Love them or loathe them holiday newsletters are as traditional as Aunt Minnie's annual fruitcake.
In years gone by, a handwritten account of a family's year in review would be neatly tucked in with a Christmas card and it would be short and to the point. As times have changed, holiday newsletters were first photocopied, then typed on a word processor and printed out en masse, and now-a-days they are often simply e-mailed to friends and family.
An interesting compromise between the time-consuming newsletters of old and the lure of succumbing to e-mails – or worse yet, a link to your blog that you faithfully update all year – is to create a multimedia newsletter.
The whole family can participate with planning the layout, selecting the digital photos or even short videos to include on a CD. There are many Web sites with free templates and suggestions on how to personalize your project. Search the Internet to find the site that suits your needs for this project.
Some folks do prefer to do things in a more conventional way. Or, you may very well have friends and family who are computer shy, or simply prefer traditional holiday communications. It's easy enough to print out the text you write on festive paper and leave room for a personal note. You could also have your photographs printed and include them as well.
Your newsletter should be geared towards your reading audience. Take time to think about what they would be interested in learning about your family's events of the past year. Highlight positive things, such as a new baby, a new pet, a new job or your children's school activities. It's fine to include some information about sad things too, but try not to dwell on them. If a loved one has passed, a nice photograph of the person and a short mention of something special about his or her life are appropriate.
Find a way to have fun with your holiday newsletter. If it's amusing and light-hearted people will enjoy it so much more than a droll recitation of every event of the past year. Tell the story of your year from a different point of view, such as through the eyes of a young child, or even your family pet. Include some humorous stories, some harmless anecdotes and a few lines about vacations and any special plans for the new year.
While you have more room on a holiday CD, you'll want to keep your paper newsletter short; one page is usually the best length. Save a second page for pictures, drawings and personal handwritten notes. Since you'll most likely send your newsletter to family and to friends, you might want to consider creating two different versions. Your family version would contain more personal details and the one for friends and acquaintances would have a more general tone.
Read your letter aloud and listen to the tone of it, keeping an ear out for words that are repetitive and an eye out for misspellings. It never hurts to ask someone else to read it before you send it out as well. Another pair of eyes will catch things you may have missed. In fact, it would be a great idea to have your immediate family read it too. You might have written something that seems appropriate to you but would cause another embarrassment.
Whatever format you decide to use for your holiday newsletter, try to keep it cheerful and entertaining so that it is something the recipients will look forward to each year. Remember to keep a copy for your own records and list of whom you share it with to make things easy for years to come.
What I'm reading this week:
- "At Home" by Bill Bryson, 2010, Doubleday
- "The Night Bookmobile" by Audrey Niffenegger, 2010, Abrams
- "Miss Dimple Disappears" by Mignon E. Ballard, 2010, Minotaur Books
Look for these books at your local independent bookshops, your library or purchase online.