One of our Family’s Favorite Holiday Traditions
Our family has been sending out Christmas letters for 35 years years now. Although I (Jennifer) do the actual writing, we all work together to determine which stories to put in the letter, take family photos we include with the letter, and get the letters ready to mail (via our annual Christmas card assembly line)
What’s more, every December, Doug reads all our old family Christmas letters aloud to me and the children, one year per night (scroll down to read them online or order the book). We love to reminisce in this way. All the funny anecdotes trigger all sorts of fond memories which are in turn relived and discussed at length.
This has been a great way for our younger children to learn the family history. It helps them see their older siblings in a whole new light and cements into their hearts and minds stories of God’s provision and watch-care over our family through the years.
Tips for Writing Your Own Christmas Letter
Interested in beginning this tradition yourself? Check out this post for how-to instructions.
The post contains a collection of free printable seasonal stationery, as well as samples and templates for different kinds of Christmas letters or annual updates. These include:
- Person-by-Person Update
- Christmas-Themed Acrostic
- Month-by-Month Newsletter
- Multiple Choice “Quiz” Letter
- Bullet-Pointed Christmas Postcard
Of course, the pattern you use doesn’t matter — the important thing is just to write something every year. Do this consistently, and before you know it, you’ll have a detailed family history, just like we do.
Past Flanders Family Christmas Letters
To read our family’s past updates, simply click on the year you wish to view. They’ll tell you way more about our crew than you’ll ever need to know:
- Christmas 1987 (Our honeymoon Christmas)
- Christmas 1988 (Proud new parents of Baby #1)
- Christmas 1989 (Baby #2 – a little girl with colic and curls)
- Christmas 1990 (Diapers and diabetes)
- Christmas 1991 (Doug’s clinical year at Southwestern)
- Christmas 1992 (Baby #3 is born hand-first – ouch!)
- Christmas 1993 (Baby #4 – don’t we know what causes that?)
- Christmas 1994 (David gets lost at a garage sale)
- Christmas 1995 (Baby #5 arrives!)
- Christmas 1996 (A not-quite second honeymoon)
- Christmas 1997 (New job, new home, and new son – Baby #6)
- Christmas 1998 (Extreme sports and broken bones)
- Christmas 1999 (Baby #7 – Beth finally got the sister she wanted)
- Christmas 2000 (Coast-to-coast tour of US – Joy comes in the morning)
- Christmas 2001 (Baby #8 arrives two weeks early – another girl)
- Christmas 2002 (Our first cruise and our first marathon)
- Christmas 2003 (Baby #9 arrives amid house building and army duty)
- Christmas 2004 (Backpacking Europe with all nine kids)
- Christmas 2005 (Home church and Baby #10)
- Christmas 2006 (Our firstborn leaves the nest)
- Christmas 2007 (Another coast-to-coast tour and Baby #11)
- Christmas 2008 (Our second-born leaves for A&M)
- Christmas 2009 (Doug and Jennifer finish writing their first books)
- Christmas 2010 (Baby #12 and Grandson #3; four kids in college)
- Christmas 2011 (Mission trips, moving, broken bones, and diabetes)
- Christmas 2012 (Dental school, MCATs, and state championships)
- Christmas 2013 (Beaches, babies, surprise parties, and Med. School)
- Christmas 2014 (Baby squirrels and book awards)
- Christmas 2015 (Daughter-in-Law #2, Grandson #6, books, braces & BlueGreen)
- Christmas 2016 (A marriage, a move & 2 new dentists)
- Christmas 2017 (A new daughter-in-Law, 2 new grandbabies, a trip to Europe, and a BBC special)
- Christmas 2018 (World travel, summer conferences, and Grandbaby #9)
- Christmas 2019 (Roadtrips, a wedding, & 2 more grandbabies)
- Christmas 2020 (Overseas vacations & COVID lockdowns)
- Christmas 2021 (Weddings, grandbabies & a trip to Hawaii)
Keep Reading our Christmas Letters Offline
As our family grew, my reasons for writing our annual Christmas letters changed. I found myself writing not so much to inform, but to remember. Although I continued to share what I’d written with our family and friends, I was really writing for myself.
The letters allowed me to freeze those moments in time that I wished never to forget–significant milestones, everyday graces, hard-learned lessons, crazy mistakes, funny remarks. I wrote down the things that made me think or smile or laugh or cry, the things I wanted to treasure in my heart and to ponder for years to come.
It was a subtle shift, really, but it elicited an unexpected response. This willingness to share our foibles, to laugh at ourselves, to be sincerely vulnerable, allowed others to connect with us in a way that a brag sheet could never do. I guess it made our family more real and more accessible, because we began to get requests for extra copies of our updates.
Never mind that most of our letters were four pages long–people were passing them around the dinner table, forwarding them to friends, saving them in three-ring binders. I had one friend tell me that her husband insisted on reading the entire thing aloud at his office party one Christmas. We even received postcards from complete strangers, asking to be put on our mailing list.
It was really bizarre.
But it explains why, when I decided to publish our first twenty-five Flanders Family Christmas letters in a book to give our kids and grandkids, my husband urged me to make copies available to people outside our family, as well. Interested? You can follow this link to order your copy today. 🙂