Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas letters

When I was a kid everyone sent Christmas cards. Hey, I used to sell Christmas cards door-to-door for some company. Rode horseback and carried the cards in a sack. My grandparents would display all theirs on strings in the livingroom and announce proudly that they had “119” cards. Some people would include letters in their cards. Then more and more letters and fewer and fewer cards.

I love Christmas letters. They have started to roll in on my email, about 1 or 2 a day now. Writing skills vary from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some are several pages, some are only one. Some have pictures (I really like those), some from families, some from individuals. But invariable they summarize the good and bad in the writer’s life in the previous year. All the news that’s fit to print.

Our family has done a Christmas letter for years. Ella used to hand write them to individuals. She loved to write letters and as a stay-at-home Mom, she could find the time. Then the kids got too many and time too short so they started getting photocopied with hand written notes in the margins. Of course our computer solved the letter writing problem. They could be both mass produced and individually tailored at the same time. I think at peak we mailed over 100 one year.

Email has changed all that. Last year I only mailed out about 8 letters and sent the rest by email. “Please print this and give a copy to Auntie”. Even email letter numbers are dwindling. If I didn’t get a letter from someone last year I wait until I get one this year before I send one. Sometimes there are reasons people don’t send letters one year and it doesn’t mean they aren’t your friend any more. We didn’t send one in 2003 or 2006.

Our letters were always interesting, according to our friends. If the letters were not interesting they don’t say anything. First of all they were short. And they usually had a theme. Ella and I used to collaborate on a rhyming letter sometimes. Calling it a poem might upset the Brownings and Tennysons of the world.

I have all our Christmas letters going back to 1991, when we got our computer and friends were able to send me copies of letters from 1983-1989. I wish I had copies of them all. They tell the history of our family.

Tanya is quite amused by Christmas letters as mailing cards and letters at Christmas and New Years is not a custom here, at least with her family and friends. But she thinks it is a good idea to keep in touch with people, even if it is only once a year.

Hard to know what I will write about this year. Since I started blogging, the whole world knows what I and my family are up to on both sides of the pond.


  1. I liked reading our Christmas letters. I always hated when you and mom asked me to tell you the things you should put about me, and I always hated whatever you WROTE about me, so I guess it was a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.

  2. Just wondering what are the customs there? Enquiring minds want to know.

  3. New Years is the big party and gift time. Gifts are mostly for children. Small stuff for adults. Christmas is January 7 (old calendar)and tends to be a quiet day for my family but according to my friend in western Ukraine, there are all sorts of wonderful customs attached to Ukrainian Christmas. I will learn as many as I can and blog them eventually.


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