The first Christmas card was printed in 1843. Since then, many people send Christmas cards to their family members and friends every year. Some people take the time to sit down and write out a Christmas letter. Those letters tell family stories that might otherwise be forgotten.
A Christmas letter, as you may well know if you have ever received one, is much more detailed than a typical Christmas card. Some people will write Christmas letters that go on for several pages, while others manage to fit everything they wanted to say onto just one page. There are people who write their Christmas letters by hand, the “old fashioned” way. Others compose their Christmas letters on their computers and print out as many copies as they need to send to their loved ones.
The important thing about Christmas letters isn’t the length, or the style. It is the stories that the letters contain. The end of the year Christmas letter often becomes a collection of the most significant moments that happened to a family since last Christmas.
In general, people share family stories that are amusing, or poignant, or unexpected. They talk about awards won, goals met, and happy blessings. Some people will also choose to talk about their health (including the surgery they had that year). That may be an uncomfortable thing to read about, but is, undoubtedly, the biggest thing on your relative’s mind in the past year.
Yes, it can be annoying to read about every single award, soccer game, band recital, and precocious thing that your relative’s children did in the past 12 months. Keep the Christmas letter anyway. Years from now, when those children are all grown up, they might find the old Christmas letters that their mother wrote to be absolutely fascinating!
A collection of Christmas letters, carefully stored away, can together tell quite the story about the people who were mentioned in the letter. Babies grow to be toddlers (who get into mischief). Little kids state exactly what they want to be when they grow up – only to change their minds several times before they get there. Petulant teenagers become thoughtful politically active college students.
A Christmas letter might be the only written source of short stories about a relative when he or she was young. Those stories, all pieced together, paint a picture of the relative’s personality.
Take the time to enjoy the Christmas letters your family sends you. Scan them so you can have a digital copy that will not fade, tear, or be damaged from improper storage. Give digital copies to the genealogist in your family tree.
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