them, but mostly for the Unintentional Comedy.

I like to make fun of them.

I'm a terrible person.

Posted by: Proud Papa | December 1, 2006 8:56 AM

I love the newsletters. Several of them that we've been getting for years are so bad that they're pants-wetting funny. My sister and I are ususally crying with laughter at my Aunt Arlene's annual bomb. I like to read the one's my parents get from their friends, since I went to school with their kids. My mother-in-law saves her best to read out loud--even tho I don't know the people, the human condition is pretty much the same everywhere.

Posted by: WDC | December 1, 2006 9:01 AM

Any David Sedaris fans out there? "Seasons Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!" is the most hilarious look at the holiday newsletter ever. If you can go see the play, do. Otherwise, get an audio copy. I believe Amy Sedaris reads it.

Posted by: atb | December 1, 2006 9:03 AM

My parents have done a newsletter every year since my older brother was born (he's now 28, and I'm 25). It was a great way to make everyone laugh, with crazy stories of raising 2 wild kids. A few years ago, my mom created an album for each of us with every newsletter and picture in it. It's a special scrapbook for my family.

We've had about 5 "years of Job" in a row now, and each year the holiday letter is a little more depressing. Neither of my parents wants to do it this year, but I think family and friends expect it. I've offered to take it over... we'll see what they say!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 9:07 AM

Maybe it's because I wasn't born here. But I find the whole exercise a bit tacky and lacking in class.

Posted by: expat | December 1, 2006 9:10 AM

I'm with you, Proud Papa - my favorites are the truely horrendously funny (unintentionally) ones - there are a few I count on getting every year!

Posted by: RebJ | December 1, 2006 9:11 AM

I love them! My grandmother sends one out every year, with the news of the family by month. She talks about what she and grandpa planted in the garden, who got married, the important family dinners (i.e.--"John and Jane and the kids came for Easter dinner. We enjoyed the ham and the pretty cake Jane brought, then played croquet in the yard. John broke a croquet mallet over his knee after Jane sent him off into the bushes."). They are fun and sweet, plus informative. We have a very large family, and while we all love each other, it is very hard to keep up. These letters are wonderful. My aunt sends a one pager with pics of the kids and each one writes a short paragraph and sends greetings. One year my teenaged cousin had been in tons of trouble, and we all knew it, but he still had his pic in the letter and wrote a three line paragraph--I think my aunt made him do it to prove that she had not killed him! I look at them as a little family history. My best friend from college always sends us one, which is practically all I get these days! Her husband was in Iraq last year and she was alone with a baby and pre-schooler. THAT was a bittersweet letter. As much as I enjoy sending them, I am not great at writing them. My life is boring, even though I have cute kids! I am tempted this year to do up a great one and send to someone I loathe (my horrible cousin who should drink hemlock).

Posted by: uyts | December 1, 2006 9:14 AM

oops--I meant 'as much as I enjoy receiving them".

Posted by: uyts | December 1, 2006 9:18 AM

Dear Family and Friends,

This has been a busy year. My owners went on vacation five times, and put me in the kennel. One month I was in the kennel more than I was home.

My owners also got a cat this year...and they play with her more than they play with me. But she does provide company for me when my owners are at work...and I do get to eat all the food she leaves over.

The vet said I've gained my owners put me on a diet. I'm hungry all the time but I've lost weight.

I also got two new bones this year, and a new squeaky toy.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas!


Posted by: Wags... | December 1, 2006 9:18 AM

Hey Leslie, how about after Christmas we post examples of funny (intentional or not) letters? With names changed to protect the guilty.

Posted by: experienced mom | December 1, 2006 9:18 AM

How awful to want to get holiday letters to laugh AT them, make fun of them. This is certainly not the holiday spirit.

As far as the letters themselves - most people don't understand about white space. Even those with lots of pictures cram so many of them together with captions etc. tucked in that it is like going into a junk store - hard to find anything.

I like to hear about the lives but prefer it in fewer words/pictures.

Posted by: meg | December 1, 2006 9:22 AM

I like them. We send a one-pager with highlights, try to be funny, write a short actual note to each person, and include a family snapshot (not just the baby). I'm actually disappointed when we just get a card. It's nice, but I want to hear what's going on with people! (And, for that matter, we don't even send a card anymore, just a letter and a picture.)

Posted by: VAMom | December 1, 2006 9:23 AM

We have a very large, extended family and circle of friends. While we manage to loosely keep in touch with most of them throughout the year, we can never remember what we've told to whom or when. Our holiday letter allows us to share our significant milestones with everyone at the same time. We also try to handwrite a short (2-3 sentences) personal note specifically to each recipient. The length of the letter is limited to a single-sided page, including pictures, using a readable font.

We truly enjoy receiving holiday letters and cards, and we've saved every single one that we've ever received. Sometimes when we're missing someone that has passed on, we pull out the old letters and reminisce.

Posted by: MAY | December 1, 2006 9:23 AM

ditto on loving the newsletters. Sad to say, I don't speak with all my friends on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. I see the newsletters as a great way to reconnect. I read what is going on then I have a reason to call and chat. It is win-win all around.

Posted by: dotted | December 1, 2006 9:25 AM

Dear Wags,

Your owners need to make friends with other dog people. Usually when my owners are away, I get to stay with Uncle Bryan, who is my favorite person, and Cousin Zowie, who is a big stupid great dane who gets between me and Uncle Bryan. This year I had to go to the kennel once. They gave me a bath and got soap in my eye. I rubbed my eye as raw as I could and looked as pathetic as possible for 4 days. This cost my owners $150 for a vet appointment and eye drops. I hate the vet, but I think my owners learned a lesson.


Posted by: atb | December 1, 2006 9:27 AM

My in-laws received one a few years ago that provided amusement for the whole family for the whole week. This letter was, no joke, 5 pages, single spaced. The writer, a very religious mother of 6 devoted a paragraph to each child, including adding about two of them "we are no longer in contact with (the children) because he chose to marry outside of the church/because he is a homosexual. She also wrote about her battle with cancer, which was heartbreaking but then added "I asked Bob (her husband) if I were to die, would he choose to come with me, Bob said no."
One year my parents sent out a letter, they did it becuase there were a lot of changes going on in the family and figured that was the best way to get the word out. My mother had each of us children write a paragraph about what we were up to (we were all in our teens/twenties at the time) People seemed to like this method as it didn't come across as too self serving, just the kids saying here's what I've been doing all year, etc..

Posted by: CC | December 1, 2006 9:28 AM


Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 9:31 AM

ok CC, the devoted mother of 6 may have just won the contest!

Posted by: experienced mom | December 1, 2006 9:31 AM

I think the most nauseating (and disturbing) letter I've received was also from an extremely religious mother of six. She is a SAHM who home schools and is currently nursing 3 of the children. From the sounds of it, the children rarely get to mingle with anyone other than themselves. The picture on the front of the card was of her nursing two of them with the other four crowded around staring vacantly at the camera. Very high "ick" factor.

Posted by: NCMom | December 1, 2006 9:34 AM

CC, just read your post and while I know that our letters aren't from the same woman (her kids are nowhere near marrying age), you may have received a letter from her in the future somehow! LOL!

Posted by: NCMom | December 1, 2006 9:36 AM

I really enjoy getting the newsletters - many friends are as busy as we are and it is a quick fun way to catch up on what they are doing. I also enjoy the yearly school pictures that we get of friends' kids - sometimes these too are unintentionally funny. My absolute favorite is the yearly newsletter from my in-laws who fill it with descriptions of their wonderful travels and exceptional lives - much like the pompous family member in England mentioned above :-) The first year I was married to their son, we were mentioned in one line in which they misspelled my name and had us living in the wrong state. The year our daughter (their first grandchild) was born, she didn't merit mention at all. Kind of sums up the relationship! We have learned to laugh and try not to repeat such mistakes in our annual newsletter - one page, with pictures, quick summary of what we're up to and current contact information. My one *mistake* in the newsletter was to mention how glad we were that my DH was home safely from Iraq and was officially out of the military - for which I was soundly taken to task by several pro-military (dare I say pro-war?) family members, none of whom had experienced active combat or what my DH survived. Word of advice - stay away from politics in the holiday newsletter .....

Posted by: Stacey | December 1, 2006 9:36 AM

No, I think MCMom's just won!

Posted by: CC | December 1, 2006 9:37 AM

Ha! What funny stories! I don't write newsletters because I prefer personal letters - the information I want to share with my grandparents is often vastly different from the information I want to share with my friends. I also really hate the thought that someone will "love" my letter, but only because they're laughing at me! That said, I do like receiving letters and I always read them - I do like them better if they have lots of pictures! My favorite ones are from older relatives, as utys also mentioned. It is hard to see my great aunt out in her flowerbed as pretentious :) and I don't keep in touch with all my extended family so it's nice to hear how everyone is doing.

Posted by: TakomaMom | December 1, 2006 9:41 AM

Many years ago we received a holiday newsletter from very dear old friends from the 1970s who moved up north that included, among the mundane details of their lives, a story where they got lost in Washington, DC while taking their kids to museums. We stared at it in disbelief. All this time we'd written them letters, sent the kids presents, and suggested we see them again when they freaking came back to DC and never contacted us! As soon as we wrote them a "this charade is over" letter they bent over backwards to fix things, but we never saw them again. Send out a homemade crossword puzzle, hand-drawn comic strips, photos, collages, video, anything but a newsletter.

Posted by: Bethesdan | December 1, 2006 9:43 AM

I like them, so long as they are shorter than a page. There is truly no reason for more than one page. Just pick a few highlights, unless something really major has taken place (Moved to a new city, serious illness... Jimmy starting Pre-K doesn't count.)
We got married this spring and won't be enclosing letters or pictures. (Although we might send my great aunt who couldn't travel to the wedding a picture). Once we have kids I'll probably start doing one, but I doubt anyone's interested in my progress in grad school or my DH's promotion.

Posted by: Newlywed in MD | December 1, 2006 9:49 AM

I wish I would get newsletters. My extended family is far away and it's really hard to keep up with everyone, especially the kids!

Posted by: Missing home | December 1, 2006 9:49 AM

I have sent out a holiday newsletter since college. It's the one time of the year to indulge my frustrated wannabe author/stand-up comedian tendencies. Over the years I have been teased about my letters by the very same friends that also say they can't wait to see what I write about this year. A few have even developed rituals around reading it (probably akin to "I read it on the toilet rather than Reader's Digest" but I choose to take everything as a compliment, hehe). Let's just say I try to emulate the Sedaris Family's essay style--short, breezy, sarcastic. Nothing to self-aggrandize here. :-)

Posted by: Introverster | December 1, 2006 9:52 AM

Our card list is till relativly small so I like to sit down and write a personel note in each one. I find that I'm more laid back with my close friend and family than work friends or my husband's friends. That being said, I LOVE the holiday newsletter. We don't get a lot (we're newlyweds and our friends are new to the art of the newsletter), but my parents get TONS and I read all of them. Some to see what the kids are doing and others just to laugh.

Posted by: Melissa | December 1, 2006 9:53 AM

I don't celebrate Christmas myself, so I only have a small card list. I try to write a short note to the folks I'm not in close touch with, but for our local friends, it's just a signature.

I do have a couple of long-distance friends that I only hear from at holiday time, and I look forward to getting their letters to catch up with their lives. One friend spends most of her letter writing about the exploits of her much doted-on only child, but I love reading it nonetheless. If she wants to brag, that's her prerogative.

Posted by: Loren | December 1, 2006 9:54 AM

"Do you love or loathe holiday junk mail from your nearest and dearest?"

Yet again, Leslie frames the discussion in a confusing and conflicting mash-up of opinion. She likes the entertainment value of the letters, and the efficient connection they provide (how very Wharton)then derides them as "junk".

I know this is her blog, and her right to write any old thing she wants, but - especially in light of the butcher job she did on explaining the Dickerson book the other day - I find her set ups increasingly frustrating.

Posted by: PU | December 1, 2006 9:55 AM

yes, PU, Leslie writing style and attitudes are beyond frustrating, but this is a fun topic, so let's just go with it.

Posted by: experienced mom | December 1, 2006 9:59 AM

I love the newsletter that I get from an elderly uncle because it's full of not-braggy just informative news about his children whom I have not seen since I was a pre-schooler (they moved to Florida in the late 1950's while the rest of the family stayed in New Jersey). Meanwhile, I HATE the newsletter that I get from a former lawyer co-worker, who after she married and started a family, was able to quit her lawyer job and stay home (that was 15 years ago). Her NLs are filled with her kids' many, many accomplishments and the volunteer activities she does and the terrific vacations they take. Maybe I'm just envious, but I feel (and other former co-workers of this person feel similarly) as though she is rubbing our noses in her ability to stay home with her kids. Last year, I wrote a card back with a note that my 17-year-old son had discovered a cure for cancer and that my 12-year-old daughter had been offered a scholarship to Juliard (sp?) under the condition that she take up the bassoon because they did not have enough bassoon players.

Posted by: lawyermom | December 1, 2006 10:01 AM

I love the letters. It is nice to know how people are doing that you do not see all that often. I have a friend that sends the letter from her Hamsters. Makes me laugh every year.
However, brag too much about your perfection and your pets lives and your children's brillance and I'll laugh at that too. I really cannot contain myself.

Posted by: Raising One of Each | December 1, 2006 10:02 AM

We have a lot of friends and relatives scattered around the country that we don't keep in super close touch. I love getting holiday newsletters that tell me what's going on in their lives. Getting a holiday card with nothing but a signature or a hastily scrawled "hope all is well" is sad to me. It's like sending a card to me is an obligation, and I don't want to be that to anyone. We do a mix of holiday letters and handwritten cards depending on who the recipient is, and we make an effort to keep the letters light and one-page.

Posted by: Mom in CT | December 1, 2006 10:03 AM

I write a very brief newsletter. If it can't fit on one side of decorative holiday paper (i.e. - the kind with massive margins), then it doesn't make the grade. I usually include a separate photo - either of our Bulldog (always popular) or of something unique to our little Midwest town that causes giggles (one year it was a picture of a massive fiberglass cow with an even larger, festive christmas wreath around its neck). Light and frothy and easy to digest during the hectic holiday season.

I just give a recap of the year. In my very large family, sometimes we forget who we've told what during the year. And my in-laws aren't great about keeping the rest of my husband's family up on our doings (we're the only ones who don't live within a 50-mile radius of their upstate NY home). Besides, now my husband's numerous aunts/uncles and cousins have said how much they look forward to receiving the letter, so I can't really give it up now.

I do, though, hate the massive, cutesy newsletters that run to multiple pages. If you're that interested in telling everyone the minutiae of your lives, set up a small blog and include the URL in a smaller letter.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | December 1, 2006 10:11 AM

Proud Papa, you make me laugh.

the trick about writing a good Holiday letter is to be creative about it. like instead of writing "Jonney was born this year by c-section...", use a little creativity like "Dr Beaver carved Jonney out..."

Things I find really boring in a Holiday letter:

1. a review of your 2nd grader's report card.
2. That you have been recently diagnosed as lactose intollerant. (unless, of course, you are creative about it)
3. that you joined Weight Watchers in July, lost 6.75 pounds and still have 3 points saved up for Christmas day.
4. Details of your Carribean Cruise
5. The picture of your motorcycle or new sportscar will instantly find its way to the round file.
6. I don't really care how cute your pooch is eaither.
7. If I hear these 2 words strung together in a sentence, "doing good", I'll yawn, but this is a question for the Grammer Police: Is it "I am doing good", or "I am doing well"? Either way, come up with a better way of saying it.

Any others from anybody else?

Posted by: Father of 4 | December 1, 2006 10:13 AM

I love newsletters - even the bragging ones - and I send them myself about every other year. One page, sometimes with a couple of pictures, try to keep it simple but newsy. I wish I was more creative like some of my friends who send them in poetic or newspaper format, but since I'm an accountant and don't think with that side of my brain, it's just not going to happen!

I'm with those who don't get the sending of cards with a hastily scrawled signature and nothing else. Cards embossed with your family's names are even worse - like I'm one of your business contacts or something. A short note and pictures of the kids are great, but it seems to me that the "just a signed card" people are either doing it out of obligation like someone mentioned it above, or are in some weird contest for who can have the biggest holiday card list.

Posted by: momof4 | December 1, 2006 10:15 AM

I like holiday newsletters, but am MUCH more interested in the adults than the kids. What are you reading, thinking, making? What websites have interested you in the past year?

And, please, please don't just send pictures of your kids. They are people I've probably never met (and the younger they are the more they look alike). I'm interested in you - what do you look like these days? You are the persons I remember!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 10:17 AM

I believe it's "doing well," (something about modifying the verb?) and the only reason I'm even mentioning it is because Fo4 asked about it at 10:13.

Posted by: Not the Grammar Police | December 1, 2006 10:18 AM

I wish more people would "do good" around this time of year (or any time for that matter).

Posted by: dogooder | December 1, 2006 10:18 AM

I used to hate them when I was young--all those bragging accounts of people's lives my parents got in the mail each December. I couldn't understand why my mother bothered with them at all. Then I grew up and had a circle of family and friends that I didn't see every day as I used to see my friends. When I realized one year that I really looked forward to reading everyone's newsletters and was tired of writing out all the details of our year by hand to people we don't see often but love nonetheless, I broke down and wrote a newsletter. I don't care if people chuck it. I include the good and the bad, and many years there has been much more bad than good (what was it with 2003 anyway? That was the year we also had car accidents, hospitalizations, massive house damage from Hurricane Isabel, job loss, financial difficulties, horrible ongoing medical problems, etc.). I figure if I enjoy reading about other people's lives, maybe they enjoy getting my letter as well.

Posted by: Sarah | December 1, 2006 10:18 AM

Speaking as someone who usually (but not always) only sends pics of the kids and not of the adults - it's a vanity thing. LOL If I'm having a good hair/weight year, maybe...if not - nope!

I have a question for those of you who send cards - do you continue to send cards year after year to people who don't send cards themselves, and whom you haven't had any contact with in many years? Or maybe this question should be for those who don't send them but still receive them. I have taken a few people off my card list simply because I feel like I'm just bugging them by sending them cards when I haven't heard a word from them in so long.

Posted by: momof4 | December 1, 2006 10:23 AM

I got a letter last year from a friend who had just moved into a lovely new home before the holidays. She sent out a picture of it, with the caption that went something like, 'this is the new house. Moving nearly killed me. If you see any feet sticking out from underneath, they are my realtor's. Please come visit us and bring food." It was really funny.

