Are Holiday Form Letters Acceptable?

Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2004 12:54 pm
Once upon a time, back in the Festive Fifties, a few heretics--lazy, corner-cutting stay-at-home Moms refused to write individual notes on holiday greeting cards.

The Holiday Form Letter was born. The Family Year was reduced to one (or two or three) single spaced pages detailing with relentless pride the achievements of each family member.

Recipients of a Holiday Form Letter (even the folks who never jotted a note on a card) felt entitled to High Moral Superiority.

Personally, I'm happy to know that Little Mary Sunshine, granddaughter of a college classmate, was voted Most Valuable Player on her Pee Wee football team or that Norman Nerd, a second cousin twice removed set new records by losing his contact lenses three times last year.

What do you think about Holiday Mass Mailings?
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Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2004 12:57 pm
why not?
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Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2004 01:02 pm
I struggle with this every year. I'm doing it this year because I have actual news and it doubles as a "we've moved" notification with new address etc. I've put a fair amount of effort into making it matter-of-fact and not insufferable, though.
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Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2004 01:03 pm
I mostly send ecards these days myself, and the info in it is cut and pasted, which is basically a form letter. It's just easier for me to tailor it to the friend it's going to. (My list is short enough that I do actually send them individually.)

I only have one friend left who has no email and gets a snail mail xmas card and a handwritten note.

I don't read holiday form letters that are more than a page long...unless it's unusually well-written.
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Bella Dea
Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2004 01:12 pm
I don't like them, but with kids, a home and a job...who has time to write out all those damn christmas notes?
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Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2004 03:02 pm
I don't care for ones with the minute details. Who wants to know that little Joey played the bunny in the Easter pageant? To me a perfect mass letter is one which hits only on the highlights. Then the person composing the newsletter could write a personal line or two at the bottom.
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Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2004 03:05 pm
Hate 'em. Don't read 'em. Don't want to be bothered to waste the energy to open an envelope containing one of those things. Hate 'em. Actually, beyond hate 'em.

I'd honestly rather get no card or letter than get one of those things. They're lucky if they get shredded.
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Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2004 03:18 pm
Well, this year I ain't sendin' no cards or stuff. e-mails are great for those outside the country.

I have never liked holiday letters, either. I guess it's because they have more to do with the sender than the sendee.

Happy Holidays all you folks!

Well, first, I want everyone to know that I'm planning on not...then I'm planning on....then my nieces babies are sooooo precious...there's only one girl in a sea of boys...then....

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Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2004 08:09 pm
Thanks, all. I've been wrestling with my conscience about doing a form letter (with added notes) this year. I'm still undecided, but the days are passing quickly.
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Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2004 08:14 pm
If you absolutely have to do it, Noddy, please don't include activities involving the people you're sending the form letter to - it is on the other side of bizarre to receive one of those.

... and then we visited ehBeth, where we ...

... of course ehBeth dropped by with ...

... if you haven't heard, ehBeth is now ...

(quotes from 3 of this year's buggery form letters)

all of these started ... Dear ehBeth and Setanta

Evil or Very Mad Twisted Evil Evil or Very Mad
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Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2004 10:21 pm

The Facts of Change: new address, new life combined with the reality of a small and active child certainly permit a form letter.


E cards are e asier.


You are entitled to "gruntlement"--every happy pig who speaks slightly archaic English can gruntle in a clean sty.


Minute detail that I treasure: "My granddaughter was one of seven flowers in the nursery pageant. In the short time they were on stage, every single flower picked her nose."

eh Beth--

Fortunately I have a cousin who serves as Horrid Example for a form letter. At one point she lived out-of-town. I lived in town. She gave me 1000 words of news that I'd sent her.


Some years just ain't worth capitulatin'. Some small milestones should be used for concrete, not holiday letters.

Again, thanks all.
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Reply Wed 15 Dec, 2004 08:46 am
I'm with ehBeth on this one. I do not like these. However, it could be that there is one family member that sends these and it is simply full of bragging. Little Johnny was a star in his play, Jessie hit a home run and won the game for his team, etc. I guess it would be one thing if you sent something a little more general, like I moved here or something. But I do not even know half the people spoken about in the letter and it really does not sound very Christmasy to be bragging about everyone's accomplishments. It would be much more interesting and fun if they put in things like Uncle Harry was arrested for DWI and Aunt Mary cheated on her hubby.
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Reply Wed 15 Dec, 2004 12:32 pm
My hubby's aunt an uncle did one of those for several years -- kind of an anti-Christmas letter (fictional, but funny!) Aunt would say things like, we finally got sick of the floating dead animals and got our pool cleaned, and whoo that pool boy! Uncle found out and threatened to blackmail me with... etc.
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Reply Wed 15 Dec, 2004 12:51 pm
Never heard of 'em. Must be something from your side of the ocean.

What I do still occasionally get, from the odd aunt or uncle, are these Xmas cards that have nothing but the name(s) on the back.

You know - cheesy pre-printed Xmas greetings on the front, on the back just your mailing address on the right and on the left, their name.

I so totally could do without those. Just dont even bother.

Myself too, I only send out new years cards that I've actually written something personal on - hell, I'm a crazy man, I actually make all my own new years cards, by hand. Even added a self-selected compilation CD twice. Its a perfect way to force yourself to unwind for the evening or two. Much better than A2K for that purpose (which reminds me ...).

That does mean that some years I get round to doing 20, some years just 10, and some years none at all. But those that get 'em still remember 'em now - someone reminded me last week of a card I sent in '98 or '99.

