Friday, December 14, 2007


Have you ever read Lee Smith's The Christmas Letters? It is a really wonderful and unique Christmas book. It focuses on all those letters we get that tell us how well everyone is doing, how successful they are, and how great their families are. The book shows what is between the lines, the story beneath the words sent out at Christmas. From my book journal:

As a recipient of Christmas letters, I always wonder what isn't being said. Sometimes I even know what unhappy bits are left out.

Do you suppose recipients don't want to hear about the job loss or the divorce, the sad and upsetting things that all of us go through in any given year? I don't think so. I like to know how people are really doing, and for some reason this year, the cards we've received seem more honest, more heartfelt.

I don't write a general Christmas letter. I write a note on each card, sometimes filling the back of the picture, and other times just saying the standard lines. It depends on how frequently I see the people. The ones I do not see often, or even never, and am only in touch with at Christmas get the long notes. I try to compress into that space how my kids are doing and any changes in our lives in the year's time. And you know, this is tiring. The emotion that comes up as I write drains me. Even if there isn't anything particularly dramatic that I'm writing, still, I am having a conversation, albeit one-sided, about the important thing in life, my family. And as I write, I am thinking about the person I'm writing to. Sometimes it is an aging person who may not have many more Christmases; sometimes it is someone from my past whom I will most likely never see again; sometimes it is a childhood friend and all the lovely memories just course through my heart, bringing tears to my eyes.

So, writing Christmas cards is no small venture. It is big, it is important, it is emotional, it is necessary. The cards that dismay me are the ones with just a name. I want to cry out, wait a minute, tell me how your kids are, what are you doing, how are you. And when I write back, I ask these questions, a year flies by, and a card comes the next year with no answers. Isn't it strange? One more facet added to this emotional activity, a seasonal pastime I wouldn't miss for the world.


  1. I'm glad for all those who enjoy writing Christmas cards. But I was never one of them. And years ago, I stopped. Hard to believe, for someone like you, but it was wonderful and still is.

    The first year, I contacted people and told them of my decision. So they'd not be hurt the next year.

    I'm happy you enjoy this whole card issue. Very happy for you.

    But know, not all of us love it. And some of us have taken the brave course of setting ourselves free, from it. :-))))


  2. I was thinking some of these same things today Nan. We got our cards into the mail today.

    I send cards to people that tell me they don't send cards. I just enjoying doing so.

    I have never had anyone tell me not to send one. Now athat would be a shock.

    I don't mind that some people don't send them. It is better than getting a card that has a printed message only. YOu know those people don't enjoy the card sending aspect of the holiday.

    What ever it takes to enjoy the holiday.

  3. That is how I feel. Often after I write Christmas cards, I feel drained. We can do a lot of living, and travel over many years and many miles just sitting in our chair, writing Christmas cards, can't we? After my father died, my mother lived alone and I remember her so avidly reading her cards and how she anticipated the mail delivery--more so as she grew older. She is gone three years now and it hurts to walk through the Hallmark aisles and know I no longer need to find the perfect card starting with the words "To My Mother..."


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