To the people who had friends that didn't visit them in D.C., don't feel to bad. My sister was supposed to meet me and my family at Ikea one year. We were visiting the area from out of state and rarely saw them. We all had young kids. We both go to Ikea and were so overwhelmed that we forgot to look for each other!!! It wasn't until we got home that we remembered! This was ten years ago, and very painful at the time, but funny now. Ikea is still very overwhelming to me.

Posted by: uyts | December 1, 2006 10:24 AM

And, please, please don't just send pictures of your kids. They are people I've probably never met (and the younger they are the more they look alike). I'm interested in you - what do you look like these days? You are the persons I remember!


I send out about 100 cards and do not have the time to write one for the 60 relatives who want the kid pictures and one for adults. You either get the kid pictures or your off the list. such is being a parent.

Posted by: Bethesdan | December 1, 2006 10:24 AM

Father of 4, it depends on what you mean (as one poster has already suggested). If you are "doing well," you are healthy and things are on course. If you are "doing good," you are helping other people, saving the world, whatever. And of course, in Washington, D.C., there are undoubtedly many people who dream about "doing well (i.e. $$) by doing good."

Posted by: TheGrammarPolice | December 1, 2006 10:25 AM

Hehe, I'll bet Leslie's holiday newsletter is just an updated resume.

Posted by: mo | December 1, 2006 10:26 AM

I don't know, but I never even knew anyone did these until I moved to the south. They seem pretty strange to me. Maybe it's a christian thing, maybe it's a southern thing, I don't know. But they do sound like bragging to me. Over the years, I've had friends off and on who sent them out, so I've typically gotten one in the mix. I found it awfully strange, since sometimes I spent most days with said friends, or at least spoke on the phone with them.
No one in my family sends out cards this time of year, some do during the high holidays (in the fall) and they are nice to get to keep in touch. I have friends who send out cards and that's really nice, but the diatribes about what you were doing all year sounds strange to me.

Posted by: atlmom | December 1, 2006 10:26 AM

not 'to bad', but 'too bad'.

Posted by: uyts | December 1, 2006 10:27 AM

I find my friends haven't started writing letters but I look forward to going through the stack at my mother's house to read the news of old family friends. Our biggest joke is how soon or late the holiday card and letter will come from a military family friend of 30+ years. It's been as early as the second week in December and as late as Easter.

A little grammar humor: When someone tells my boyfriend they are doing "good" his retort is "well, even". The subtleness probably doesn't translate to blog posting...

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | December 1, 2006 10:28 AM

The picture I wanted to use last year was of my son and his two cousins (all born within a month of each other), all three sitting on potties (they were in the training phase). The caption was "Same crap here. How about you?" I still think it would have been funny, but my stepdaughter protested because she wasn't in it (she's 19, didn't think she'd want to be photographed on the john).

Posted by: WorkingMomX | December 1, 2006 10:28 AM

I'll take a well-written holiday newsletter over a signed bland card any day. At least I can get a quick idea of what's going on with far-flung friends and family. Why send a card if all you're going to do is sign it and put a stamp on it? Might as well not bother. But obnoxious holiday newsletters are pretty ridiculous.

Susan @ Working Moms Against Guilt

Posted by: Susan | December 1, 2006 10:30 AM

Why don't people just email these type of letters? I get long letters every once in a while from friends I don't see often, and I enjoy that - it's not like a letter is the only way to communicate any longer - you can keep in touch hourly with people if you want.

Posted by: atlmom | December 1, 2006 10:32 AM

Dear Wags and Turk,

You guys need to learn to put your paws down and insist on respect.

What's with that kennel crap? You need to make it clear to your serving staff that their vacations are no excuse for inconveniencing you. It's their job to arrange for alternative staffing.

And tell them that you won't put up with a decline in quality, either. Any temporary staff needs to provide face time of at least an hour, at least twice a day, and dining times are to be strictly adhered to. Food is to be supplied in the manner and quantities specified in the contract.

The problem with you guys is that you're such "yes-men." You've never understood about the necessity for firmness in training staff, and you let them act as though they own you. You want to be loved, so you'll submit to any indignity. Why can't you guys learn that you have to demand the love you want?

Ok, enough of my lecture. I'm really just writing to send my holiday good wishes. But geez, Louise, grow some backbone, you guys!

Love ya loads,
Puss Cat

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 10:33 AM

Last year, I stold my wife's address book because I was throwing her a surprise party for her 40th birthday. When my officemate and I were porting the telephone and address information to the computer so I could make out the guest list, she mentioned that there were boxes in the address book that one would check if they got a Christmas card for that year.

My jaw dropped in disbelief. What? You're kidding, right?

I think it's one of those things women know about and men are oblivious to. I know that I'm not the brightest bulb in the drawer, but I wunder if it's me or just men in general about stuff like this?

Posted by: Father of 4 | December 1, 2006 10:38 AM

LOVE the pet correspondence! Keep it coming!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 10:38 AM

Holiday newsletters? This is the first time I've heard of this, and I grew up in this country! Seriously though, this is not part of my family's Christmas traditions; Christmas is more family reunion time for us (we're already planning for a big family reunion for Christmas 2007 back in our country of origin).

Posted by: montgomery village | December 1, 2006 10:39 AM

The only holiday letter that I can stand is my friend who send a wacky, hilarious comic 'zine peppered with clipart every year. From everyone else: either I know you well enough to know the news, or I don't care. I prefer (and send) regular holiday cards with a handwritten note to those I want to convey information to.

Posted by: Alice | December 1, 2006 10:39 AM

I love them for the same reason I love reading the NY Times wedding pages - it's interesting to see how other people are living their lives. Sometimes it's even inspiring.

The one thing to remember when you get one of those bragging newsletters is to have a little compassion and a little forgiveness for people being human and having human faults. (That shouldn't be too hard this time of year.) You wouldn't actually want to switch lives with those people, so just sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

Posted by: coulkat | December 1, 2006 10:40 AM

I can only speak for myself, of course, but the reason I don't email my letters out is simply because my friends' emails change more often than their addresses do, and to be perfectly honest my circle of loved ones seems to be more likely to reply to a letter that I took the time to write and send out than to an email they can just delete. (Further, several of my relatives are older and don't have/use email, or some of my friends are abroad and don't get a whole lot of mail from home -- I can spare the 84 cents once a year, otherwise I do use email when I want to get a hold of them.)

I'm sure that's not the case for everyone, and for those whose addresses I can't find I send a copy to the last e-mail I had for them and while about half bounce back, some do get through. I just hope all my friends don't go to email, I like getting fun mail from people (as opposed to "Here's another chance for you to ruin your credit rating!" or "Take advantage of this offer, only $40 billion a month!" or "You owe my company $50. Please pay up or face penalties").

There's also something just more personal about mail, I think, than its electronic counterpart. Like "I'm thinking of you," not "I'm going to hit 'send' on this to 50 billion of my closest friends who happen to have email." But that's me.

Posted by: to atlmom | December 1, 2006 10:49 AM

Where's Jokester? Surely there is a good Christmas joke out there...

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 10:52 AM

tpyin s hRd for me. Smll brane. mrry xmas.


Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 10:52 AM

I guess it all depends on whose lists you're on (and who's on your lists!) I love both writing and receiving holiday newsletters. I save 'em all, both my own and the ones I get, and then I have a nice little file to remind myself what's been going on with my friends and extended family, and what happened in what year for myself! Most of the people we exchange these letters with are competent writers who know how to strike the balance between humor and honesty, and I don't think I've EVER gotten one of those 5-page brag-fests. Thumbs up for well-done holiday letters!

Posted by: AnnieJo | December 1, 2006 10:52 AM

I have to say the worst photocard I have ever heard about was to my sister from her nouveau riche (sp?) friend who sent a picture of their brand spanking new McMansion with herself and her husband as tiny dots on the front porch. I

f you didn't see the name on the card you wouldn't have known who it was from. Anyway, the kicker was the caption--"From our house to yours!"

Talk about no class!! I heard of another person who received it who threw it to the ground when they open it and exclaimed, "Ewwww--what the hell is that!?" Too funny!

Posted by: Lou | December 1, 2006 10:53 AM

We do a holiday postcard from We shoot a nice family picture for the front (not in matching or Christmas gear, just a nice outdoors shot which shows all of us together), then usually put a small band of 2-4 favorite cameo pictures on the text side, along with a short update. It's nice to do the update, a minimal but purposeful overview. The kids each get a paragraph reminding of their age, grade, activities, and special passions/ characteristics nowadays. [Gushy promo alert] We really like the amazingmail service, which is meant as business advertising, but lets you create postcards with images and text and a mailing list you set (can be just a few addresses), then mails it for you, for less than/around $1.00 per card. (more for international addresses) Once you choose your images and write the thing, you're done, no stamping/addressing/ mailing! First exposure was on my moms' list when the kids set up a pen pal scheme; some of the more enterprising moms found it a quick and easy way for their kids to get their replies out and it spread like wildfire . . .

We only send to family and close friends of mine and DH's, though. I have gotten 1 or 2 of the laundry list/career progress letters from preschool families of the kids, and that has seemed like stepping into a spot of misplaced intimacy.

We do let our daughters do their own, though, to send directly to their friends if they like.

