Season Of Giving

Coming Soon To Your Mailbox, ‘Christmas Letters’

A sample of “Christmas letters” received over the years. Photo by Karen E. Livsey

Thanksgiving is finished but more holidays will be coming soon. One item that comes with the holidays and the end of the year is “Christmas letters.”

The exchange of greetings cards has evolved over the decades. Early cards could be postcards, the ones with a picture and greeting on the front and the address only on the back. Sometimes a short message was written over a part of the front picture.

The first decade of the 20th century saw a change so that a short message could be written on the back of the post card along with the address. Greeting cards became popular and allowed a more private and longer message to be written on the card.

In the past few decades, many people began to include a letter with the cards. These letters often gave the news of the family members and what had happened in the past year. As families and friends spread out through the country and even the world, it was a way to keep in touch. Reactions to these letters vary.

Some people really enjoy hearing all about a relative’s or friend’s activities through the year, as well, the accomplishments of the children and grandchildren. Some people receive letters and are secretly, either envious of the other family, or they have a feeling of superiority. Some writers have a great sense of humor as they write some of the crazier happenings of the year. These letters do keep friends and family connected. Today these letters may come through the U. S. Post Office or they appear in emails.

Many people receive at least a few of these letters. So what do you do with the ones you receive.

Do you share them with others in the family, maybe the younger generation, who may not receive one?

Do you read them, put them in the basket with all the cards, only to throw all away in the New Year?

If that is the case, one may want to rethink what to do with the letters, or the cards that have shorter notes on them.

As years go by, the saved letters will add up to a record of the family. They become a source for helping to remember names of grandchildren or great grandchildren before a visit with someone either in person, by telephone, or even on social media.

You may want to refer to them to be sure you remember which cousin is facing medical problems. From which college and what degree did cousin Sarah receive? Questions can be answered using these accumulated letters. Anyone interested in genealogy and family history will want to save these because they form a brief history of a family and of the time period in which they lived. Wouldn’t it be nice to find year-end summaries of our grandparents’ lives and times?

And one other thought. Do you send out a letter to friends and family? Do you keep a copy of each of your letters? Just like the letters you receive and save, your own letters can answer some questions over the years. What year was it that Billy broke his leg? When did the new neighbors move next door? And the many other “unforgettable” events and activities during the decades are recorded in the letters.


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