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Christmas News Letters -
Suggestions and Examples

Bragging Christmas letters: We have all gotten them. You may have sent them. Jason's soccer team led the division. Tiffany nailed the lead in the term play, made the honor roll, again, and was elected homecoming queen. Bill got a promotion and a raise. Madge is quite busy chairing three community charities. They are all amazed at how another year has flown by, too.

Well, shucks; if Marie made the Dean's list at MIT while Donny got off with a strict warning and 200 hours of community service for his DUI, which one are you going to write about? Bragging is understandable, but that doesn't mean you should do it.

Some people have a hard time thinking of things to write, and some of us have a hard time stopping, once we get started. This page is for you folks in the first group. It has some suggestions and some links to pages of examples, good and bad, collected from people like you. (I'm always open to contributions.)

This page breaks into six sections;

General suggestions

Ted Pack with an eagle on his head

A picture of you with an eagle on your head is always a way to add visual interest to a Christmas letter. (Me in Peru, 2008.)
  • Don't brag.

  • Keep it short. One page in a 10-point font, a page and a half (or one page of legal-size) if you use a 12-point font for easy reading. Most people are going to get 30 or 40 newsletters, and they have cookies to bake.

  • Don't brag.

  • Keep it readable. Some of your audience uses bifocals. Put a blank line between paragraphs. Use two columns, if you are comfortable with the column commands in your word processor. Consider using a 12-point font. Speaking of fonts, you can usually tell when someone gets a computer for the first time, because they use 18 different fonts. The pros use one font. Look at first-class magazines - National Geographic or Smithsonian, for instance. They use different sizes, ALL CAPS, bold and italics for emphasis, but it is just one font.

  • Don't brag.

  • Keep it light. The holidays are supposed to be happy. Concentrate on the good things that happened to you and your family. There are exceptions. The year my grandparents died (Example 02) I wrote about some fond memories we shared, not about the last stages of cancer. Try to avoid illness, infection and injury.

  • Don't brag.

  • Keep it free of jargon related to specific careers. Amy E. of Bloomington, Indiana writes: "My husband used to be a radio announcer. One year he took over writing the Christmas letter because he didn't feel I was being specific enough. He discussed afternoon drive, "cume" numbers, the AC format, and an unbelievable number of other references to the radio industry that only a fellow announcer would understand."

  • Don't brag.

  • Don't try to get a whole year into a page. Focus on a couple of high points. Vacations, for instance, unless you took a first class cruise around the world, which would be bragging. You can slip the best game of golf you played all year in here and sort of brag a little.

  • Don't brag.

  • Don't use your letter as a catalog for a home-based business, even if Mary Kay Cosmetics, Amway or Septic Tank Plus has changed your life.

  • Don't brag.

  • Identify people who aren't you and your spouse; "our son's partner Matilda" or "grandson Ralph".

  • All right, you can brag once, but follow it with something that proves you don't think you're better than everyone else. "Margaret won Nobel prizes in Medicine and Literature, but still can't seem to keep her room picked up."

Specific Suggestions

Examples From Me

Three Short Examples from my own newsletters. These excerpts illustrate points from the "Specific Suggestions" list.

These next, full-length examples aren't the finest examples in the world. They are real, however, and they show that I practice what I preach; light anecdotes, updates on the kids, the best bird I've seen (birdwatching is one of my hobbies), best book I've read and some self-deprecating humor. You'll notice I overuse semi-colons, a problem I've struggled with since high school. I used old letters to protect our children's privacy. They are young adults now, and Kenneth, who comes down with leukemia in example 9, is healthy today.

Example 01: A practical joke involving cow bones. I help right a Hobie Cat.

Example 02: My grandparents die. We visit Los Angeles.

Example 03: We visit England. Our daughter misses death by six inches.

Example 04: Our barn swallows get mites. The Berlin wall falls.

Example 05: Buying hubcaps, visiting Iowa, and some innocent dogs saddled with horrible puns.

Example 06: I set a personal record for taking a picture of a group of children.

Example 07: We go to a lecture by Mr. Science.

Example 08: Children's books in Middle English, packpacking in the Sierra Nevada.

Example 09: Our son gets leukemia. I fervently hope this one will be a lot more dramatic than any you ever write.

Example 10: Comfort food vs. comfort clothes, self-satisfied cats, our son's continued recovery, football vs. ballet.

Example 11: Marmots; Texans being polite at 85 mph.

Example 12: An eagle, a turkey and an emu.

Example 14: An accident and a hike. This one is an example of focusing on just one or two events out of the year.

Examples From Alert Readers

There are too many to list here. People send me examples every year. I grouped them by the year I received them.

The 2011 Collection:
Tragedy strikes family of the lady who is a lieutenant in the Salvation Army, and someone else writes a "Wikileaks" letter.

The 2010 Collection:
Includes three from a lady who is a lieutenant in the Salvation Army, but has a pet snake and a tattoo. She formatted her 2010 one to look like the Milton Bradley game of "LIFE".

The 2009 Collection:
Includes two with song parodies, one of them traditional carols from a politically correct standpoint.

The 2008 Collection:
A small collection, but two fine examples from Tim R in Canada.

The 2007 Collection:
A mixed bag; one example follows most of my advice, one ignores it.

The Pre-2007 Collection:
Includes an elderlay lady rancher who has to cope with mountain lions and one written by the humor columnist for the Dallas Morning News.

Parodies - just for fun

The examples above are all true. The ones below are all false, but funny.

Parodies of Erma Bombeck and Martha Stewart.

The Mother of all Christmas Newsletter Parodies (This link goes out to Canada. Use your "Back" button to get back.) I have a text only version if you find that one hard to read.

The Hynes Family Goes Around the World.

Tom Shumaker copes with DUI and other problems.

Felicity Prentice has her kids taking Swedish lessons, for the Nobel awards ceremony. She is gracious: "do feel free to bask in the glow of our glory". This one takes being pretentious to new and hilarious levels.

Felicity Prentice strikes again, with "The 12 Questions of Christmas".

Anti-letters Only one at the moment (December 2003).

If you have an example, either good or bad, that you'd like to share with the rest of the world, send it to me and I'll add it to these pages.

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This page updated: June 21, 2014