We have some other holiday/family outreach traditions I like very much. Every year I do photo ornaments for each girl, picking a nice portrait of each (usually not the school photo, we can usually find better portraits in our own photos). I do this production-line for the grandparents, close family, and ourselves, with small photoframe ornaments, adding the year if necessary. I wish I'd started earlier --- I did the first as a sort of accidental inspiration when my younger dd was a baby, so they don't start til my older one is 3, sigh. But what I love best about having a Christmas tree is having those photo ornaments showing year by year come out, as well as the special ornaments my kids have made and chosen each year (the kids do most of the tree decorating, we're all unbreakable except for a few kid-crafted breakable ornaments). I love the way the tree is an accreting gallery of family memories, a place where the younger versions of the kids I love come back into consciousness every year in memory. (Both sets of grandparents, however, have different motivation and keep the whole, year-by-year collection of little photos on display year round!)

I also make an effort to cull and sort our photos for the entire year before Christmas, and give a framed collection featuring best/most personable shots of everyone in our family, as they look this year. It's a major effort but in the same way doing taxes every year is a major effort --- doing taxes makes me quicken our financial records each year (to think we did this each month before kids!), and were it not for taxes the backlog would reach into multiple years and become totally insurmountable to even start. By doing the photos every year it stays doable, gives me a deadline, and the families have come to count on the annual photo "refresh". But it's also an excuse to give the best Christmas present to myself, as I love having the photos framed and visible myself.

Posted by: KB | December 1, 2006 10:55 AM

I love getting newsletters.

Why are some of you so bitter that you don't want to hear about your friends' successes and good times? You want them to be unhappy or something? I don't understand this attitude.

Tell me about your Carribbean cruise, your new car, how your kid won the soccer tournament and what else you've been up up to these days. Don't forget pics of the kids -- I'm happy to see them. Because I am your FRIEND and I CARE!!! I'm GLAD that you're happy!

Posted by: upstate | December 1, 2006 10:55 AM

Thanks, Grammer Police, you gave me a creative idea on how to start out my Christmas letter, maybe with a poem:

Hello everybody!

I'm not doing well,
I'm not doing good,
I'm not treating my diabetes,
as good as I should.

I'm not doing good,
I'm not doing well,
One more wrong turn,
and I'll be on the highway to hell!

That should mess their heads up real good. Or should it be "real well"?

Posted by: Father of 4 | December 1, 2006 10:59 AM

If sending a picture in a holiday card, please include the whole family. I always end up with a few pictures (usually unlabeled) of unidentifiable babies and toddlers floating around the house after the holidays. At my mom's house, they tend to surface year after year in the boxes of Xmas ornaments, grudgingly kept because it wouldn't be nice to throw away someone's baby pictures. A picture of the whole family would be much more enjoyable to most of your family and friends.

Posted by: DC | December 1, 2006 11:00 AM

Dear Puss Cat,

This is for you and your friends, "looks-like-squirrel" and "smells tasty" who live in my house. The only thing that keeps me from biting you very hard is the owners. At some point I'm going to stop being satisfied with a small nip at the tail of "looks-like-squirrel." I know I only get a small bit of hair, and the owners are so disappointed in me, but IT FEELS SO GOOD. Consider yourself warned. Happy Holidays.


Posted by: atb | December 1, 2006 11:03 AM

Father of 4--that was funny! However, until the literary awards start pouring in, you might want to keep your day job...

Posted by: TheGrammarPolice | December 1, 2006 11:03 AM

I always end up with a few pictures (usually unlabeled) of unidentifiable babies and toddlers floating around the house after the holidays.

There's this little device called a pen. You can use it to WRITE with! And you can put the names of the children on the backs of the pictures, along with their parents' names and the date!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 11:03 AM

I LOVE holiday newsletters! I like the pictures, I like knowing what folks have been doing.

What I really have no use for is the "Wishing You a Joyous and Peaceful Holiday Season" hallmark card with nothing but "Dave, Kathy, Brandon and Maddie" handwritten on the inside.

Why would anyone think I want an ordinary card with their names in it instead of a nice newsy letter about their lives? Talk about a waste of paper.

Posted by: WDC | December 1, 2006 11:03 AM

utys, that's hysterical!

We had a friend whose house was destroyed by the wildfires in California one year. He sent out Christmas cards with a picture of the burnt remains on the front and the inside said:

It's Christmas time
let's deck the halls
it won't take long -
we don't have walls!

The enclosed letter was a very funny account of life post-fire, it was extremely impressive, I can't imagine being so funny after something like that.

I don't really have an opinion about the newsletters - some are horrible beyond words, some are really interesting and thoughtful.

And Father of 4, I don't even have an address book, much less little boxes for the holiday card list!

Posted by: Megan | December 1, 2006 11:04 AM

p.s. - Yes, your baby IS adorable. But that doesn't mean I'll be able to identify who he/she is without you in the picture also.

Posted by: DC | December 1, 2006 11:04 AM

to Momof4,
Yes, I generally stop sending cards to individuals/families if I don't hear from them for more than a couple years. Some people have mentioned not having enough time to send personal notes to fill-in-the-blank number of Christmas card recipients. For me, if I'm not able/willing to take the time to send a personal note, I don't see a good reason for sending a card to begin with.

Posted by: TakomaMom | December 1, 2006 11:07 AM

email vs. mail

Why don't we send a newletter via email!?! You mean you don't like seeing an actual piece of correspondence mixed in amongst the junk mail and bills? That's a first! My BFF requested gifts this year for her birthday: letters in the mail!

Keep the newsletters coming!

I would've loved the potty picture. The 19 year old needs to grow a sense of humor. She'll kick herself for that in 10 years.

Posted by: atb | December 1, 2006 11:09 AM

Not getting cards from those to whom you send them: When you stop sending them, do you find they respond saying they miss them? Some people just don't do holiday cards. And I can't imagine they would actually be ANNOYED but mail! Even if they are, who cares? You're not hearing about it anyway!

Posted by: atb | December 1, 2006 11:14 AM

To atb:
I don't necessarily stop sending holiday cards to those who don't send holiday cards; I stop sending cards to those who don't correspond at all. (There are several people who I ONLY hear from/write to at Christmastime, but that only works for me if the situation is mutual) I also have some very old relatives who no longer correspond and I continue to send them cards as well. It's not because I don't want them to be annoyed. It's because I'd rather spend the time I would normally use crafting their card to do something else.

Posted by: TakomaMom | December 1, 2006 11:18 AM

DC, the unidentifiable baby pics are lying around is the best unintentional comedy of all. Right around April 1, scoop up these pics and on your way to the trash can, see if you can match them to the parents that sent them.

"OK, whose kid looks like Christopher Walken?"

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 11:28 AM

Yeah, the store-bought "holiday" card with a signature and nothing else... What's up with that?

Seriously, if you're one of the people who thinks this is a good idea, I'd love to hear what you're thinking.

And if your answer is "I'm just too busy with my umpteen kids to write even a formulaic holiday letter, much less a personal note" then please, save yourself the stamp. I don't need to support hallmark's efforts to take over the world.

Posted by: CH | December 1, 2006 11:30 AM

We started sending out newsletters after we adopted an older child and everyone was curious about her. I tried to keep them light but found that some people thought they were pretentious. I mean, some people took me seriously when I said she was going to a "prestigious preschool" to perfect her scissor skills.

In general I like getting the letters because it is hard to keep up with everyone, especially when they move or just move on.

This year our family won't be sending out holiday cards. We're a secular family and are turned off by the "War on Christmas" being waged by the far right. That's a couple hundred bucks that some online fine stationary supplier won't be getting this year.

Posted by: boycotting holiday cards | December 1, 2006 11:36 AM

I want to send a pitchur of my kids but 1 is missng. I will hve anuther one instead. Also my gerble is gone. It was nice.

Why r u mad that you have a year of a Job? You want to stay home instead?

Posted by: Mom of 14 | December 1, 2006 11:38 AM

Actually, after reading some of these comments, I have a new question.
I don't buy anything from hallmark - I make holiday cards either from construction paper or card stock from michaels - they are nice, but not fancy - but now it is just occurring to me that maybe that is seen as pretentious as well?

Posted by: TakomaMom | December 1, 2006 11:40 AM

I guess the "from our house to yours" card didn't come off so well, but it's understandable. If this is your dream house and you worked hard to earn it, and you're excited about moving in, it's natural to want to share your excitement, isn't it? Moving is a big deal.

It never occurred to me that people would be so jealous of other people's success. I guess I should sign all my cards this year: "We have had an absolutely ordinary year, with no great successes. I will not bore you with our vacation experiences, because you are not interested in anything but yourself. I will not force you to glance at photos of my children, because why would you care? We have not purchased any important things or done anything you would think is fun. Thank you so much for being such a caring friend. I am glad to have you in my life. Sincerely, me."

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 11:43 AM

but Megan, even though you don't have an address book, did you know those card checkboxes existed?

You don't strike me as a person who is as clueless as me, but at least you found out about them before you turned 40.

Posted by: Father of 4 | December 1, 2006 11:43 AM

What is the "War on Christmas" being waged by the far right?

Posted by: Lou | December 1, 2006 11:44 AM

"War on Christmas"

I had no clue, so I googled it. WaPo has an article that explains. I think I will continue to ignore it, and enjoy Christmas with my family.