Course, I dont expect people to return that kind of effort, forsure. But if you dont have anything personal to say at all, then dont even bother, cause your card means nothing to me.
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Reply Wed 15 Dec, 2004 12:57 pm
I make my cards!

This year it's a potato print (sounds tacky, worked pretty well) of a few snowflakes, the snowflakes are carved out, then I used two colors of blue watercolors for the potato, and print the whole thing on white watercolor paper cardstock, so you get an organic oval (shape of the potato), varied blue background, and white snowflakes.

Part of the form-letter thing for me is I'm sending 60 of these. Shocked I add personal notes, but 60 from-scratch personal cards (no repeats/ no use of form) are... difficult.

(I agree with the cards that are just names and nothing else, though.)
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Reply Mon 20 Dec, 2004 05:08 pm
OK, so I'm getting the idea of these form letters ...

Letter Perfect

by Gregg Easterbrook

Only at TNR Online | Post date 12.20.04

Dear Family and Friends,

What a lucky break that I'm in first-class on the plane back from Istanbul, because there's room to take out the laptop and write our annual Christmas letter. My brand-new laptop receives wireless satellite Internet from anywhere in the world. While I was at the board of directors session during the Danube cruise, I pretended to be listening to the chairman but actually was using the laptop to watch Emily's oboe recital on live streaming video from Chad's digital minicam! So the world really is growing smaller. And if you haven't gotten one of these new laptops, you should. Of course, now there's a waiting list.

It's been another utterly hectic year, and yet nurturing and horizon-expanding. It's hard to know where the time goes. Well, a lot of it is spent in the car.

Already Rachel is in her senior year at Pinnacle-Upon-Hilltop Academy, and it seems like just yesterday she was being pushed around in the stroller by our British nanny. Rachel placed first this fall in the state operatic arias competition. Chad was skeptical when I proposed hiring a live-in voice tutor on leave from the Lyric Opera, but it sure paid off! Rachel's girls' volleyball team lost in the semifinals owing to totally unfair officiating, but as I have told her, she must learn to overcome incredible hardship in life. Now the Big Decision looms, and that is whether to take the early admission offer she has from Harvard or wait till she hears about Julliard. She is just a wreck about that; girls her age should not have to make such high-pressure choices! The whole back of her Mercedes SUV is full of advanced-dance brochures as she tries to decide.

Nicholas is his same old self, juggling the karate lessons--he doesn't tell the other boys he is a Yodan fourth-degree black belt so he won't frighten them--plus basketball, soccer, French horn, debate club, archeology field trips, poetry-writing classes, and his volunteer work. Yodan usually requires nine years of training after the Shodan belt, but prodigies can do it faster, especially if (not that I believe this!) they are reincarnated deities. Doing the clothing-advertising modeling for the Gap cuts into Nick's schoolwork time, but how could I deprive others of the chance to see him? His summer with Outward Bound in the Andes was a big thrill, especially when all the expert guides became disoriented and he had to lead the party out. But you probably read about that in the newspapers.

What can I say regarding our Emily? She's just been reclassified again, now as EVVSUG&T--"extremely very very super ultra gifted and talented." The preschool has retained a fulltime special-needs teacher solely to keep her challenged: Educational institutions are not allowed to discriminate against the gifted anymore, not like when I was young. Yesterday Rachel sold her first still-life. It was shown on consignment at the leading gallery without, of course, the age of the artist disclosed. The buyers were thrilled when they learned!

Then there was the arrival of our purebred puppy, and the issue of what to name him. Because our family mission statement lists cultural diversity as a core value, we settled on Mandela.

Chad continues to prosper and blossom now that he has gone freelance. He works a few hours a day, spends the rest of the time with the children or restoring the house--the National Trust for Historic Preservation rules are quite strict--or supervising the maids. Whose Social Security taxes we pay, not that they ever say "gracias." (I write "maids," plural, because can you hold onto to one of these women more than a month? We can't!) Corporate denial consulting turns out to be a perfect career niche for Chad. Fortune 500 companies are calling him all the time. There's a lot to deny and Chad is good at it.

Me? Oh, I do this and that. I feel myself growing and flowering as a change agent. I yearn to empower the stakeholders. And this year I made senior partner, plus cashed out 825,000 stock options. I was sorry I had to let Carmen go on the same day I brought home the $14.6 million, but she had broken a Flora Danica platter and used the main house phone line for personal calls, something about a sick child! Chad and I got away for a week for a simple celebration of my promotion. We rented this charming, quaint five-star villa on the Corsican coast. Just to ourselves--we bought out all 40 rooms so it would be quiet and contemplative.

Our family looks to the New Year as a continued opportunity for rejuvenation and enrichment. Chad and I will be taking the children to Steamboat Springs over spring break, then in June I take the girls to Paris, Rome, and Seville while he accompanies Nicholas to another international tournament in Copenhagen. He swears he never looks at the blonds! Then the kids are off to their camps in Maine and before we know it we will be packing two cars to drive Rachel's things to college. And of course I don't count Davos or Sundance or all the routine excursions.

I hope your year has been as interesting as ours.


Jennifer, Chad, Rachel, Nicholas, Emily & Mandela (paw-print)

Gregg Easterbrook is a senior editor at TNR and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution.
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Reply Mon 20 Dec, 2004 07:48 pm
Who, me?

I just listed hospital admissions.

I'm not a Beautiful People--although our dog had a letter published in the local newspaper.
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Reply Mon 20 Dec, 2004 08:10 pm

Yes, that's an archetypical Christmas letter.

I just got one eerily similar (though with zero irony content.)
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Reply Wed 22 Dec, 2004 07:24 pm
Send me one I tell you ?
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