I love all the extra mail the month of December brings with it. It’s fun to open all the pretty Christmas cards and see the family photos, but I especially enjoy reading the newsy letters that are often included.
If you’ve ever thought about sending such a letter to your own friends and family at Christmastime, but haven’t known where to start, this post is for you! In it you’ll find
- Samples – Pick a style that suits your family’s personality!
- Patterns – Follow any given example to create a letter all your own.
- Stationery – Print out our papers out to make it pretty.
- Encouragement – Writing Christmas letters is a great way to record your family history; it’s one holiday tradition you’ll be glad you adopted!
If one sample doesn’t suit you, just scroll down — the next one may be perfect. Lengths vary from a few phrases to a few pages. Some may feel too short, other may seem too long, but keep looking, and (like Goldilocks) you’ll eventually find one that is just right!
Month-by-Month Christmas Letter
This is the pattern I’ve followed for 27 years now. I’ll be posting this year’s letter on this blog in a few more days, but you can follow this link to read samples of our Christmas letters from previous years.
Basically, I just pen a paragraph for each month, detailing the highlights of our year. Since we usually mail our Christmas letters over Thanksgiving weekend, my month-by-month account usually runs from December of the previous year through November of the current year (rather than January through December).
I don’t actually begin writing my letter until October or November, but I make myself notes of what I want to include by using my daily calendar as a micro-journal and by keeping a “Christmas Letter” file in Evernote (which syncs between my phone and computer) for writing down reminders that will jog my memory when the time comes to write.
Since I pack a lot of information into these letters, they are consistently four pages long. Keep in mind that I’m writing about fourteen people, though (and that’s just our immediate family — now we’ve added five grandsons to the mix, as well). If your family is much smaller, your letter will probably be much shorter.
I print them on plain white copy paper, two double-sided sheets, and mail them in embellished (more on that later this week), self-sealing business envelopes, along with a 4×6 copy of our most recent family photo (which I order through Shutterfly for 9-cents each). Here’s how the first page of this year’s letter looks:
Person-by-Person Christmas Letter
If trying to arrange things in chronological order stresses you out, you might want to use the person-by-person pattern instead. Devote one paragraph to each member of the family and describe the highlights of the year from that person’s perspective. If your children are old enough, you might even ask each of them to pen their own paragraph, then string them all together to make your family’s annual update.
Here’s a sample of what this kind of letter might look like (click on the image below to download the pretty, manger scene stationery):
Christmas-themed Acrostic Update
This is the pattern my sister has always followed, and I love it! She’s a school teacher, so her acrostic usually has an overarching theme, with an introductory “C” paragraph and a closing “S” paragraph, but that’s just her meticulous personality shining through.
You can easily adapt this acrostic pattern to suit your own style, and even change the vertical word to something besides “CHRISTMAS” if you’d prefer. It’s short and to the point, but packs a lot of information in those few brief paragraphs. Here’s what it looks like in print (click on image below to download free printable stationery):
Multiple Choice “Quiz” Christmas Letter
Of all the Christmas letters our family receives each year, one of our favorites to read is from some friends who write their letter like a multiple choice pop quiz.
“It’s 4 AM and somebody is screaming. Is it (a) baby, who still hasn’t learned to sleep through the night, although she has finally moved to her own crib, after eight months in bed with Mom and Dad. (b) Mom and Dad, who were rudely awakened when a pipe burst upstairs and unexpectedly dumped a ton of cold water on them in their sleep. (c) Beau, who woke up in the night for a drink of water and saw what looked like an alien standing on top of the barn and looking in her window. (d) Rebekah, whose pet squirrel — the one she’s been feeding every two hours around the clock — just broke her heart by dying of pneumonia. Would you believe God sent a replacement within 24 hours?”
Each paragraph details what’s going on at a different time of day:
“It’s 8 AM, and someone is rushing out the door…”
“It’s 10 AM, and someone is dancing for joy…”
“It’s 12 PM, and somebody’s feeling nervous…”
And so it continues, front and back of a double-sided print on red or green colored paper. And the answer is always the same: all of the above. (To download a copy of our holly-bordered stationery in black & white, click on the sample letter below)
Bullet Pointed Christmas Postcard
We have a few friends who are able to pack a whole year’s worth of news into a few bullet points. Their updates are so brief, in fact, that they fit on the back of a postcard — which also saves on postage.
You can include photos on the back along with the brief update (option 1 below) if you plan to mail them in envelopes, or choose a two text box layout and leave the right side blank (option 2) if you want to mail them as postcards.
Here’s what that sort of card might look like, with samples of both printing options for the back. This particular design is one of the hundreds available at Shutterfly (affiliate link):
Backside (Option 1)
Backside (Option 2)
However you choose to do it, I do hope you’ll make sending annual updates a part of your routine — but don’t feel like you have to send them at Christmas. We have friends that send their yearly letters out before Thanksgiving, and others whose updates don’t roll in until New Year’s, Valentine’s, or even Easter.
The important thing is that you take time to write down your family’s history. When and with whom you share it once it’s written is entirely up to you. And for a fun way to put it all together once you’re through? Check out our ideas for staging a Christmas card assembly line. Our kids look forward to doing this every year.
Our Family Christmas Letters
Need some more concrete examples of Christmas letter written in a style that keeps a reader’s interest? Then get a copy of Glad Tidings, a compilation of our first 25 years of Christmas letters. It also includes a few favorite recipes, seasonal quotes, time-saving tips, and fun family traditions. Volume 1 is on sale now (we’re hoping to release Volume 2 in the year 2037).
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