Posted by: experienced mom | December 1, 2006 11:45 AM

"Yeah, the store-bought "holiday" card with a signature and nothing else... What's up with that?

Seriously, if you're one of the people who thinks this is a good idea, I'd love to hear what you're thinking."

Since you asked, what I'm thinking is, I barely achieve balance the rest of the year and the fall is jam-packed with school/kid activities, church/kid activities, social gatherings of friends and family who are local, social gatherings of friends who are within driving distance, and some of those friends keep an address book where they check off if they got a card from me this year. I care deeply about these friends, and these cards are place-holders until my life is more under control. And seriously, wouldn't you think I was nuts if I prioritized staying up 'til three in the morning for several nights writing 25 - 30 personal notes on those cards? I love the concept of Christmas cards, used to love writing personalized notes, and hope to get back to it when the kids are a little older. At this point in my life, however, I am doing the best I can and I've left behind guilt about the "quality" of my Christmas missives. If you want me to save myself a stamp, you're probably not on my Christmas card list, 'cause, at my age, there aren't any snarky people left on that list.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 1, 2006 11:46 AM

yeah, Jokester is back!!!

Posted by: experienced mom | December 1, 2006 11:49 AM

I can do without the holiday newsletters. The ones I've seen range from the cornball to the boring. Plus, I barely have time to read them, let alone write one.

By the way, Wags, Turkish, Puss and the gerbil are cracking me up today. Personally, as nice as this topic is, I'd love to see a bunch of pets hijack it for the rest of the day with funny holiday "letters."

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | December 1, 2006 11:51 AM

It wasn't the success, it was the 5 (no joke!) house warming parties she threw for herself, the new jaguar from her husband for her wedding present, the multiple Coach purses that just happened to come up in conversation all the time, etc. Get the picture!

The card was just the cake topper. By the way, no matter your sucesses, I would like to see you, not your house.

Posted by: Lou | December 1, 2006 11:55 AM

Father of 4 - I just discovered the checkboxes last week! (And in a martha-inspired moment, started to fill them in so I could print off a list rather than look each address up on the computer).

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | December 1, 2006 11:56 AM

OK, um, the pet small doses, like here, it is cute. Even funny (loved the gerbil).

But the only Christmas letter I get consistently is from an extremely distant, once-removed relative who writes 3 page letters from the cat's POV, and it is wretched. Not remotely amusing, not even unintentionally so. So, I must therefore make the plea - if you insist on sending a Christmas letter, for the love of all that is holy, please do not pretend to be the cat.

Thank you!

Posted by: No more catseye views | December 1, 2006 11:59 AM

I try to remember that a holiday greeting is really for the benefit of the recipient. We're sending cards and notes to cheer up someone and share in the celebration of Christ's birth. Hence, we don't say too much about our personal accomplishments. We'll put a family picture and say the kids are in 3rd grade and their new hobby is playing tennis. Nothing that hints of bragging. We write personal notes. Most of the time we give them a holiday call. Our circle is not large, it is small but intimate. And we always put the emphasis on the reason for the season.

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2:8 from the good book.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | December 1, 2006 12:01 PM

Dear Turk,

So, all you want for Christmas is a mouthful of cat fur?

Hah! I shed enough in a day to fill your mouth for a week.

Squirrel and Tasty are doubtless entertained by you, but if you get nippy with them, they'll set you straight. They're the alpha and beta in your house, so you'd better watch out.

By the way, loved the picture of you with the rubber chewy thing that hangs out of your mouth like a big tongue. Will you be dressing up in costume again this year? The santa thing was real cute, but that hat looked sort of goofy.

It's so adorable the way dogs let their servants dress them up ...

Love ya still,
Puss Cat

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 12:04 PM

Dear Wags, Turkish, and Puss Cat:

You're handling your people all wrong. When my owner has to go out of town he flies his mother out to take care of me. The town we live in doesn't have Doggie Daycare and kennels are beneath me. Of course I am a boxer so that makes me special.


Posted by: bs aunt | December 1, 2006 12:06 PM

Dear No More Catseye,

How do you know it wasn't the cat?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 12:07 PM

I always wanted to get a holiday newsletter (though I probably would make fun too). But in my family? What would they say? "I'm getting divorced. Again. Oh, and I'm pregnant. Again. I don't know whose it is, though. But I'm getting married to one of the potential fathers. Again. He was your sister's old boyfriend, but she don't mind 'cause she's got a new one, though her husband don't know. I quit my job 'cause I don't like working. Don't worry though, the state will take care of me!"?

And they have kids at such an alarming rate that I can't remember who gave birth to whom. Maybe a newsletter would help?!

Posted by: Mona | December 1, 2006 12:11 PM

Recently, my mother has been asking me to write a holiday letter and I've flatly refused. Somebody said that giving all the details of your life is "misplaced intimacy" and I think that sums it up pretty well (not good). There are certain details that you might tell a good friend or relative in casual conversation. But to tell people that you only correspond with once a year what kind of icing was on your birthday cake is just assuming way more intimacy than you actually have. Just once I would like to write a letter that goes something like this, but I'm sure my mother would crap her pants if I did. Enjoy:

Dear Friends and Family/People I want to impress,
I am writing to tell you how wonderful my life is. My dear Husband Sandy was just elected "Nicest Man in the Universe" and just got a promotion at his company to "Supreme Boss of Everything." To celebrate the promotion, we got a brand new Beemer, though I pouted with Sandy for a month because he insisted on getting a green one (I wanted red). We are having trouble finding space for the new car in our driveway and garage, what with having to juggle around the Porsche, Jag, and the Escalade, but Jiles seems to be doing well keeping everything organized. Junior just got early admission into Harvard. Who knew that they admitted kids as young as 8 years old?! Little Susie's piano recital went well last month. Everyone says that she is the next Mozart! I am sending this letter a little early this year, as we are going to be skiing in the Hamptons for 3 weeks this Christmas. I found a wonderful little Chalet that offers Caviar baths and gold plated toilets. Sadly though, they said that they will not be able to rent us the diamond-encrusted skiis, as someone else has rented them until New Years! Hope all your cute little family holidays and at-home traditions go well this year.

Muffy, Sandy, and the kids.

P.S. None of that stuff is true. Sandy is in jail. I am clinically depressed, and Junior is dumb as a box of rocks. The car is now a permanently unmoving hunk of metal in our driveway and has turned a beautiful rust color. Susie's teacher just told us that she should be in special ed classes, and not the ones for the smart kids. I'm pretty sure we'll be having spam for our Christmas dinner. Happy freakin' Holidays.

Posted by: College Girl | December 1, 2006 12:13 PM

Dear Brindle,

Hmmmm -- don't think so.

Do you realize that you're still referring to your staff as "owners"? Not good.

That said, it's delightful that you're able to spend time with a beloved senior servant while your regular staff is away.

Will you be dining in on Christmas?

Puss Cat

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 12:13 PM

To 12:07pm...

Good point! The cat is a much better speller than the owner. Hmmm, maybe I should cut the cat some slack! :)

Posted by: No more catseye views | December 1, 2006 12:16 PM

i write a christmas letter as did my parents. i love to go back to the old letters & read about stuff i did as a kid. i also have old christmas letters from other family members. i really treaasure those since some of the people mentioned in the letters are now dead. it is also sweet to read that my cousin who is now a very high powered exec was once a "merry lad". one newsletter talked about watergate since the person who wrote the letter was a transcriber. those snippets are really interesting 30 years later.

why i hate that you only sign your name to a card is that your name tells me nothing except that you're still alive. i really want to know what is going on in your life. a brief one page letter lets me know what is going on.

Posted by: quark | December 1, 2006 12:32 PM

the Sedaris holiday letter schtick is read by Julia Sweeney at this link (real player needed):

in the blue navigation space to the left, there are archives by year. Click on '97 and scroll to the 12/19/97 show, "A Very Special Sedaris Christmas". You can listen to it on real audio, order a CD, or download it to itunes.


Posted by: MaryB | December 1, 2006 12:35 PM

It depends. I have two friends who send absolutely hilarious letters (intentionally) every year, and I look forward to them. Others, I scan and toss. Like a good news story, you can pretty much tell how much it's going to suck by the lede.

One of the good-letter friends lives in Alaska, and we don't talk much anymore, but I'd never want to be off her Christmas letter list simply because I don't know the ins-and-outs of her daily routine. Christmas cards and letters, for me, are often the only time of year I catch up with the family and friends who are scattered around the world. Time goes by so fast when you're juggling everything in your immediate existence. It's nice to be reminded of your past life via the letters from old friends.

Posted by: writing mommy | December 1, 2006 12:36 PM

I love/hate Christmas newsletters, my favorite was a spoof letter that my mother wrote one year that was way too funny to send out to our very serious family, where the newsletters vary from pompous descriptions of vacations ("and after the Bahamas jaunt we barely had time to come home and pick up the mail, and then it was time to zip off to olde London town to pick up our ship for the round the world cruise") to a cousin with evangelical leanings who used to write in a style that was supposed to duplicate her speaking in tongues. I completely alienated her by sending back a spoof letter, so be careful with the sarcasm, esp if you really want to keep getting the stuff you read out loud to friends so they can share in the awfulness.

There has to be a book idea for someone to collect the worst of this genre and put it out as holiday "humor."

Love the hilarious comments from the dogs. Cats are not as funny.

