Monday, December 13, 2010
After months of planning, agonizing and editing, our holiday cards are on their way. This is no small undertaking, as I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert on the holiday letter and hold myself to a rather high standard. Unfortunately, I hold everyone else to that high standard as well.
But I am not alone in my judgmental joy. My BFF, Jennifer, and I love reviewing them so much, we save our favorites, for better or worse, to read to each other for comic relief as the stress of the holidays closes in.
To ensure you always end up on our “nice” list, we have some pointers that are guaranteed to make you the hit of the mailbox every year.
No. 1? Do not be The Bragger. There is a fine line between “We could not believe Abbi was accepted to Harvard” and “We have always assumed, and now we have proof from Harvard, that Abbi is smarter than all of your children combined.”
Similarly, one need not detail one’s achievements in the business world unless one is using one’s holiday letter as one’s résumé. For nobody wants to read: “Nathan designed and developed a Component Interface to load/update all Customer entity data into a highly customized PS Customer General component, earning him a raise that quadrupled his current six-figure base salary. Like Abbi, he is much smarter than your children. And better looking, too.”
And please temper personal accomplishments with humility. This is a holiday letter, not your Facebook page. “Nicholas had a busy year, winning both the Tour de France and ‘American Idol’ while you were likely sitting on your sofa eating Rotel dip. What’s that, Abbi? Oh, yes. In your face.”
The only thing worse than The Bragger is The Downer. The Downer is like the lovechild of Scrooge and the Grinch, stealing Christmas with irreparable depression; from the opening line, “Well, another year gone by and no one remembered my birthday,” to the closing, “Enjoy your holiday, and please come visit me and my cats sometime since my own children never do,” the letter is one long cry for help.
The Downer is a close relative of The Detailer. This person relishes in writing the holiday letter, usually a minimum of two pages long and often resembling a medical journal upon its completion, “… so we’ll see if the gluten-free diet works. If not, I don’t know how we’re all going to drive cross-country with Noah this summer. I guess we’ll just keep the windows down.”
Whatever your style, take comfort in knowing that with 11 kids and four dogs between us (mostly hers), Jennifer and I never (OK, rarely) critique the holiday card photo and hope you will extend the same courtesy to us, as this year’s shots illustrate why no Midwestern family photo should ever be taken outdoors on the hottest day in July. Season’s greetings, happy holidays and hang in there — only 12 more days to go!
— Julie Dunlap can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.