Creating the Family Christmas Letter

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

As the Christmas and holiday season is underway, people start receiving cards from friends and family wishing them well. These letters often include photos of the family and maybe a brief note giving an update on what has been happening over the past year.

Unfortunately the tradition of sending cards to friends and family has been fading in recent years. The advent of social media has allowed people to stay connected and share all sorts of family moments throughout the year. This can bring far-flung friends and family closer together.

However, the family Christmas letter provides several benefits for the families that write them beyond staying in touch with loved ones. The process of writing a letter encourages families to think about everything that has happened over the past year.

Remembering the past and putting it into chronological order is a skill many young children struggle to master. Parents can model how the process works for their children and encourage them to develop their own timeline of highlights that occurred during the year.

The task of creating their own timeline will be hard for children. One way to make it easier is for parents to use pictures that were taken over the year as visual reminders of events. The pictures will help children to remember what has happened and they can even be used to create a pictorial timeline of the year.

Going through pictures of the past year can also encourage families to organize the pictures and have them printed off or to create picture books. While taking pictures has never been easier, most are relegated to digital photo storage. It can be hard to take the time to have them developed. The process of writing a family Christmas letter creates a specific time each year devoted to catching up on family photos as well as reflecting on the past year.

The developed photos can then be used throughout the new year to create scrapbook pages or use for art projects. It is also possible to use digital photos to create picture books of the year. Children enjoy having picture books of the family that they can take down from a bookshelf and look to see how everyone has changed over the years.

Once everyone has developed their timelines for the major events of the year, the family can come together and decide on the events that will make the Christmas letter. This process encourages the family to talk with one another and reflect on everything that has happened.

The final part of the Christmas letter is printing it off and deciding who to send it to. Each family member can select family and friends who will receive the card. There is something about receiving a physical Christmas card that makes it more likely it will be read. Unlike the multitude of Facebook updates received during the year, the Christmas letter takes time to create and those who receive it will be more likely to read the card due to the extra time it took.

While writing a family Christmas letter takes some time, it is a good practice to get into. It serves as a way of connecting with family and documenting the family’s history. The process of writing allows for reflection on the year that has past. It also gives families a bit deeper connection with loved ones beyond texting and social networking sites. Take some time this holiday season and have your family write a letter.

This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Tuesday on November 29, 2016

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