Tis’ the season for lengthy, family newsletters from those who still participate in the annual Christmas card exchange. Often the letters include photos showing this accomplishment or that special day. Christmas cards are wonderful to receive, but the Christmas family letter is even more treasured.
I started the annual tradition of letters when the kids were very small. I have a folder with all the letters along with a detailed Christmas list of given/received and other traditions we observed that year. The letters now chronicle the kids’ interests and activities through the years. I’ve noticed the letter getting more difficult to write the last few years as the kids have started flying from the nest.
I wish Mom had written such a family letter. I’m sure she wrote long, detailed letters in her beautiful handwriting to friends and family. These letters perhaps still occupy the desks or card files of those she loves. What she did was far more personal than my tradition of writing one and copying for all. She would often labor hours over her Christmas cards.
I can see her sitting at the kitchen table or at her secretary desk handwriting newsy letters tailored for each friend or family. She loved to write of our accomplishments along with fond memories with the person to whom the card was addressed. I believe she truly loved this tradition of reconnecting with those who meant the most to her. I also know that she only gave the recipient two years to reciprocate or they were off her list. (For more on her Christmas card requirements, read here.)
Since social media connects us more immediately to each other, I have noticed fewer letters full of news in my mailbox this year. In fact, I have noticed a decline in snail mail Christmas cards overall. I miss it. Each year I pledge to send my letter before the season gets too hectic with concerts and other responsibilities. Each year, that timeline gets moved back – New Year’s, Valentine’s, or even St. Patrick’s Day.
The last two years have been particularly difficult for me to write. I wrote a letter, but I didn’t send it. The upbeat, fun news of the family was hard to come by. Although nothing truly traumatic had happened, life seemed to have stalled. There were more struggles than accomplishments. For some reason, I feel letters to friends – even those friends who were once very close – have to be filled with happy news and not the hard things.
Perhaps it is only my perception, but social media, too, seems to be filled with mostly good news. I see lots of pictures of the latest amazing vacation or the latest accolades. While I appreciate the good things happening in others’ lives, I wonder what else is going on. I have very precious friends who are transparent and share their difficulties to let others know of their need for prayer or encouragement.
In the few letters I’ve found, Mom seems to have been well balanced. The sharing of great things was often tempered with this or that particularly difficult situation. Perhaps, because she was writing to one person in particular and not a group of friends, she could be more honest and straightforward. She didn’t only write about the sunny times, but she also shared her heart about the gray days. Her honesty seems both unusual and refreshing now.
We’re told to “carry each other’s burden” in Galatians 6:2. While we are in this season of celebration and looking to the new year, let’s resolve to a life of balance: sharing burdens and joys alike.