Today, I emailed this year's letter to a dear friend, a graduate student who has moved home to Milan.
"Thanks for the letter!" she emailed back. "Is it an American tradition? I've never read one before."
Gee, I have no clue. I am hoping some of my international readers (there are two or three of you, right?) might clue me in. Apparently, Italians don't write annual Christmas letters. Maybe Americans are prone to them because we move, on average, every five years to new communities?
I googled "Christmas letters" "origin of Christmas letters" "history of Christmas letter tradition" and so on and came up empty handed. I did find tons of sites with advice to Christmas letter writers and free templates. And ads like this one, tucked between ads on how to bake the perfect cookie and be the perfect hostess. Really people? I could not be bothered.
Our free Christmas letter template designs feature colorful borders, pretty frames to put family photos in, and plenty of space for writing your yearly Christmas letter.
My focus is on the content of my annual letters; I try not to brag, I try to be a bit unconventional in the telling, and above all I try to capture a flavor of our family life. Writing these letters, which I tuck into mass-produced Christmas cards, allows me reflect on our family life - our adventures, our struggles and our triumphs. I don't send these letters to neighbors or anyone else who has spent time with us throughout the year; out-of-town relatives and friends are the usual recipients. I eschew the cutesy borders and colored paper. My letters are printed on plain white paper, though I have been know to add colored font or digital photos to the letters.
I've been reading these letters ever since I could read: I fondly remember as a child sitting in my parents' living room, rifling through dozens of their Christmas cards every December and reading these letters from all across the country. Often, I wouldn't even know the families, but these peeks into personal lives fascinated me.
My hunch is, as we all become more connected through social media, this tradition will disappear. But for now, I have some questions for you, dear readers:
- Do you know the origin of this tradition?
- Is it a uniquely American phenomenon?
- Do you send family Christmas letters?
- Do you like receiving them?
Merriest of days!