Posted by: anonymouse | December 1, 2006 12:44 PM

I don't mind them as long as they are short, interesting, and newsy. I have received too many that read like a combination 10-year resume and medical report. I don't need to know about your last 4 jobs and your dog's cyst drainage.

Hit the highlights of this year (not the last 5) in a (double-spaced) page or less and be funny about it.

Posted by: J | December 1, 2006 12:45 PM

To father of 4: I did want to add, re the checkboxes in the address book. I knew about that when I was 22 and threw my parents a surprise party for their 25th anniversary. What I didn't know is that my mother sent cards to the people she sold kittens to (used to be a cat-breeder) -- so when I showed them the list of invitees that didn't attend or RSVP, they had a pretty good chuckle.

Posted by: writing mommy | December 1, 2006 12:49 PM

only once have I ever enjoyed these newsletters, and it was from my newly married and hilarious friends who had just moved to Texas (no kids) and wrote a newsletter describing their new life there hysterically - and it was meant to be funny, and a spoof on the newsletter. Ok, i can see the point occasionally but most of the time I think, who cares? Sorry to be cruel, but a picture of the growing kids is just fine with me.

Posted by: cynthia | December 1, 2006 12:52 PM

As long as its a true "letter to family and friends" and not a "newsletter of bragging and bullet points" I am ok with the form update.

Posted by: Liz D | December 1, 2006 12:56 PM

"Yeah, the store-bought "holiday" card with a signature and nothing else... What's up with that?"

For me, it's tradition. That's the way my mother did it when I was growing up. She came from a large Catholic family and there were a gazillion relatives, in addition to close friends and neighbors. Throughout the year, she spoke with or corresponded with everyone on her Christmas card list. There was no reason to send a newsletter because everyone pretty much already knew what was going on in her life.

My circle of family and friends looks at a card with a handwritten signature as a friendly way to send good wishes for the holiday. There is a bit of an effort involved in selecting cards, signing, addressing, and mailing during what is already an incredibly busy time of year as someone else mentioned.

No one feels slighted if there is not a personal note or newsletter. Sometimes I will write a short note on the card itself if there is something special that I want to say other than the normal wishes for a nice holiday.

I do try to match the sentiment in the card with the recipient, e.g., generic happy holidays for the non-religious.

I don't like e-cards. Similar to others who feel "what's the point" to sending a card without a handwritten note, I feel slighted if someone doesn't take the time to actually write their own name and send a 'hard-copy' card. Also, due to the massive amount of spam and unwanted forwarded emails that I receive, very few people, even family, have my email address.

I also don't like cards where the names are embossed and the person doesn't actually write their own name.

Just trying to explain why I do it since someone asked. Not trying to convince anyone else that this is the best way.

Posted by: xyz | December 1, 2006 12:58 PM

TakomaMom- I don't think making cards is the least bit pretentious. I made all my wedding invites. They are much prettier and about a tenth the price. I'm going to describe them, but look for the punchline. I trifolded hand-made rose paper (no, I didn't make it), so that all the info was inside, then I tied a ribbon around it and sealed it with wax (actually hot glue because wax breaks in the mail). I then put it in a transparent vellum addressed envelope so it would be very pretty from the outside. This is right after 9-11. My crazy aunt was actually too afraid to open this invite. Apparently terrorists spend ridiculous amounts of time hand-making antrax-coated wedding invitations. Seriously, who's afraid of transparent envelopes?

Posted by: atb | December 1, 2006 1:00 PM

Dear Brindle,

You're clearly one of those full-bred, pretentious fools who sends holiday newsletters outlining the amazing "successes" of all your carigan-wearing puppies. You're barely better than that snarky cat.

Turkish, full-bred Alabama street dog

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 1:09 PM

I used to dislike the newsletters but since our friends started having kids it's been a good way to keep up-to-date. We file them in a "friends" folder and when we have a wedding or baby shower we pull them out and update ourselves so we can ask pertinent questions (how is katie doing with that new kindergarten teacher?). Plus its a good way to keep updated pics of their kids so you recognise them when you see them! Some friends write boasty newsletters, but others just tell it like it is and I like theseL I think it can be done without being too depressing. One friend broke the news of a lost child, that was very sad but I know it's hard to call everyone on the phone when you don't really want to talk about it even once.
Now that we have kids, we plan to send them. My older kid likes to help (the younger one is a bbay).

Posted by: m | December 1, 2006 1:10 PM

Before anyone berates and belittles me, I meant ANTHRAX.

Posted by: atb | December 1, 2006 1:11 PM

Ack and CARDIGAN! I'm having some typo issues.

Posted by: atb | December 1, 2006 1:13 PM

Be careful what you say in these holiday letters, because it just might bite you in the @ss later. When you start whining about how tight money is, and I get a holiday letter listing the 3 vacations you took this year, 5 concerts, etc., I'm not so sympathetic or supportive of your tight financial situation, caused by fiscal irresponsibility.

Posted by: Family Fun | December 1, 2006 1:17 PM

Just back from a class field trip to Walker Museum in Baltimore.

Wow, at least I've never sent out a holiday card of me breastfeeding two children. I didn't know it was possible to breastfeed three kids at once. Now that's something to put on a resume...

10-15 years ago when we started getting newsletters from various friends they were all pretty serious. Now it seems sarcasm, humor, and poetry are common. The quality has definitely improved.

I agree with the one-page limit when creating your own.

Posted by: Leslie | December 1, 2006 1:33 PM

Okay, sorry for those of you who don't want pics of the kids, but I have to share this. Our solution to the card/newsletter/kid picture decision is to have cards made with a picture of the kids on the front. Last year, we dressed the kids up, put them in front of the fireplace adorned with stockings, and had a brief photo shoot to get a good card shot. This was one of the rejects, but we really had a hard time rejecting it:

Posted by: niner | December 1, 2006 1:47 PM

save the picture for the future - great blackmail to use when they are teens.

Posted by: to niner | December 1, 2006 1:49 PM

My favorites:

1) A friend who sends a very funny list of her young kids' malapropisms.
2) Another friend's tortured attempts at rhyming every sentence -- along with a photo of her drop-dead gorgeous kids.
3) A family that seems to add another baby nearly every year -- 6 over 10 years. I'm waiting to see what this year brings...

Wouldn't be the Holidays without them...

Posted by: Curious | December 1, 2006 1:49 PM

Has anybody got a holiday newsletter from parents with a 5 paragraph description of the trials and tribulations of potty training?

Great stuff!

Posted by: Father of 4 | December 1, 2006 1:55 PM

"but Megan, even though you don't have an address book, did you know those card checkboxes existed"

I didn't! Since I know there's no chance I'll ever use one, I haven't looked at an address book in a very long time. Though it is possible I would have discovered it between now and when I turn 40, but I think you're giving me too much credit. I am one of those hopelessly disorganized people who now despises the really organized effeicient people I know in the same way I used to despise the pretty, popular girls in junior high...

Posted by: Megan | December 1, 2006 1:58 PM

that got a belly laugh from me, followed by uncontrollable giggles. love it!

Posted by: becky | December 1, 2006 1:58 PM

I'm blonde - and I loved it too.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 2:01 PM

I hate getting just a card with a signature - but I also hating getting anything more than one page. I love to hear what is going on with people.
That being said, hubby and I are having a hard time with writing one this year because everything has been very disappointing and we are a little down right now, but we won't let that be the point of the letter. We were in the same boat last year, but for different, less personal (for the most part), reasons. I managed to write a note that was very simple. It said something about what was going without going into detail and without being depressing. It was basically to the effect of 'these things make us remember the true meaning of the holidays and to keep our family and friends close.'
I had many people send me an email noting that the message was a very good one - and that it was very nice to hear.
I am aiming for the same message this year!

Posted by: WAMC | December 1, 2006 2:11 PM

to Niner - LOL - Now my cube-neighbors are wondering why I'm having a laughing/coughing fit over here. Too cute. I'd have used it on the inside, with the 'real' one on the outside.

I'm ambivalent about the whole newsletter thing. My aunt used to send one out, very bragging and obnoxious, and few of my friends have ever sent them. However, a dear friend that recently moved out of state sends them out now (and I love it, because we're both so busy that we seldom have time to connect unless it's a BIG event). I guess it depends on how informational and how interesting it is - the tacky 'Miffy and Muffy are perfect, and Lance and Biff are both in line for Congressional Medals' types make me sick.

Posted by: Rebecca in AR | December 1, 2006 2:12 PM

Niner- That is one of the most hilarious things I've ever seen. Maybe if the kids weren't so cute it wouldn't have been so funny. I think I wet myself a little.

Posted by: atb | December 1, 2006 2:13 PM

ok, now I *know* I am not cut out to be a parent--I thought the drooling was kind of yucky...

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 2:22 PM


Your kids are so cute! They look so much alike too. Do they look like you or dad?

I wrote a newsletter once for a class assignment, my family loved it, but I didn't send it out. I have never received one in the mail, but I don't think I would really mind if I did.

I don't send Christmas cards because by the time I think of them it to late!

