Writing the Perfect Holiday Letter

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should say that I love holiday letters. I read every one we receive each year and share the best bits with my husband or my parents or my kids. I look at all the photos — even the ones that are too small to really see at all. And I’m so glad to catch up with the folks who shared their update with us. Some are from people my husband knew before we were married, and I only know them from their holiday letters. I’ve learned about their children and their vacations and now their retirement adventures.

If you’re not sure about writing an end-of-year message, let this be a word of encouragement. Your friends and family would love to hear about you and yours! Here are some suggestions, a few do’s and don’ts of holiday letter writing.

My favorite letters have the feeling of a conversation with the sender. No need to use fancy words or stack up adjectives. Use your own voice and tell your story in your own way. I’m going to guess you don’t usually speak in rhyme so don’t feel compelled to write your holiday letter as a poem either. Complicated themes just get in the way of sharing your family’s happenings.

I do appreciate letters with organized and clear information. A little bit of planning and extra background helps me understand your stories better.This is especially nice if your readers might not know all the people in your family. Or can’t believe how big your kids are getting!

Remember this may be the only communication you have with someone all year. Do you really want to focus on the long lines at Disney World? Or would you rather share the highlights of a wonderful trip with your parents, siblings and their kids? To paraphrase Ron Burgundy, stay classy, Kansas City!

Of course, the last couple of years have been super challenging and you may have experienced losses or other hard experiences. How much you feel comfortable sharing depends on your audience. If you’re writing for close friends and family, you’ll probably be more open about the struggles. And a word of caution: bragging is never a good idea in a holiday letter, but especially in a season when your readers may be having a harder time than usual.

Oh, and include pictures! Not every picture you took all year long but your favorites of your people.

Don’t worry about the timing of your holiday letter. I have received Thanksgiving letters, New Year’s letters and even a few Valentine’s Day letters. No matter when the mail arrives, I’m so happy to hear from my friends and family and thrilled they included me in their circle.

Beth is mom to a high school sophomore and a first year college student. After fourteen years as a professional writer and editor, she earned graduate degrees in counseling and play therapy. Now she exercises her creativity as a school counselor. Beth loves reading, especially mysteries.