Christmas letters are becoming a thing of the past. There, I said it. Someone had to.
It’s not as shocking or as heartbreaking as saying “Not everyone is coming home for the holidays,” but it packs its own wallop. Both are true because time marches on, because life keeps changing and we can’t stop it any more than we can stop plate tectonics.
I miss them already — the letters and the people coming home for Christmas, but I will focus on the letters. We will all get a few holiday greetings with lots of words, but the litany of events from the year has given way to a tweet, a post or a text. The main exchange of information and salutations is brief. Maybe a photo card of children or grandchildren or pets will arrive via United States mail, but even they are getting sparser.
After years of writing Christmas letters and years of making fun of them, I hate to see them go. “I hope this letter finds you healthy and happy” always made me do a check. It sounded so warm.
I will miss reading about the successes of others. In the later years of “the letter,” my family and friends got very creative in ways to boast without sounding too braggadocious.
Boasting used to sound like this, “We celebrated Christmas at our beautiful villa in the south of France with a lot of famous people.”
Subtle bragging turned into, “Our tiny villa hardly could accommodate Jacques Cousteau and Marcel Marceau and their whole families this year.”
Another way to brag was to cover it with embarrassment, self-chastising or confession. “I was so embarrassed in Rome, when I bumped into the Pope and my Prada handbag spilled out right in front of him.” “Charles is growing so fast he has nothing to wear for his interview at Yale.” “Susan’s hair was such a mess at her Carnegie Hall debut.”
Even those kinds of letters were fun to receive. I miss the homey letters that told of the new house, new baby, new job, sometimes new spouse. I miss the narrative.
Now recapping a year of dance lessons and cheerleading camp seems a bit redundant in an age of instant sharing of full videos of each lesson and recital. And each camp photo is SnapChatted. Why would anyone want to take the time to write about Billy starting saxophone, when you can post the full band concert on Facebook or YouTube? It takes less time and is much more current.
Facebook is one perpetual Christmas letter and includes politics, photos of dinner plates and potty training the dog. It is instant entertainment as opposed to a tedious reading assignment of old news.
Blogs, Instagram, SnapChat, and FaceTime keep everyone informed in an up-to-the-minute report. A letter, even a long letter, can’t possible include every boat ride, hike in the woods, visit to every mall, concert and parade. It certainly can’t include video footage of said events.
Now that I think of it, as much as I love hearing from people, there were those sighing letters that included the garage collapsing in the last storm, the three driving-while-intoxicated tickets that were just rotten luck and the two surgeries that caused job loss and weight gain.
Just for the record, if your car breaks down, your son is awaiting sentencing for shoplifting and your dog ran off, write a country western song, not a Christmas letter.
Yet taking a minute to reflect on a whole year and to decipher what the real highlights are and what you value might not be an undesirable assignment. I am not sure your breakfast or a broken nail would remain in the top 10.
However you choose to offer your message, heartfelt sharing and offering good wishes never goes out of style. Even 50 words are better than none. “I hope this article finds you healthy and … ”