As Thanksgiving fast approaches, I’m ever more cognizant of the fact that I need to get my ass in gear and get the annual holiday letter done. The family photo shoot‘s done, la dra.’s card design mock-ups are on the computer, choices have been narrowed down. The only thing left is my part, the yearly summation of twelve months of family life and goings-on in a half-sheet of paper’s worth of words.
We’ve been sending family holiday cards since before we got married thirteen years ago, I just can’t remember exactly when. And we’ve been including a letter with the card for probably just as long. Growing up, my family’s Christmas card was always one of those photo cards with the slip-in frame, and my dad would meticulously plan out the photo that would occupy that space. Memorable photos include my parents and me in pajamas in a hotel bed with a giant stuffed dog, the three of us popping out of giant boxes wrapped like presents, and all of us in my uncle’s red MG convertible with my dad in his Santa costume.
But while my mom would write personal notes on the cards, they never did a letter (that is, until I left home—now they do). I don’t know why we decided to include a newsy update letter in our card, when we started sending cards as a “we”—maybe it was part of creating our own traditions as a couple, as a family. Especially after The Pumpkin was born, the family holiday card became an important way to distill, for ourselves and our friends, the previous year of chaotic activity into a few iconic photos, often candids taken throughout the year, and a handful of meaningful paragraphs.
It’s gratifying to me to hear from friends and family that they enjoy what I write in our letter, that they look forward to it, even. But it’s not easy, especially for a, shall we say, revision-and concision-averse writer like me, to distill down to a few hundred words a year’s worth of milestones and minutiae so that it will fit on the back of a postcard. I don’t want it to be a dry list of activities and achievements, but I want to share our proud moments. I don’t want to go overboard on the schmaltz and cliches, but I want to be reflective and summative.
I want it to be well-written, and enjoyable to read. I want it to be short. And, of course, at this point, I want it to be done.
And that’s why I’ve spent the past hour writing this post about writing the annual holiday letter instead of writing the annual holiday letter.