SCHNEE! (means snow auf Deutsch)
It’s December (again). We are all busy decking the halls, buying gifts for our loved ones and, but of course, writing our Christmas cards.
Each year, the Viper Pilot and I get at least 10-20 Christmas cards. It’s probably one of my favorite things (among many others) about the holidays. Seeing everyone’s fantastic pictures make me grin ear-to-ear, but I love reading the Christmas letters. Not because I have some strange obsession with other people’s business, but let’s just say I wish you all kept blogs so that I could know what you’re up to every now and then…
So maybe I am a little nosy. You keep coming back to read my blog about my life so maybe you can relate…Ohohoh…I gotcha good there. 😉
I always hang the pictures of the smiling faces on my fridge and they get replaced with a new batch the next holiday season. I put the old ones in a ziplock bag and write “2009” or whatever the year is on it and stash it with the other old pictures in a drawer (that I swear I will go through one of these PCS’s). I stash the letters in a basket in the living room so they are easy access reading material.
This year the Viper Pilot and I decided to send out our very first Christmas card. I know. So domestic and grown up. The Viper Pilot told me that we are “obligated” to send out a Christmas card because we are married now. I’m all like, “Listen to you…”
I got into one of my “writing zones” last week (the Viper Pilot knows to bring me coffee every 30 minutes and otherwise stay far away from the office when I get in my zone…heh heh) and sat down to write our Christmas letter. It took me all day — it’s really not so simple. We have a very complicated life (which we love, for the record) and I have no idea how to write a Christmas letter about the crazy year we’ve had.
Where do I even begin? I wrote “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Germany where it snows!” and then bam! –> writers’ block. Like a slap in the face.
Da blog is easy for me to write because it is all mine; I can share my opinion and my readers can make of it what they want. Who cares what I think, anyway? I leave out the ugly stuff, my vulnerabilities, and most anything personal because this is a happy space and I really do want you to keep coming back. But a Christmas card goes into the homes of the ones I love and those who we want to reach out to this special time of the year. It has to be just right.
Eventually, I came up with a letter that I was satisfied with. I think it was version 2.4 or something ridiculous. Version 1.0 was too braggadocios with self acclaimed references to extravagant events (our wedding), luxurious vacations (honeymoon), and how my husband is quite possibly God’s gift to the world. Okay, so the last part might be true, but I still didn’t feel comfortable sending that out. Version 2.1 went something like “Merry Christmas from little ordinary old us and our cute dog, we’re grateful we have a roof over our craniums, Alex is still working his way up the food chain in his military job, and when we vacation it is on our couch watching TV on DVD, we love each other to pieces and we’re happy happy happy…” I digress.
I sat there staring at my wadded up pieces of paper in the corner feeling defeated. (I felt like I was in a scene from a movie…it was so cool and would have been cooler if I had been using an old fashioned typewriter).
Instead of attempting yet another version of the letter, I wrote myself some guidelines to stick to.
Using these guidelines moved me to cut out all the meaningless blabber about possessions and accomplishments and write from the heart. It may be a bit mushy, but it’s raw honesty.
Of course it dawned on me that sharing my thoughts on how to write the perfect Christmas card is sort of hypocritical. Sorry. I know some of my family members will read this and be aghast that I can brag when I’m so long winded. 😉 Family is awesome for keeping one from getting too big-craniumed. For what it is worth, and at the risk of sounding braggadocios myself, I’m daring to write this post offering tips on how to write the perfect Christmas card. Feel free to scoff at it, or eagerly read it and appreciate it. I don’t mind either way.
Keep it upbeat.
It is absolutely okay to tell your family and friends about the tragedy that struck you family last year, if you want. It happened and it was important to you, regardless. But don’t dwell on the negativity. How did this event change your lives for the better? If it’s been a rough year, thank your friends and family for putting up with you and for their prayers. Just try not to depress your readers or ask for their sympathy.
Try not to brag or boast.
Be careful with this. It’s so easy to brag on paper (or in a blog or on any other social media outlet). You don’t have the benefit of using a tone of voice or facial expressions in your Christmas letter. Focus on your emotions towards your new car or fancy vacation — write how it made you feel (thankful, relaxed…) and not how luxurious or expensive it was. Bragging sours the letter.
Pick a few favorite events of the year and talk about them.
A lot can happen in 365 days (trust me). Talk about your spouses’ new job and how they feel about it. Talk about your new friends. Describe the scene out your window (use lots of adjectives!). What was your favorite memory from your son’s first baseball game? Did you lose someone near and dear to you? What can your readers do to support you? What was the most comforting thing a loved one said/did for you during your difficult time?
It is the little things that…
Make it personal.
If something major happened to you in the past year, chances are people know about it. Steer clear of trivial events and please, don’t gossip. Talk about the little things that happened and what is in your heart. Think about your audience. When you’re telling your story, think about why this may be of interest to the readers as you’re writing and imagine their faces when they read your story. How can you make them smile or captivate their attention? This will create a stronger connection and be a sure-fire way to prevent your letter from being tossed in the waste can.
Our Christmas card readers probably know we got married this year, and the picture from our wedding on the card is kind of a dead giveaway so it wasn’t worth dwelling on. Instead, I focused more on our new life together in Germany and the adventures we’ve encountered so far. Not all of my readers have been to Germany so I chose to describe the scenes for them to envision in their mind’s eye (and perhaps convince them to visit…).
Consider your reader when selecting fonts, colors, pictures/Clip Art, and layout. There are a lot of great fonts out there, but not all of them are legible in 12 point font. Fonts with serifs are easier to read because the serifs guide the eye from one letter and word to the next. Save the fancy font for the festive “Merry Christmas” title at the top. Refrain from shrinking your font down to fit the letter to one page. I’m in my mid-twenties and have already succumbed to using reading glasses. Microscopic fonts are not kosher to those of us still hanging onto our youth and not wanting to dig out the goggles. Try playing with the margins instead. You don’t have to stick with the traditional letter form. Try two columns or make it look like a newspaper with different sized columns and pictures scattered throughout. We get one from family that even has a crossword puzzle and word search using words in the newsletter — if you complete it and send it back, you get a prize! Creativity will draw people in and give them a real interest in what you have to say. Just don’t overdo it.
Don’t forget to sign off!
Leave your readers with your sincerest Christmas wish. A Christmas letter is a fantastic way to put your thoughts into words and send your personal and sincere message of love to each loved one. It helps if they know who it is coming from!
If you want to make your own card from your own pictures to go with your letter, check out these great sources:
Allow yourself plenty of time.
The Viper Pilot and I both have large families and are blessed with
scores of friends located (literally) all over the world. We sent out
200 Christmas cards this year (and I addressed every single envelope by
hand, thank you very much <– handcrampshurt). Printing, folding, plus sealing, addressing, and stamping each envelope takes time. Don’t wait until the last minute!
Merry Christmas, everyone!