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The time has come to pull out my candy cane pen and draft
our first annual family holiday letter. Since my oldest child was born, I’ve
gotten by with the standard photo card. Granted, the more boys we’ve added, the more challenging it's become to get that group shot. I can only hope the
recipients have appreciated the measure to which I have gone to get one with
them all smiling in it—even if it is through gritted teeth.
But this year will be different. I'm tackling the holiday letter.
Since I’m relatively new to this exercise, all I have to
fall back on are the boastful missives we’d receive from relatives and friends
when I was growing up.
They’d always start with a phrase like, “Greetings from
(insert name of tropical locale) where we vacationed this summer!” Or, “Hey-Ho,
Neighbors—Yule never believe what’s
been happening with the (insert last name of over achievers down the street)!”
The letters would then go on to regale us with stories about
how their child landed a prized spot on some lame kiddy show or was one of the
first in line at that brand new Disney amusement park in Orlando, Fla.
In preparation for writing the letter, I've been looking over old notes from friends and family. Before writer’s block settles over you like a foot of wet
snow, here are some tips I've gleaned for writing the perfect holiday letter:
1. Be honest: Nothing trips up a holiday letter faster than
a flagrant fabrication. These days, even toddlers have fact checking capability
at their fingertips via the Internet. In a matter of seconds, your claim of
making it to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list with your first
literary effort, or that of your child winning the science fair by successfully
debunking Einstein’s theory of relativity, will be exposed as a fraud.
2. Just keeping spinning: Honesty has its merits, but with
a little embellishment, even the most ho-hum events can sound thrilling. Take,
for instance, that time you and the family spent the day with your in-laws.
With a little zing, that can be transformed into a perilous adventure in a
foreign land. How about when you were cleaning the basement and found a
long-lost kid’s toy or a missing leather glove? All your readers need to know
is that you went on a hunting expedition in a subterranean locale and unearthed
some prized treasures.
3. Add some bling: Worried that your family may still seem as exciting as a televised session of Congress? Not to worry. A fistful
of shiny, colorful holiday-themed confetti can magically transform you into the
envy of your friends and neighbors. As they open your envelope, they’ll be so
distracted by all of the tiny Santas and snowflakes falling onto their
just-vacuumed carpet, they won’t even notice that the highlight of your year
was winning a free order of fries at your local burger joint.
4. Timing is everything: The savvy correspondent is
careful to ensure her letter arrives in their recipients’ harried hands at just
the right time. If you want to ensure the contents are not only read, but also
scrutinized and gossiped about, be sure to send it early. If, however, you’d
rather the contents avoid the glare of cross-examination, it’s best to send it
later. This way, it has a higher chance of getting lost in the glut of North
Pole–bound lists, and will receive at best a cursory glance on arrival.