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  • Diana Schneidman

Time to write our holiday letter. No procrastinating!

Soon it will be one of my favorite times of the year! Yes!! Soon we will be receiving annual Christmas letters in the mail.

But before that comes one of the most challenging times of the year: writing our family’s Chanukah letter.

My husband has been sending his letter since he was in his twenties, and with our marriage in 2004, we wedded our Outlook lists. With evolving technology, the card too has evolved. It’s now an eight-page booklet including photos. (We have six children between us so that’s a lot of news and pictures even though we try to keep it brief.)

This year we’re adding a new wrinkle to our (relatively) massive printing and mailing operation: some of the recipients will receive emailed PDFs rather than postal mail (mostly people we don’t have a mailing address for).

Many people moan that holiday letters are boring, bragging, self-centered, a waste of paper. But I disagree.

We love to hear what people are doing. We love to see photos and discover those little kids we remember eating Cheerios one by one are now out in the labor force. And we love reconnecting with people every year.

As I write this, it strikes me that these holiday letters may be outdated and irrelevant now that Facebook keeps people in touch day by day.

However, as someone who relegates Facebook to the bottom of my to-do list, I disagree. Facebook takes us instantly from reconnecting with someone we haven’t talked to for decades to someone whose daily tribulations we read. The dry cleaner ruined their suit. Susie has a cold. Online game scores.

Annual letters are just right. We writers sift thru our daily debris to isolate a few news gems worth communicating. And the whole thing is frosted with a sense of our essence, from those who thank the Almighty for the gifts of health and loving family to those whose passions for golfing or volunteerism or travel determine the high points of their year.

Writing the letter can be challenging. Our current status will lodge in readers’ minds for a full year so it must not be too short sighted. And everyone in the family needs to confirm how they are represented.

It should be easy for us. After all, I’m a writer and husband Wayne is a photographer and computer pro (as well as a good writer). But on the other hand, we set the bar pretty high for ourselves.

One issue is to determine who is sending the card? Whose name appears at the end?

It’s a dilemma!

Every year the letter comes with my name at the bottom. So “I” refers to me, “Diana,” and everyone else is named.

Some couples both sign their letter. It works but the problem is in the copy: each of the two writers must be referred to by name in the letter so we know who is being discussed.

Now it is mid November. Wayne and I are in thinking mode. Soon we will be in production mode (and the dining room table will be unavailable for meals). We aim to mail the Monday after Thanksgiving. Then I’ll post a version here on my blog.

I see personal coaches’ ezines where the writers regularly update us on their children and their seasonal activities, complete with photos.

But when your kids are in their twenties, they refuse to pose in their snowsuits and Halloween costumes. So even though I enjoy reading this stuff in others’ newsletters, I can’t reciprocate. Except for this one time each year.

Originally posted 11-16-09

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