Tag Archives: Holiday letters

Yule log me out

Tick. Tick. Tick. If you haven’t noticed, there are exactly three weeks until Christmas. I have trouble hearing carols above the ticking away of the annoying clock against which I work fiercely to accomplish the self-imposed and society-imposed holiday chores.

I’ve become a Grinch about nearly every holiday of the year, mostly because self and society collude cruelly to impose unrealistic expectations and impossible deadlines.

I typically don’t get a lot of sympathy when I complain about the holiday stress because about 85 percent of it is self-imposed. I send out 260 cards and hand address each one. The .001 percent lineage I have to Emily Post won’t allow me to print labels. This year, my dreaded holiday newsletter came back from the printer with a typo that wasn’t in the original, so off it went for a reprint, because Word Nymph can’t send a typo to 260 people.

The upheaval caused by our central air installation, which no doubt by now you are sick of reading, stands in the way of most other tasks—from wrapping and shipping to putting up the tree. Hence, the last-minute scramble will be all the more intense.

By this time in the season, I start to go a little crazy. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” sends me over the edge, and one playing too many of Mannheim Steamroller’s version of “Carol of the Bells” (one is one too many) has me fighting the urge to crash my car into a Jersey wall at 60 miles per hour.

This year, as an experiment, I’ve decided to pick one society-imposed chore and do away with it altogether. If that works, maybe I’ll pick another in 2011. This one wasn’t a hard choice because my family asked me to nix it.

I won’t be doing any baking. The problem is, I like the idea of baking cookies. I like how tingly Martha Stewart looks when she does it. My friends bake exquisite decorated sugar cookies, reaping great joy. The ritual just seems so appealing.

The sad truth is, I am a terrible baker with a faulty oven. Last year’s attempt at my grandmother’s delicate ginger thins could have doubled as equipment for the NHL. I dream about attempting a Bûche de Noël, but fear it would be seized as a weapon of mass destruction.

Instead I’ll dream of Nancy’s chocolate thumb prints, Mary Lee’s angels, Roxanne’s painted ginger snow queens and the Grady family’s fourth generation cookie ritual, while I head to the store for boxed Walker’s shortbread. Sigh.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Foibles and Faux Pas, Food, Hearth and Home, Holidays, Music

’Tis taboo

If my September 25 post reminding you that you only have three months to write your holiday letter didn’t send you straight to the keyboard, that’s good—because I’ve found a great set of tips for how not to write your letter.

I am not biggest fan of Christmas letters, and yet I can’t refrain from writing them. What’s more, I can’t keep myself from slipping into what I know are bad habits. In my 2006 letter, I actually listed all the things I felt people shouldn’t say in a holiday letter, mostly because they are cliché or cover topics in which only the writer is interested. Then I turned around and used one.

In my opinion, the most cliché way to open a holiday letter is by asking, “Where has the time gone?” or “Where did the year go?” I also prefer to omit unseemly medical conditions that might spoil a reader’s cup of Christmas tea. A letter we received one year actually contained the words “rectal prolapse.”

I could go on and on but I will let John E. McIntyre of The Baltimore Sun do it for me – and more eloquently at that. In a recent blog piece, McIntyre offers tips for making a letter less cheesy than it might be. He suggests refraining from any and all holiday metaphors, analogies and parodies of the Twelve Days of Christmas. He also reminds us that the 12 days begin on Christmas and run through January 6th. This is especially important to me, not just as a Christian but also because my birthday falls 12 days before Christmas, and I’d like a little time to celebrate the occasion (and observe Advent) before the big day hits.

McIntyre also helpfully points out that, while Hanukkah comes close to Christmas, “they are not twins.” Nevertheless, is it still all right for me to use my holiday card to wish a happy Hanukkah to all my Jewish friends?

He advises letter writers to avoid ‘Tis and ‘Twas and to back away from the Dickensian: “No ghosts of anything past, present or future. Delete bah and humbug from your working vocabulary. Treat Scrooge as you would the Grinch, by ignoring him. Leave little Tiny Tim alone, too.”

If you’re interested in cutting the cheese from your holiday letter, then before you put pen to pad, or fingertips to keyboard, try heeding John McIntyre’s advice. I promise to do the same.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Family and Friends, Holidays