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Southlake Style

Just Sayin'- Holiday Letters Are Like Fruitcake

Nov 07, 2011 04:28PM ● By Mike

by Rhonda Ross

I can be a little old-fashioned sometimes. I love to get mail, the original, in the envelope, get it out of my mailbox, kind of mail. Every year around this time my thoughts turn to the holiday season and the cascade of cheery cards and heaps of holiday letters that will be winging my way from points around the world. No longer will the mailbox be the bringer of bad news and bills. Instead, I can look forward every day to multi-colored envelopes that herald the joy of the season.

Now I realize that not everyone feels the way I do about those abundant holiday missives from friends and family. The way I look at it holiday letters are a lot like fruitcake, you either love them or you hate them. The folks at the Emily Post Institute, the people with the last word in etiquette, have actually done surveys (can you believe they track this stuff?) showing that 53 percent of us can’t wait for the letters to arrive and 47 percent truly hate them.

Although I am firmly in the camp that loves these newsy greetings there are certain things that pretty much guarantee your letter will not make the cut for the Christmas scrapbook. Since I’ve got an opinion on the subject, I’ve compiled a little guide to writing the perfect holiday letter, according to Emily Post, and me. I’m fairly certain I speak for many of us when I say; my number one pet peeve is the brag-rags. Do everyone on your list a favor and try to remember you are not filling out an application for the world’s greatest family award. Aunt Sue is already proud of you and she would rather hear more of what you love about your work than how much you make or what your title is.

The same goes for a laundry list of the kids’ achievements. If your child is ranked number one at school, excels at sports, never talks back, and is universally adored by everyone they meet, well, get that kid a medal. What I’d like to hear is what new or fun experience your child had this year. Did they accomplish a goal they had been earnestly working on? Maybe they learned to play an instrument or discovered a hobby they suddenly can’t live without. Trust me, the relatives who rarely get to see your child in person love to get news that is personal. And for the friends and neighbors, they already know your family, but telling them Junior learned to play the piano might be a tidbit they hadn’t discovered.

Vacations are a great thing to share with recipients of your holiday letter but be sure what you say doesn’t sound like a paragraph from the latest Frommer’s travel guide. Make it personal. Share how you felt when that glowing sun set the world afire as it sank slowly into the sea. But if your travels for the year included trips to Italy, Spain, Hawaii, and you spent a month at your place on Martha’s Vineyard, trust me, most people do not want to hear about it. With these tough economic times a trip to Downtown Dallas may have been the highlight of the year for someone on your mailing list.

If you are good at humor, use it. I have an old friend who writes the funniest holiday greetings ever. Every year, I anxiously await the letter from him to see what inventive way he’s used this year to keep me in the loop on his family happenings. One of my favorites was a re-write of The Night Before Christmas starring the antics of his family in perfect rhyme. Another year featured Mom and Dad being buried in sand up to their neck with the kids laughing hysterically. You get the idea. Have fun with your letter and others will too.

Before you slide that letter in the envelope and stick on a stamp, in the interest of keeping the peace let someone else in the family read your epistle just to be sure you haven’t embarrassed yourself or your kinfolk. Here is another spot to think of your audience. Will your choices offend anyone? If you can’t come up with a newsletter that won’t be objectionable to someone on your mailing list, maybe you should just send a card.

One of the many bits of wisdom passed down to me by my father was this old adage, “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Word to the wise.

Just saying.