Ye Olde Gag and Brag

THE GAG – I distinctly remember a Christmas card, sent by one of my parents’ friends with a photo on the front showing a film noir delivery room scene, complete with a masked doctor, gore and a screaming infant. My sisters and I google-eyed that one until my mother snatched it away. Our Aunt Elizabeth was a champion with the Christmas letter gross-out. She wrote two full sheets, single-spaced and neatly stapled, filled with nasty accounts of surgery horrors followed by long-winded descriptions of her heroic recuperation. We knew way too much about Aunt Elizabeth making visits a little awkward.

THE BRAG – Some people are blessed with “Golden” children. These children may live among our average children, but their parents make it very clear that they are on a higher plane.  They accomplish amazing feats of greatness, as they lead their sports teams to victory and inspire their classmates with their benevolent presence.  They speak in full sentences from the crib.  “Hello Dear Mother, I believe I may have soiled my pants, but if you would be so kind as to change me, I will then read this college-level book and bring you glory as I gain admission to Harvard by the time I am four.” You know what I’m talking about.

It is possible to write an interesting year-end letter without inflicting emotional or physical pain upon your family and friends. Here are some tips:

  1. Don’t say anything about physical ailments. The people who care already know about it. Really.
  2. Quotes.  Throughout the year, I write down the funny things my kids say and then pick from the list.  Important note – just because it was funny then doesn’t mean it will be funny now.  Be choosy.
  3. Highlights of the year will do. Don’t share everything you did. You run the risk being labeled an overachiever.  I usually ask my kids for their favorite memory of the year. If it was the hole they dug in the yard – so be it.
  4. Let a kid tell about a vacation from his perspective.  For example, the only thing my little sister remembers from our family’s trip to Europe was the inside of the car.  By using her description of Europe, the readers  would still know that our whole family went to Europe, but the “look how cool we are” factor is gone.
  5. Keep it humble – your kid may actually be THAT great, but the rest of us are losers, OK?
  6. Lastly, include a picture of your WHOLE family, not just the kids.  We send Christmas cards to homes where we have a relationship with the adults in that home. Be honest about this – don’t you feel a little gipped when you get a picture of just kids?  I did this for a few years until I got this polite comment from one of my friends,  “Cute kids, but where are the parents?” She was brave enough to say what we all think.
  7. Single page, one side, leave some white space, 12 point font – no exceptions!

If you follow these seven simple rules, you will have a Christmas letter that people will read…maybe.