I don’t always manage to get my Christmas mail out on time, and I’m generally pretty stressed out (trying to get the last form letters stuffed into the envelopes) until almost Christmas, so I don’t mind when some of the Christmas mail doesn’t arrive until around New Year’s. I don’t have time to read any of it until after Christmas anyway.
Once the stress is over with, I relax and enjoy all the mail stacked up under the tree. I love Christmas form letters, not just because I write them myself. I just love reading what everyone takes the trouble to write. Christmas form letters aren’t that popular in Germany. People here ask me if it is an American thing or especially popular in the U.S., but based on my experience, I would have to say maybe Anglo-Saxon, since we get wonderful Christmas form letters from England (from people we met when Franz used to accompany his school classes to Cornwall). I also hesitate to claim that Christmas form letters are popular in the U.S., because I have the feeling that people either love them or hate them, generally with equal intensity and passion.
I think it’s wonderful to hear from people once a year, no matter what they choose to write. Some write essays about ideas important to them. Some list the achievements of their children and grandchildren. Some write about everything they did the past year; others write about everything that blindsided them over the past 12 months. The only thing that makes Christmas form letters even better is accompanying photos. Although I understand the preference for only showcasing your beautiful children and grandchildren, I prefer pictures of the entire family, including my aging contemporaries. Christmas, as a once-in-a-year opportunity to renew connections, is not the time for self-consciousness about one’s justifiably aging yet beautiful-to-the-observer looks. Hey, at this point in life, we should be grateful to have made it this far and certainly have a right to our wrinkles, loose skin and/or extra pounds.
I start thinking about my Christmas form letter around the end of November and set myself December 10 as the latest possible date for sending them to the U.S. With any luck, this means that the cards with form letters are on their way by December 12-14. Then comes the hard and frustrating work, writing the Christmas form letter again, this time in German. Theoretically that should be easier than translating, but either way it is damned discouraging. Mark Twain was right about the German language. I have people I ask for help in correcting my efforts, but every year I seriously consider just sending everyone the English version. I give up on this idea of course when too many German recipients assure me they would never be able to get through the English-language letter.
Many young(er) friends, relatives, and acquaintances have pointed out that I shouldn’t be so technologically challenged and continue to send out dead-tree messages, that I could post a Christmas video on YouTube or on my blog for more personal greetings. This is of course correct, but such possibilities would have to be an addition, not a replacement for my Christmas form letters, since many recipients are much more technologically challenged than I am.
That reminds me of the very sensible WIBBOW (Would I be better off writing) advice from the kind writers I met in Oregon. So, back to writing.