Week 41: Write a holiday letter (on an anytime-of-the-year letter)
No matter whether you are reading this post in the middle of summer, while you are sipping one of the first pumpkin spice lattes of the fall or when you are in the height of holiday preparations, consider signing on for the challenge!
I’m convinced that there are 2 types of people in this world. 1) Those who send holiday cards and 2) those who don’t. Those who send cards can be further divided into two groups of people. 1) Those who include a personalized message or letter and 2) those who sign and send.
Where do you fall on the diagram? My challenge for you is to consider joining the group in the sends cards / includes personal message or letter group. I know it’s not an easy sell and can hear many of your objections already:
I hardly have enough time to send cards, let alone add in a letter. And to boot, those letters I get from my family and friends are so annoying. Do I really care that little Johnny lost his first tooth this year or that cousin Mary took up knitting?
You have to admit that when you get these letters, you read them. And you likely remember some, if not most of the content. And it helps make you feel a closer connection to the person sending the note. Am I right on at least one of these?
Here are some ways to overcome the barriers to sending the holiday letter.
Barrier #1: I don’t have enough time. I’ll use one of my friend’s favorite mantras: we make time for the things that are important to us. I’ve made Christmas cards and letters a priority since my husband and I got married 16 years ago. I’ll admit, the first year it’s a bit challenging because I wasn’t sure what to write, whether to include photos, or how long to make it. Like most things, once I got started, it has gotten easier over time.
Here are three ways I streamline the process. First, I have all of the names and addresses in an excel spreadsheet. I do a mail merge and print labels to save the time of handwriting the envelopes. Second, I have a tried-and-true holiday letter template I’ve been using for over 10 years. A screenshot is below. Each year, it’s a matter of updating the content and including pictures. The final way I save time is to get my family involved in the process. They literally help sign, seal and deliver these cards, saving me what used to be several hours of work by myself.
Tip: This doesn’t have to be one more thing on your plate during the holidays. I receive a Valentine’s day letter from someone in my network, others do a Happy New Year version. Pick a time of year that has meaning for you and try it out!
Barrier #2: I don’t do anything interesting – what will I even write? No one is asking you to write a novel or to only include a letter if you climbed the summit of Mt. Everest. Surely, thinking back over the course of your year, cool things have happened – a vacation, a job transition, kids activities, births/deaths, an athletic pursuit, a new hobby. Pick those that have the most meaning to you and share them!
Barrier #3: I’m eco-friendly and don’t want to waste natural resources. You can also accomplish this over email. A number of my friends send an e-card (or even a year-in-review video) and I enjoy them as much as the hard-copy letters I receive in the mail. Consider this a chance to try out new technology!
Barrier #4: I don’t want to annoy people. I’ll admit, my hand hesitates a bit when I drop the cards in the mail slot. I wonder “is this over the top” “do people really care?” Then I remind myself that I have never once heard “your letter is too much” or “seriously, do you think I care.” More often, I hear, “thanks so much for the letter. It’s great to hear what is going on in your life.”
Barrier #5: They’ve already seen all of this stuff on social media. Perhaps. However, with the way social feeds work and the hit-or-miss nature of when people check their accounts, they might have missed some of the important things that happened. Finally, as much as we think that people are following our every move, they aren’t. This is your time to put together a highlight reel for your friends, family, not to mention to have as an archive for yourself.
Something pretty cool happens when you make something as traditional as a holiday card personal. Here are a few I’ve experienced from both the perspective of the sender and recipient:
- There is a feeling of connection when you are reading about someone’s year versus simply seeing their signed name.
- You have something to chatter about at holiday parties.
- You find out things you have in common with people.
- You grow closer to people who are already your friends and family members.
- Your network is strengthened through a deeper glimpse into what is happening in the lives of others.
It’s much easier to reach out to people who understand and appreciate what you have going on in your life than if they never hear anything meaningful from you.
Have I convinced you to give it a try? What other barriers are holding you back?
Even if you don’t go for the full on printed letter, consider writing a few sentences inside the card before you sign and send.
If you were to send your holiday letter this week, what are 5 things you would include in the message?
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