Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

To write or not to write & insights on holiday letters November 29, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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A holiday greeting sent to friends by Faribault founder Alexander Faribault. The vintage card was displayed at a 2017 holiday open house at the home of Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo December 2017, photo edited.


DO YOU WRITE AND SNAIL MAIL a Christmas letter? Or is this mostly a Minnesota thing?

Last week I sat down at the computer to compose the annual letter I will send to 100 family members and friends. Some I haven’t seen in years. Others I see often. No matter who they are, at some point in my life, we connected and they remain important to me.

Giving and receiving letters and cards ranks as one of my favorite aspects of the holiday season. I appreciate the updates, the photos, yes, even of people I no longer recognize. We grow older, greyer, wider… But it is that advancing of age that makes me realize even more the importance of this annual correspondence. Sure, we have email and Facebook (which I’m not on) and texting and so many other ways to communicate. But there’s something to be said for a card I can hold in my hands, a photo I can stick on my refrigerator, a letter on paper that I can read and reread.

Simply put, I value the old school way of communicating with one another at Christmas. It takes time and effort to compose a letter, to wrangle a photo, to sign a card, to address an envelope. That invested time shows care. Tangible love and care. On paper.

Right about now I can hear the but Audrey protests. But Audrey, sending cards adds to the stress of an already hectic season. There’s not enough time and this is one thing I can cut out. You’re right. You can. And it’s your choice.

For me, though, the annual rite of writing a family letter continues. I’ve reduced that letter from two pages to one, recognizing shorter attention spans. I hit the highlights of 2018, although much of the bad never makes print. No one wants to read every detail of the challenges in your life. Or maybe they do. But I prefer not to share difficulties that fuel gossip and here’s what you should do reactions from those who think they have all the answers. As if all of us have ideal lives where nothing but good prevails.

These annual letters are, in many ways, carefully crafted news releases. We choose to put a primarily positive spin on the content, exercising restraint in delivery of anything negative. As long as we understand the PR perspective, we can read between the lines of those happy family vacations, those stellar accomplishments, those above average toddlers…

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


20 Responses to “To write or not to write & insights on holiday letters”

  1. I already have my cards and the letter is being thought about. Good grief—it isn’t even December yet so we are ahead of the game! Several years when time was tight I even waited till late January to send them—it made me so happy to not be stressed out about getting them out with an already tight schedule and I think folks liked getting them later when they could actually read and enjoy them. I agree that we hit the highlights and try to stay away from the bad news but then that is how I like to live life. Positively and not dwelling on the icky stuff. Makes for a happier life in so many ways. Can’t wait to get yours this year and I know that the family pic will be lovely.

  2. I love sending and receiving the Christmas cards–I’m making them myself this year, which has become a new hobby. I love the yearly letters and getting updates on everyone (even though most are on Facebook). I’m not sure how much longer the tradition will last, but it brings family and friends closer in spirit (if not in person) for the holidays.

  3. I have shorten the list over the years, however; I do send out Holiday cards. I also keep the box of cards at hand just in case I get that one card from someone that I want to send one back to. That reminds me I need to get stamps. I also need to get the energy to decorate sooner than later too. With mister man’s crazy work schedule of 50 to 70 hour work weeks and traveling up to 75% right now as well as my work schedule of 40 to 45 hours a week we are a bit nutso this time of the year. This is the first time in almost ten years that I am not prepping for a Legislative session and excited to have some freedom this Holiday season. I have actually taken time off twice now from work and lucky if I did that once a year. Think slow and simple, simple and sloooooowwwww – ha! Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  4. Neil Says:

    The letters are much preferred! It’s good to get an update, even if it’s brief, especially from those that we don’t hear from very often. If the cards were to go the way of the dinosaur, I wouldn’t miss them at all. Other than a nice gesture, a Christmas card with no note or letter means very little to me.

  5. Jackie Says:

    I LOVE receiving Christmas cards and letters, and I equally love to send the same. I feel like I am running behind this year as I haven’t even ordered my card…and then there’s the letter. It will happen, it always does! I only do 50, half of what you do.

  6. treadlemusic Says:

    Tom is just putting the finishing touches on our annual letter. The photo cards were ordered and received some time ago and are at the ready. We do print many, also, but know that each will contain a personal signature and note pertinent to only that recipient…..And, oh yes, they will have had the (literal) “personal touch” that an E-card cannot possibly have. Life is full of choices and we are very willing to spend some moments on this annual creation to stay in touch.

  7. Colleen Hondl Gengler Says:

    I love receiving cards, so that means I need to send them out. I agree that most of us tend to put a positive spin on our letter, whether it is a personal one or one we send to everyone. Maybe that’s okay. I was kind of appalled one year to read about a person’s bout with some kind of intestinal disorder following travel. Too much information! Like you, I also try to keep the letter to one page or less. I write it and then let it “rest” for awhile. I try for some self-deprecating humor some years, but that doesn’t always work. I try to give people some flavor of what our year has been. My list is definitely a combination of those I see often and those I don’t. It’s a means to stay connected.

  8. Littlesundog Says:

    I send a long letter every year, complete with photos, all done on the computer. We send both email letters (converted to PDF due to the many photos) and snail mail letters. I have a spreadsheet to keep track of who gets email and who gets snail mail. I enjoy putting the informational letter together and I have never kept it to a page or two. How can one define, even in small print, the events of a year of life in one page of typing? My letters contain everything – humor, joy, and even some of the more serious and sometimes sad aspects of our year. I appreciate that honesty when I hear from others.

    • I hear you. It is difficult to condense one year of life to a page. My letters used to be two pages.

      I bet your family and friends appreciate your letters. I didn’t mean that we should “hide” the challenges. They are part of life. It’s just that sometimes difficulties can’t/shouldn’t be shared. I know full well that people gossip and speculate and sometimes claim to have all the answers. Sometimes there’s no value in sharing, except with those you trust beyond any doubt.

      • Littlesundog Says:

        I quite agree with that… I have a one-track mind sometimes and didn’t consider that aspect. Along those lines, yes, some things are not for everyone to know. It wouldn’t do a bit of good!

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