Writing a Christmas letter that isn’t greeted with groans is a real achievement. At their best, holiday newsletters are a way to share our lives with the people we wish we saw more often. At their worst, they can be boring (too much detail) or annoying (too much bragging or complaining). Want to avoid all that and make your recipients smile? Try these tips and Christmas letter ideas to spruce up your season’s greetings.
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Aim to have your holiday newsletter written by December 1. That way you can give the letter more thought and will have plenty of time to edit. Consider creating two versions: one for close friends and family and one for people you’re in touch with less frequently.
Tap your kids’ memories for the year’s highlights and have them help you select photos. They can even write some of the photo captions.
One page is enough (two sides of one page—tops!—if you’re incorporating photos). User-friendly layout programs like Microsoft Word can help you create letters with a simple design and easy-to-read fonts. “A big block of small gray text isn’t very inviting, and larger type is better for the older people on your recipient list,” says Bernadette Longo, Ph.D., an associate professor of writing studies at the University of Minnesota. Resist the urge to decorate your text with a wide array of type styles and colors—any more than two will look too busy.
Photos are a universal crowd–pleaser. They’re also a creative replacement for text. If you write a caption for a photo of the family at Disney World, you don’t have to write much about the vacation you took. Remember to include snapshots of adults, not just the kids—people want to see you too!
When writing about your kids’ accomplishments, try self-deprecating humor, suggests Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, author of Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Within. When mentioning your daughter’s good grades, for example, say something like, “Thank goodness Bernice doesn’t take after me when it comes to school. She spends time with her books instead of eye shadow and even made the honor roll!” That sounds light and makes readers happy for Bernice.
Holiday newsletters should be cheerful. No one wants to read on and on about Uncle Jerry’s gallstones in a holiday message. When mentioning serious topics like a death in the family, try to keep things as upbeat as possible. “We lost our beloved Uncle Marty in September and will always remember his loving nature, hearty laugh and fishing stories.”
Close with warm wishes for the recipients, leaving the attention on them instead of you. Then have everyone in your clan sign it. You can also handwrite a note in the bottom margin of the letter to personalize it and avoid that mass-mail feeling.