Posted by: scarry | December 1, 2006 2:36 PM

I like the holiday newsletters and I do send them myself. A Christmas card that is just signed "Love, So and So" just doesn't say much although I prefer that to no communication at all. I figure that at least once a year I want people to know that I'm thinking of them and give them a short update. It is short. One page with a couple sentences on each family member. It's not just a boastfest although we do tend to focus on the positives. I also tend to send pictures, at least of the kids. I've gotten positive responses from random relatives whom we rarely see as well as others.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | December 1, 2006 2:38 PM

Dear Puss Cat,

I will be on a skiing vacation in Colorado being waited on by my person and his girlfriend. Thanks for your kind wishes,


Dear Turkish,

I wouldn't be caught dead wearing clothes.


Posted by: bs aunt | December 1, 2006 2:40 PM

Chasmosaur: I have a bulldog too! Last year our Christmas card was a picture of her trying to eat our fake Christmas tree. Everyone thought it was priceless, even my grandparents. After all, everyone loves a bulldog!
And to all the other pets that are posting, Lola (the bulldog) would like to respond to you, but her paws are too big for the keyboard so all you get is this:
jlasdfk;auiosdf980dsklafnsdkij cv,aszsdjiop
She tried.

Posted by: Melissa | December 1, 2006 3:03 PM

To 2:22,

Don't sell yourself short. Just because you thought the drool to be yucky does NOT disqualify you as a parent. For the most part, unless you are a parent or have spent a lot of time with babies and/or young children, you wouldn't necessarily get the humor in Niner's picture. I personally thought it was hysterical, could totally identify, and all of my office mates thought that I had completely lost it. My son is such a ham that I would never be able to capture something as natural and funny as this with a camera.

Posted by: MAY | December 1, 2006 3:12 PM


You'll love Colorado, and your humans will be glad to know that the mountains are getting plenty of snow! Make sure they take you outside to play in it!

Zeke & Zoe

Posted by: niner | December 1, 2006 3:14 PM


You'll love Colorado, and your humans will be glad to know that the mountains are getting plenty of snow! Make sure they take you outside to play in it!

Zeke & Zoe

Posted by: niner | December 1, 2006 3:14 PM

And, there are tons of people who hate everyone else's kids but think theirs are just adorable.


Posted by: To 2:22 | December 1, 2006 3:16 PM

hey niner, I think the one on the left has rabies.

you might want to get her checked out.

Posted by: Pound Puppy | December 1, 2006 3:16 PM

2:22, sorry if the picture grossed you out, but MAY is right--don't sell yourself short. :) Last year, my sister-in-law couldn't stand to look at that picture because it disgusted her so much. She's on maternity leave with her first as we type, and even though my niece is pretty drooly, my SIL really seems to be enjoying motherhood.

Posted by: niner | December 1, 2006 3:20 PM

Y'all come on down and see Larry, Moe and Curly!

Posted by: Cajun Bob | December 1, 2006 3:22 PM

Pound Puppy: man, I thought she was up-to-date on her shots, too--oh wait, it's the DOGS that get that one...

Posted by: niner | December 1, 2006 3:23 PM

haha, thanks everyone. I will keep your encouragement in mind!

Posted by: 2:22 | December 1, 2006 3:23 PM

Okay, okay, you have all guilted me. I sign by Xmas cards with just a signature. I do it for all of the reason NC Lawyer said. I include pictures of the family, but this year, I will do more -- dont beat me with the wet noodle.

What the heck -- I am done with shopping, wrapping, partying, catering, chaperoning, Santa Claus sitting (actually its screaming I want to see Santa -- no I dont want to see Santa -- you are the meanest mommy ever for not letting me see Santa) . . . I wish (okay not the Santa Claus part -- please dont scowl at me at Tysons next week when you see us :)

Posted by: Marie | December 1, 2006 3:25 PM

Some end of that special week humor, in honor of my wife.

13 Things PMS Stands For:
1. Pass My Shotgun
2. Psychic Mood Shift
3. Perpetual Munching Spree
4. Puffy Mid-Section
5. People Make me Sick
6. Provide Me with Sweets
7. Pardon My Sobbing
8. Pimples May Surface
9. Pass My Sweatpants
10. Pissy Mood Syndrome
11. Plainly, Men Suck
12. Pack My Stuff

and my favorite one...

13. Potential Murder Suspect

(Especially considering #11, and my inclusion in said gender)

Hope everyone enjoys their weekend.

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | December 1, 2006 3:34 PM

We send one - the TEXT is maybe half a page, but the entire newsletter runs 2-3 pages because of the pictures. (This year, though, the spouse has embraced PhotoShopping. I'm kind of afraid of what he might come up with.)

Posted by: Michele | December 1, 2006 4:11 PM

This is from NC Lawyer. "And seriously, wouldn't you think I was nuts if I prioritized staying up 'til three in the morning for several nights writing 25 - 30 personal notes on those cards?"

My way of getting around this is to write one letter and just keep printing. I've got addresses in a spreadsheet so I print address labels. I can't imagine writing 25-30 personal notes and I've got 80+ on the Christmas letter list. It's enough to do all the labeling, stuffing and stamping.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | December 1, 2006 4:17 PM

I'm the one who generally doesn't want pics of the kids only, but would have loved to receive that one in a Xmas card.

Posted by: DC - to Niner | December 1, 2006 4:28 PM

I'm really surprised no one else has brought up my problem with letters: family members "higher up the food chain" who announce your personal details to all and creation! My husband and I are in our 30s and my MIL has used the Christmas letter to announce that I'd been laid off, that I had morning sickness for 9 months, and had problems breast feeding! I'm firmly in the "Merry Christmas, where's the Tylenol?" camp here.

Posted by: PTJobFTMom | December 1, 2006 4:37 PM

Oh my God PTJobFTMom -- my hats off to you. That is funny. I fortunately have never had that happen. Too funny (in a sad -- forget-the-Tylenol-bring-on-the-valium kind of way)

Posted by: Marie | December 1, 2006 4:40 PM

I do like newsletters, but not for the "lets catch up" factor. Usually, the ones we get are from extended family members who...well...share a different set of values than us.
So the newsletters tend to get saved, passed around and laughed at for their non-intentional humor.
For example, the relative who sends a newsletter that isn't about her family...but instead is about how we are all going to hell for being the "wrong" religion. This is her Xmas good deed to try and convert us.
Or the relative who uses a newsletter as a platform to drum up funds for her latest hobby? No one sends them anything, but the gall of it all year after year is hysterical.
And sure, laughing at someones holiday well-wishing and greetings would be rude--but these are typically neither so it's just good fun. After all, why not find humor in them when the alternative is to be hurt or angered?

Posted by: like'em | December 1, 2006 4:43 PM

I doubt that Brindle's outlook has anything to do with being blue-blooded.
My humans treat me in a similar manner. When they are out, alternate staffing arrangements are made and the schedule (as I have deemed necessary) is kept to.

Posted by: Jack the pound mutt | December 1, 2006 4:59 PM

Woof! Woof!

Posted by: Fido | December 1, 2006 5:00 PM

Am late popping in here, but wanted to comment. My mother has been sending Christmas letters for years. We don't know, of course, how many people didn't like them and were polite enough not to tell us, but we did get lots of responses saying they LOVED hearing about us. She saved copies of each one for "us kids," and it's fun to read those old letters now that we're way too old to get a paragraph of our own.

Reading the cards and letters that my parents receive is a Christmas ritual in our house. Most of them are from family friends and relatives that we've known forever, so they are a pleasure to us as well as to our parents. They and their friends are from a generation in which "busyness" is not so prominent, so the cards generally contain write at least a short note, if not a letter. As part of the ritual, my mother says, "How would you like it if I walked into your house and started reading your mail?" But, really, she enjoys chatting with us about what Aunt Barbara said and how cute Nephew Bob's children are.

A couple of years ago, I got a letter from a friend in her 70s, who said that she'd never written such a letter before but decided to do so because she'd always enjoyed the ones she received. I was delighted to get the letter--in fact, to be remembered since it had been some years since we'd communicated w/ each other. It's never too late to tell people that you are glad you know them and think of them often.

Also agree that short is good, but I'd say that two pages is OK as long as there's some white space and they aren't printed in microfont. My recommendation: Get someone else to read your letter. Even if the reader is not an expert writer, you'll get a lot of good feedback about what works and what doesn't. Some things that seemed funny to you aren't when they're written down. Some things tht don't seem particularly interesting can be made more interesting by describing them in a more interesting way or by adding more detail.

Posted by: THS | December 1, 2006 5:07 PM

I got the best Christmas card from a couple that featured the two of them and their multiple pets! On the back was a short update about their lives and careers. It was a nice change of pace from "Suzy made the honor roll for the umpteenth time" and "Billy isan all-star football player" . I think I'm going to try it next year if I can get myself, my husband, and my cats in the same place at the same time.

Posted by: catmommy | December 1, 2006 5:09 PM

I have a cousin who lives in a very small town in Alaska. She has raised three boys in a small cabin without running water (yes, by choice). Every year she would send a long letter (handwritten) to my dad (he was fascinated by her life and saved everything she ever sent him) and a photo album. Every picture was numbered and in the content of the letter she would reference the number so he could look at the picture ("this is Luke with his first moose - Age 12"). These were the best.

Posted by: KB Silver Spring | December 1, 2006 5:22 PM

We have friends who email their newsletter with a picture each year. They then make a donation, in the amount sending out the newsletter would have cost, to an environmental or animal group. If I do a newsletter this year (and I haven't managed cards or newsletters for the past 3 years; coincidentally, my son is 3 1/2), it will be along these lines, with a hard copy sent to the two relatives we have who don't have email.

