“Dear Friends and Family…”

So, have you sent your Christmas cards yet?

Did you feel a little pang of guilt there? Did your holiday stress just go up a level? Yeah, mine too. The whole Christmas card production can take several entire days at our house… and it comes right at the busiest time of the year.

Sometimes I think the folks who mail their cards in January (or swap them for Valentines in February) have the right idea. Why do we do this to ourselves?

On the other hand, what says “Christmas” more than connecting with one another? If there’s any time of the year that relationships should trump our to-do lists, shouldn’t it be the season in which we celebrate Jesus coming to have a relationship with us?

Okay, then. How can we achieve our goal without driving ourselves crazy? How can I celebrate our friendship without succumbing to the pressure? After many years, I’ve finally come to what some might perceive as a sacrilegious conclusion: The letter is more important than the card.

I know people have been complaining about the ubiquitous Christmas letter for ages, but I like them. I enjoy reading about your achievements. We’re supposed to rejoice with those who rejoice, right? But, if I might ask, could you just mention the highlights? I’m glad your dog took “student of the month” at his obedience class, really I am, but it’s not polite to brag.

Please tell us about your challenges. (It’s okay—we know you’re not perfect.) One of your kids didn’t get straight A’s? Someone is struggling with a major illness? Don’t go into personal detail in a mass-produced letter, but do keep us informed. We can pray with you. After all, we’re also supposed to weep with those who weep.

I love seeing photos, especially of kids who change so dramatically from year to year. Some of my favorite Christmas letters consisted solely of photographs and captions. What a great idea!

Try to keep it relevant. Sometimes we get letters full of news about people we’ve never met. It’s fine to mention an extended family member, co-worker, or friend of yours, but please explain who they are. Even better, talk about how that person’s news affected you. After all, you’re the one we’re friends with.

Keep it short. If I receive a page with margin to margin single-spaced type, odds are I won’t “get around to” reading it until March. My powers of concentration are pretty limited at this time of year. Making it funny helps too (and that’s even harder to do).

It’s fine to send your letters as emailed attachments. With stamps costing so much, it makes sense to avoid using the post office. You’re saving trees, too. (Pete and I save approximately $450 a year by sending most of our Christmas greetings electronically.) But consider the recipient. Some of our older relatives do not own computers. Some of our friends check their email about once a decade. Don’t let people fall off your list just because they aren’t as technically up-to-date as you are.

Be personal. Even if you see the recipient on a regular basis, include a note meant just for them. I know it takes time. Consider it an investment in your friendship. Admit it, before you read a card from someone else, don’t you always check for a note first? We all want to feel important. We used to handwrite our notes on the cards—now I type them into the body of the email that has the letter attached. Emily Post may have an opinion on this, but in my book, it’s the thought that counts.

In spite of all I’ve just said, I still think that actual, tangible Christmas cards with hand-written notes inside are wonderful. If you can pull that off, I’m impressed. If I am on your list, I’m grateful. There must be a special crown waiting in heaven for folks like you.

Meanwhile, if you don’t hear from us in December, don’t give up hope. We’re not ignoring you, we’re just overwhelmed. Maybe you can read all about it in our annual President’s Day newsletter.

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