Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Dec. 13, 2001

The family holiday letter

I started our family Christmas letter this past weekend. Some people roll their eyes when they think of receiving family letters. "Good grief, Aunt Betty is going to go on and on again about how smart her kids are and about how Uncle Jack has been promoted to vice president of something-or-other in his company. Sheesh! I don't want to hear about it!" Etiquette queens have long stuck up their noses at newsletters, saying they're not personal enough.

Whatever form they take - handwritten notes on beautiful embossed cards, e-mail messages, signatures on holiday family photos, or photocopied letters - I'll appreciate all the greetings we get. We hang cards on our kitchen doors and tuck them into baskets, print out e-mail messages, put photo cards in our photo album, and save newsletters in our family history files. Although I enjoy all of them, my favorites are the newsletters with all their many details about all members of the family.

With just a little imagination, a person can transform an ordinary newsletter into a unique holiday greeting.

I like people to include goofy stuff as well as serious information in their newsletters. One friend told me about his family's trip to Paris - but not just about their visits to the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. He described how he had to sprint across an eight-lane Paris boulevard to rescue his 7-year-old daughter's Parisian beret! In that same letter, he also expressed his sadness because of his recent divorce and the toll it was taking on the family.

My husband's cousin in the North Woods of Wisconsin included information not only about her children, grandchildren and their new black Lab puppy, but also about the loons, bears, eagles and a silver fox that are frequent visitors to their lakeside home.

Last year, my mom - an artist who says she has little time to pursue her talent - did drawings of my parents' old farm home and their new home in Manhattan. She copied the drawings onto cards to let people know that their address had changed.

My husband and I - both family history nuts - like to record and share our family's annual activities and to pass along tidbits of family history that we've collected throughout the year. For the past few years, Art has included a lengthy "genealogy letter" with our family one. The theme of this year's letter is about how the Civil War affected his family directly and indirectly, and how no one really knew at the time how that war would play out and affect people in the future. He tied it to our country's current war against terrorism. None of us knows how long it will last or what sort of rippling effects it will have on us and the rest of the world.

I've heard some people say that they just can't get in the mood to do Christmas cards or to write holiday letters because of what happened on Sept. 11. I maintain that it's important to stay connected with family and friends, no matter life's circumstances.

So for the next few days, I'll be sifting through the year's photographs to select the ones that best illustrate our 2001 family history - which I hope to have in newsletter form by Christmas.

2001 Index