Posted by: Mouse | December 1, 2006 5:55 PM

Well, count me in the camp of the converts. I never understood why you'd send a form letter to a friend. So every year, I spent hours writing individual letters. Of course, it took so much effort, I put it off until later and later every year, and the cards would get shorter and shorter, and usually say the same thing anyway.

Meanwhile, my friends had all also converted to either the newsletter or the signed holiday card/picture faction. Personally, I enjoy getting an update on their lives -- I have friends and family all over the place, and I don't always keep up with them as well as I would like over the course of the year, and the holiday season somehow seems like a good time to reconnect. So I opted to join the newsletter faction.

But I agree wholeheartedly with the rules. I have a one-page limit, with white space and pictures interspersed. And since the whole point is to give friends and family updates on our lives, I don't even try to make things look "perfect," -- that's just not us, and why try so hard to make people think you're something you're not? I use fun, candid pictures taken over the course of the year (like my daughter making a silly face) to give a sense of my kids' personalities. I talk about both the ups and the downs, because that's real life. And I try to throw some humor in -- for ex., for our recent vacation, I'll probably write something like, thanks to our innate organizational skills, we were able to enjoy a great summer vacation this past November.

Posted by: Laura | December 1, 2006 6:30 PM

catmommy, just make sure that you don't slip into "Fido graduated top of his obedience class!" mode. We get a card from an aunt and uncle every year, the bulk of which is devoted to the lives of their horse, two dogs, and four cats. Not their lives with these animals, but the animals themselves. I love my own furry kids, and I even have them "sign" birthday cards to close family, but that letter always seems silly. A picture would be great, though--but, like you say, if you can get everyone into the same room! :)

Posted by: niner | December 1, 2006 7:01 PM

Niner, that picture was so funny that I had a coughing fit! Priceless.

I LOVE holiday letters. For years, I used to send mine on Valentine's Day instead of Christmas. This was partly because I'm a horrible procrastinator and partly because of a cool benefit: people wrote back or called during dark, boring February. In the holiday crush, there's just SO much happening and few people follow up later. But everyone loves a Valentine.

I love pictures of the family, or the kids, or the cool trip you took. I don't want every detail of your ailments, but if you had a tough year, say so and explain why briefly. My dad died this year, and that will be in the letter, even though nearly all the recipients already know. Why? Because it was a huge event in our year. But it won't be paragraphs and paragraphs, as we'll save those for our baby's antics.

Having a child has made me realize how much we forget the funny little habits or phases of our loved ones. It's brought back lovely memories of things my niece and nephews did when they were tiny, but sometimes even my brother has said, "Oh, I forgot all about that." In an age when few people keep journals, the annual letter is at least an overview of each year and a few special details and highlights of it. A lovely document to keep for your children's scrapbooks, too.

Posted by: restonmom | December 1, 2006 8:03 PM

Okay, I'm not giving up on myself yet. I thought the drool was kind of gross, but the expressions on their faces were priceless! And I'm fairly certain that if you can handle the birthing procedure, which I understand is pretty nasty, you can probably handle anything. I'm not going to be a mom for a loooong time, if ever, so I've got some time to adjust, luckily.

Posted by: Mona | December 1, 2006 8:46 PM

I remember a long time ago when I posted about how people knew mommy was on the phone too long because mommy's kid had magic marker all over his face.


when I was here on the blog earlier and laughing at all the hilareous posts, my 4 year old kept sneaking up on me and poking me on my cheeks and giggling. since I was laughing, he thought it was a great game to play.

Now I have magic marker all over my face...

The Mommy Blog, possibly the funniest blog on the web! I'll mention it in my Christmas letter.

If anyone could describe Niner's photo, I sure would appreciate it. Thanks!

Posted by: Father of 4 | December 2, 2006 4:57 AM

FO4, now THAT is Xmas letter worthy! Niner's pic is of two adorable urchins dressed in their holiday finery, with the baby performing what can only be called projectile spitup!

Posted by: PTJobFTMom | December 2, 2006 11:16 AM

Father of 4, shame on me for not including any alt text on or under the photo! You'd think I'd know better; I'm supposedly trained in 508 compliance, yet I forgot one of the most basic things.

I will accept punishment as you see fit! :)

Posted by: niner | December 2, 2006 1:38 PM

If anybody's still reading, one last thing: I showed the picture to the kids last night, and the Projectile Spitter, now 21 months, pointed to her brother and named him, then pointed to herself, and observed simply, "Gross!"

Posted by: niner | December 2, 2006 1:47 PM

Thanks PTJob for the description, I'm assuming the picture was snapped while the projection was projecting. Yuch! It happens to the best of people on occasion.

Ok, niner, just keep posting here. Harsh, I know, but next time I need a pair of eyes, I'm going to call on you. Fair enough?

Posted by: Father of 4 | December 2, 2006 9:14 PM

We used to get these letters each year from family friends of my mother - I'm sure it was not intended as such, but my sister and I would get hysterical because "these were the children with perfect lives who could do no wrong" and they were always doing fantastic things, the highest achievements, and we always felt so dull (and normal!) by comparison.

My feelings on them now are also ambivalent - some of my friends (especially now that we are overseas) I like to hear from in terms of what they are doing, thinking, planning. I don't feel like many of the letters I receive are too "braggy" but honestly, why would you bother writing stuff in the letter that wasn't a "highlight" of your year??

Posted by: Vienna mom | December 4, 2006 8:39 AM

I've been sending them for years and have gotten favorable comments since I keep them humorous and include pictures. Of course, I focus on the positive. Who wants to hear tales of woe? With friends and family scattered all over, it's a good way to keep them all up to date. I visited an elderly aunt and uncle recently and was touched to see all of my newsletters on a living room table among years of family pictures.

It's become a joke with my kids (now grown) when I say things like "Make sure you pass your CPA exam before December so it makes it into the newsletter".

Posted by: Cmom | December 4, 2006 3:55 PM

My answer: "It entirely depends..."

Holiday newsletters can be a fantastic way to stay in touch if written in a MODEST and ENTERTAINING manner....


Waaaay too many holiday newsletters are far too conceited, boring and outright arrogant.

I have a website that has some funny examples (both real and fiction) of holiday newsletters gone wrong:

Feel free to email me any funny examples you have with personally identifiable information blacked out (

Posted by: Bryan | December 5, 2006 4:36 PM

Okay, so I am one of the awful grinchies who loves to laugh at (some of) the people who write these letters. One writer, my DH's cousin's wife, sends us letters that we turn into grammatical error counting games. The number tallys are high. Another relative relays every BAD and HORRIBLE and GROSS thing that has happened to her family all year along. Its truly unbelieveable. These letters just make me "extraspecially" thankful for my life and family! I do, though, like the short, sweet letters that just recount the year's adventures.

Posted by: Love Christmas Music | December 6, 2006 3:16 PM

We do an annual holiday letter, but we've always thought only about half of the ones we received were very interesting, and some are notoriously either boring or depressing. So we decided we'd write a letter that was mostly fiction but with some truth woven in. So we do write about what we've done, places we've visited, what the kids are doing, but some of the things aren't true, some of the places we've either never seen or they don't exist at all, and we've invented a couple of kids, and a recurring ne'er-do-well character. It's a lot of fun to do, and we've dropped the people off the list who really don't enjoy them.

The fun part for us is finding out which parts our friends weren't sure were real or not. And the most fun is writing it together as a family.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 8, 2006 2:12 PM

I look forward to getting cards from people who have no idea how pompous and self-centered they sound. "Starring in their own movie" is how we put it. My husband and I find these letters hilarious and sad all at the same time. They also are a good reminder how NOT to write the family year-ender. Read more about this on my blog, The Kitchen Think:

Posted by: MJ in SF | December 11, 2006 2:26 PM

I'm 53 years old. My parents reared us to be polite. They taught us that bragging is ill-mannered. The newsletter we receive each year is nothing but bragging about our acquaintances' ostentatious and material successes. The "newsletters" are nothing but obsessively persuasive and pompous. We pity the ill-mannered acquaintances, and remark as to how it must be to die and go to Heaven, and lead the life of perfect bliss and prosperity as do they...while for years they haven't found time in their wonderfully busy schedule to write a personal note or email, or return phone calls. We've simply become an instrument of their obsessive need to be worthy, and our good manners would never permit us to tell them so. If you don't want your friends and acquaintances to think the same of you, I recommend against such a habit.

Posted by: Freddy | December 17, 2006 10:23 PM

oh no! even though i know everyone despises them, i have taken it upon myself to write a short letter this year & stick it in with the cards. here's the deal: my dad died this year, and my mom & i received loads of sympathy cards, but only sent thank-yous to those who sent "stuff" (that's the rule, supposedly? i don't know, i've never done a funeral before!) and my brother got divorced, yadda yadda. by now everybody knows about my dad, and i do not want another round of phone calls about my brother. we had enough bad news that i just wrote a short & sweet note to make sure everybody knows & will stop asking me about it.

but i really don't need to know about little sally's young authors-winning 3rd grade story, or that you're now a "vp in charge of marketing & assimilation" or whatever. really. i don't. big stuff only - deaths, births, weddings, divorces. just to keep everybody in the loop.

Posted by: Charlotte | December 19, 2006 11:11 PM

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