Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Please Mr. Postman

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I think Christmas is the time of year for writers. We can get the mail and know that generally something wonderful will be in the mailbox. We may still get rejections (or acceptances!) in that mailbox, but for almost every day in December, happy Christmas cards should greet us in the mail. I love getting Christmas cards in the mail. It’s like a little bit of the Christmas spirit delivered right to your home. You can pick it up and hold it and know that someone was thinking of you.

Part of my Christmas card tradition is making a one page Christmas letter about what our family has been up to this year. Since we have nine people in our family, each person just gets a few lines to say what the highlight of their year was and things like that. For example, my eleven year old’s part of the Christmas letter this year says that his favorite part of the year was going to the Space Center for his birthday, but he liked our family vacation to Mesa Verde, too. He became a boy scout and thinks sixth grade is totally lame. (And watching him go through it reminds me of some of my grade school experiences and boy, am I glad I never have to relive any of that.) I slip the letter and sometimes a picture (generally of the kids, but sometimes a family pic) in the Christmas cards that I send to my family and friends. A lot of my family and friends still live in Canada, and they only see us once every year or two, so I think the letters are a fun way to catch up. Of course, I have friends in other states and even here in Utah that I also send the cards with letters in.

However, recently I heard two conversations and a presentation at Time Out for Women that talked about how much these people hated letters in Christmas cards. They said that reading those letters made them feel like those people had the perfect families and were more like brag letters. One woman said reading those letters made her feel guilty that she didn’t have anything to brag about in her family and doubled the guilt because she didn’t even get organized enough to send out Christmas cards. Another woman said she wanted to write down a line in her Christmas cards about just getting by and people not being puffed up with themselves and their families.

Frankly, none of that had ever occurred to me. I love getting and reading Christmas letters about my friends and family. I like to see what everyone has been up to, especially the people that I rarely see. It’s a way to keep in touch. I don’t see them as brag letters at all. We include struggles and blessings in our letters. It’s more of just a tiny snapshot of hey, here’s a little about our family this year. And on a personal note, when I'm putting it together, I like seeing what my kids liked best about this year and what they think is important enough to put in their part of the letter. It’s sort of like a little yearbook for me when I read them, and I think, oh yeah, that was fun! Or, yeah, I can see how he/she would think that.

But now, after hearing those comments from other people, I’m wondering if I should do a Christmas letter. What if people have thought all along that these letters are nothing more than bragging to them that I’m organized enough to send out Christmas cards? (They know already that my family is far from perfect. No one would ever think that, I’m afraid.)

So, the bottom line is, I think I need some more opinions. Do you love getting Christmas letters or do you think they’re lame? Should I send my Christmas spirit with a letter or embrace the Christmas scrooge with just a card that is letter-less? Maybe it all comes down to the eye of the receiver. What do you think?


At 12/03/2009 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For sure do a letter Julie. I have a theory about what those woman at Time Out For Woman said about Christmas Letters. Wanna hear it?


If you go to the website, you'll notice that there's a new Mormon Messages video titled "In Sickness and in Health". I'm in it. Believe it or not. I had to sign a talent release so they could "USE" me. A little over halfway through the video they sing TEACH ME TO WALK. I'm the one playing the piano. You can't see my face, but you can hear the music.

So they came. Shot all the footage. At a special care center in Bountiful for Alzhiemers patients. I known all these people. Saw their faces. They are sweet people. But during that particular relief society/preisthood meeting they weren't that lovable. One man kept babbling out of turn. The speaker gave a very weird talk about Noah's Ark. One woman cried uncontrollably. Some were sleeping. Others talking to themselves. It was annoying at times, out of control at other times. But we pressed on. Sort of like raising a family. Lots of warts. Nothing really special. Someone crying. A weird family home evening lesson. But there is love. Lots of love.

In the final video on the church website all the warts are gone, its set to nice music and a great voice over. The video brings back the memory of the most important part of moment. The love.

I think Christmas letters are like that. You edit out all the crying, the warts, the goofy talk. And you mention the reasons that you love your family. And when you get done, you have a wonderful letter set the music of love. If the sisters who have issues with christmas letters would just sit down and write a christmas letter, I bet they'd have the same experience. What, on its face, seemes like nothing special, just their wart-filled family life, when they focus on the love, by writing about it, they will find a jewel of a letter.

In sickness and in health. Of course you should write that letter.

At 12/03/2009 11:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And another thing, Julie.

When your character walks into a room and describes the setting, we find out more about the character than we do the room. Does she notice the colors of the walls, or the gun hanging on the wall? Does she describe the beautiful oak flooring or the gap between planks that show years of moisture expanding and contracting the wood pieces into a less-than-perfect foor? Does she notice the ornate picture frame with gold insets or does she spend her time focused on the family in the picture?

The same is true of the analyzers of Christmas cards. Are they so focused on analyzing and dissecting the accomplishments of the people in the letter that they are unable to rejoice with the letter-writer over the love they have for their children and spouse?

