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An Open Letter About Holiday Letters

Photograph by Getty Images

Dear Friends,

A few years ago, we used to get stacks of annual newsletters, photocopied on paper with cheerful candy cane borders with cut and pasted red-eyed snapshots. In them, you wrote about the colicky infants, the first baby steps, the kindergarten graduations, the new houses and the new jobs. While we get far fewer of these information missives (I blame Facebook), I still have some advice for those of you filling us in on your year.

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I’m going to give it to you straight: What’s with the humblebrags?

“We are so jet lagged from flying to Maui, but it was worth it!”

“After months of eating cereal, our new professional grade kitchen is finally finished!”

“This is me at the finish line of my first marathon. Take that, 40!”

Don’t hate me. I know I’m a terrible person, worse than the Grinch and Ebenezer Scrooge and Jan Brady. Congratulations on your home renovations and personal bests! The jealousy is my problem. That doesn’t mean that I can’t be a little bit sad about how superficial these letters are—lists of what we are doing and have done, not what we are thinking and dreaming. What’s the point in keeping in touch with old friends if your once-a-year communication feels like small talk at a party?

Think about the posts that we love to read: the ones about the embarrassing confessions, unexpected losses and simple blessings.

Perhaps I’m a bit of hypocrite, being a blogger who is prone to oversharing on social media. But there’s a difference between sharing a slice of your life and just listing off your latest accomplishments. Think about the posts that we love to read: the ones about the embarrassing confessions, unexpected losses and simple blessings. We get a glimpse of what really makes a person tick, and we feel like we really know them.

Maybe the more our communication moves online, the less we have left to put in our holiday letters at the end of the year. Maybe it’s knowing that everyone you know will be reading your letter that makes you hold back until there’s nothing left to say but where you vacationed and how old your kids are. When these mailings are going out to your high school friends, distant relatives, and your boss from three jobs ago, who wants to expose the more difficult parts of life? Even bloggers self-edit a lot, framing little vignettes for public viewing and hiding other bits that we don’t want people to see.

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If last year is any indication, I’ll probably get a rush of cards right before Christmas. (Or maybe not, after I write this!) Only a few of them will include an annual newsletter. Mostly, they’ll be photo cards with beautiful professional portraits of blow-dried moms and color coordinated children. I admit, my card will look much the same. I’ll have a little blurb on the back, detailing my latest vacation and my kids’ accomplishments. If you want to know what’s really going on, come find me online.

Happy Holidays,

Your Friend Grace

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