My parents sent out a yearly Christmas letter, one that–by the time they passed away–had well over a hundred people on it. As he moved up in the University teaching profession, my father taught at many universities. Each one added to those who got a copy of the letter. Many of their friends also sent out letters or cards with a lot of info on them, so we all saw (figuratively) a lot of people growing up whom we hadn’t seen in years.
When my father passed away, it fell to me to let people know on his Christmas letter list. The following Christmas, I heard from them because many of them knew the history of my life through Dad’s letters. So I added those people to my own Christmas letter list. They were up in years, so we lost them off the list year by year, and that was kind of sad, really, because while I had never met most of them, they were in many ways an extended family.
My wife and I sent out our own Christmas letter for 10-15 years but gave it up when most everyone on the list knew all the news already from MySpace or Facebook or e-mail. Long before we gave up on this, Christmas letters had become kind of a joke, partly because people sent out the good news and downplayed or hid the bad news.
I don’t know how my dad maintained an interesting letter from 1942 to 1986 because I found Christmas letters a real chore. We only send out 35-40 of them, but still, I was never sure what kind of information to send out and what to ignore. Those letters belong to another age and another generation and I’m glad we have it all up some years ago.
We have copies of our parents’ Christmas letter. Oddly enough, it’s a history of our growing up years. Whenever we can’t remember what year something happened, we look it up in those old letters.
We still send out some Christmas cards each year, though the number is declining. The cards cost more these days and so does the postage, And people seem to care less about cards that come in the mail when they can simply say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” to everyone on their e-mail and Facebook lists by clicking on SEND.
We still get a few Christmas letters every year. Some are interesting. Some are boring. Great letters are, perhaps, a lost art.