The analysis tells us so much more about the analyzer than it does the analyzed.

Merry Christmas, fellow Canadian!

At 12/03/2009 11:53 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Do the letter! Definitely! I enjoy getting Christmas letters and cards. In fact, I hang them all up on a door in my house. It makes a fun holiday decoration.

I love Anon's comment--just because we might not include all our family's warts in the Christmas letter doesn't mean we don't have them, just like everyone else. It's not "puffed up" to share the highlights of your year with friends and family. I think Christmas card/letter resentment falls in the same category as sitting in RS comparing yourself to the other sisters or hating Mother's Day because you're not a perfect mother.

At 12/03/2009 1:15 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

It all depends on how you WRITE the letter--and I highly you'd be the braggy type.

I LOVE most of the letters I get--they're fun updates from my friends and family. But there's usually one or two braggers in the bunch that I sort of roll my eyes at.

At 12/03/2009 2:08 PM, Anonymous Jordan said...

Anon's second comment is right on, too—it's not about the letter writer, it's about the crabby witch who thinks that when you have one page to share what your family has done over the last 365 days, you're going to devote any space whatsoever to the stomach flu that circulated your family three times in February, or the outpatient surgery in May, or the miscarriage in August. Unless we're truly in need and need to ask our friends for help, we write Christmas letters to a.) share the highlights of the year, b.) to let our friends know that we're doing well and our families are growing up, and, if we're lucky, c.) look funny and/or clever.

I think most people, however, are so nosy that they'd miss the letter.

At 12/03/2009 3:07 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

I can actually sympathize with the Grinch here. Sometimes I do read the letters from friends and I think, "wow, how do they do so much?" I never get anything done and it's really hard coming up with anything even entertaining for our own Christmas letter. (Here, let us share photos of our beautiful cats...)

But, in the end, I do actually enjoy hearing about people that I don't regularly stay in touch with. I say write the letter. I enjoy reading your blogs, so I can only imagine your letters are a treat, too. =)

Connie Willis has a short story about Christmas Letters that is freakin' hilarious. It starts out really normal but progresses into increasingly unlikely scenarios. (Sorry, can't cite it, but I think it was in Fire Watch)

At 12/03/2009 3:07 PM, Blogger Valerie Ipson said...

My one pet peeve with Christmas letters are the ones that say abstract things about their children--Susie is such a loving child...Bobby is such a joy to our family. Well, of course, they are, but just give me the facts...what has your family been up to this year. Other than that, write the letter!

At 12/03/2009 3:37 PM, Blogger Bethany Wiggins said...

The best part of receiving a Christmas card is reading the letter update on the past year of the sender's life. And, hello! You're a writer! Of course you need to do the letter! It'll be spectacular.

At 12/03/2009 3:47 PM, Blogger L.T. Elliot said...

I say write the letter. I enjoy hearing from friends and family and think it's a bit of old world charm the deserves to stick around.

At 12/03/2009 4:43 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

My mother got tired of those letters too. So for many years, she started a "spoof" Christmas letter that was from the "Pluperfects." They were hilarious!

I keep my Christmas letters short and highlight the craziness of my kids instead of their good grades or # of touchdowns.

At 12/04/2009 12:30 AM, Anonymous mean aunt said...

If you can't rejoice in your friends' triumphs (or are hoping they are miserable), what kind of friend are you?

At 12/04/2009 11:40 AM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Anon, your comment was so beautiful and insightful. Thank you. It's one I'll keep in mind for a long time to come.

Stephanie, that's a great idea for decorating your door. I think I'm going to try that one!

Annette, I'll definitely try not to be braggy. ;)

Jordan, you're right and I hope I have a little bit of c) in my letters.

Jon, thank you for saying you enjoy reading my blogs. I needed to hear that today. And I would totally include a picture of my cat if I were you. I don't know why I didn't think of it for my own letters before now. :)

Valerie, I totally agree with you. I wanna hear details!

Bethany, thanks! I think fun writing, like Christmas letters, is the best kind.

L.T. I agree. Pretty soon we'll all just get Christmas emails. Which won't be bad, necessarily, but there's just something about getting a card in the mailbox that I love at Christmastime.

Heather B., just the name "Pluperfects," sounds hilarious! What a fun idea.

Mean aunt, I totally agree. We need more rejoicing together as friends.

Thank you all for your comments and opinions. My letters are all going out today! Merry Christmas!

At 12/07/2009 1:23 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

One last thing: just noticed that this week, the Style Invitational is doing something fun and related to this post:

The contest is to come up with a short Christmas letter/missive from a past or fictional person, highlighting how THEY spent the last year.

Sounds like fun and right up the alley for the readers of this blog. =)

At 12/09/2009 2:26 PM, Blogger Danyelle Ferguson said...

I think it's a waste of postage to just send a card that's signed and says absolutely nothing about the family. Sure, I like the Christmas wishes, but I'd much rather hear what's going on in their life than just see a signature at the bottom of a Christmas card.

Write the letter! =)


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