How (and Why) to Write Compelling Holiday Letters

by Amber Lea Starfire on December 16, 2013

Aurora Borealis

‘Tis the season for sending holiday cards and letters. Personally, I love to receive these newsy letters from friends and relatives. Sure, they can be a little on the rosy side (who wants to write about life’s depressing details and send them out during the holidays for heaven’s sake!), but they display thoughtfulness and a desire to connect with me in a way that Hallmark cards with their “canned” sayings cannot. In my opinion, letters are a lovely, old-fashioned way to keep one another updated on life’s ups and downs and generalities — like a once-a-year Facebook post, on paper.

Over the years, I’ve heard people complain about holiday letters: “They’re trite,” “Their only purpose is to boast,” “Who wants to hear about little Johnny’s violin recital?” The main complaint is that they’re too shallow and don’t communicate anything meaningful. That may often be the case, but it doesn’t have to be.

This year, consider composing a holiday or New Year’s letter and sending it to those you love — a letter that shares at least one meaningful event that occurred this past year, as well as hopes and dreams for the future.

To help you get started, I offer the following writing prompts:

  1. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and let your mind rove over the events of the past year. What stands out? Did you make life-changing decisions or moves? Did you achieve a meaningful accomplishment? Did something unexpected happen?
  2. Make a list of the events that stand out and circle those that feel most important to you.
  3. Write about each of the events you circled:
    • Describe what happened. What was the context? Who else was involved?
    • Why was the event meaningful to you? What impact did it have on your life and the lives of those closest to you?
    • What did you learn?
    • In what ways did it change you?
  4. What dreams or desires do you have for the future, and how did these events affect those dreams?

Using what you’ve written, compose a letter. Go ahead: share emotions, share dreams, share a little of who you are and what your life is really like. You don’t have to write about only the positive events— just the meaningful ones.

Who knows, maybe you’ll start a trend. And maybe next year you’ll receive a letter like this from someone you care about.

Photo by Beverly & Pack

Previous post:

Next post: