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Oh No! The Generic Family Holiday Christmas Letters are Coming! (Part 2)

December 18, 2008

(Continued from previous post)

Honestly, the generic Family Holiday Newsletter we received from this particular family looks more like a resume than anything having to do with Christmas or holidays or good cheer. It’s about the yacht club, sailboat racing, jewelry making, the soccer trophies, academic awards, and more career achievements and accolades. It is quite obnoxious. It’s not that I mind reading about the good fortune of my close friends and relatives. What bothers me is the subtle superiority and condescending tone that they take. I want to write a form letter back to them that says,

“Thank you for your application. Unfortunately, we have found another family who was better suited to meet our interests this holiday season. We wish you the best in your future endeavors.”

It baffles me why people have to pretend how great their lives are, like they are in some kind of competition. It’s like my relatives are hoping that everyone will read their letter, judge their lives to be worthy and allow their family to continue on for another year.

I’d rather see a letter that talks about what a tough year they’ve had, right alongside the good news, where they honestly face up to the difficulties of their life and ask for our support and prayers. Because no one is immune from suffering. People may be good at hiding it, but like my mom says, “Everyone Has Problems.” When you dig in a little bit, when you look behind the picture-perfect image, you will inevitably find cracks in the glass.

But the smug authors of this atrocious Christmas letter just can’t stop themselves from promoting a prideful and attention-seeking “Our lives are better than yours” message. They are oblivious, and surely will strike again next year. I’m fuming over their shallow arrogance, their artificial insincerity. I need to do something about this.

I want to teach these people a lesson.

“I’m going to write a letter even worse than theirs, more obnoxious and show-offy, and send it to them!” I say to my wife, Beth. “They think they’ve had a good year? Well they ain’t seen nothing yet. Our Holiday Letter will make them froth with envy. They’ll want to go out and kill themselves after they see our letter.”

“No, don’t do that” says Beth, calmly, sensibly. “You’ll just be stooping to their level.”

“But how else will they ever get the message until they see a letter that is even more ridiculous than theirs? If they want to be so competitive, then let the games begin. We have a lot more achievements than they have.” I begin recounting the various awards, achievements and victories that could fill our letter. I am drunk on the prospects of our Holiday Letter. Beth talks me down.

“It won’t lead to any good. If you’re so upset by it, why don’t you just call them and tell them to take us off their mailing list?”

Speak to them directly? I am offended. I would never dare to be so direct and forthright. Why, that might hurt their feelings! I’d much rather whine about their behavior behind their backs.

The calls start coming in from family members who are also on the mailing list, each one at first feigns a carefree detachment. After a few obligatory preliminaries, it comes out: “Did you see the letter?” they ask, licking their lips, barely able to contain their loathsome delight. “Wasn’t it horrible?” And so this goes on for several days, until we all work it out of our system.

Well, this year, after much prayer and consideration (not really), I finally did something about it. Instead of writing a self-promoting holiday letter proclaiming the greatness of my family’s life, I thought it would be a good idea to do the opposite. Send a letter of the lowlights from our life the year past. You know, just be really genuine about all the annoying, depressing, irritating things that happened over the year. I figure we’re all in the same boat, most of us. Raising kids alone throws a wrench into our peace and free time. Then add a demanding job, financial pressures, family tensions, mood swings, aging, your spouse’s job, health issues, and, well, that to me smells more like a normal family’s life. Kind of an anti-self-promotional Holiday letter.

That will show them.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. December 18, 2008 10:02 pm

    this must be SOME letter!

  2. KarenDV permalink
    December 18, 2008 10:03 pm

    We did that once, sending out a holiday letter not with the lowlights, but just describing our normal, everyday existence. Kind of like Bert on Sesame Street — plain oatmeal and pigeons, thanks. Most people got the joke.

    On the flip side of things, an annual feature of the Kathy and Judy Show on WGN Radio in Chicago is “Merry Medical Christmas,” during which they read holiday letters that overemphasize personal problems in excruciating detail — made humorous by the insertion of cheery Christmas music immediately uttering the word “colonoscopy” or some other vivid term you don’t want to visualize in regards to your Aunt Hattie. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine to listen each year online, and it might be a good antidote to your frustration.

  3. December 19, 2008 10:48 am

    I hate the exaggerated claims in family letters.

    How about, “Uncle Bob is still drinking. And John cant find work because he’s too comfortable on our couch watching SportsCenter. Little Billy still fights bed-wetting and Lisa pouts all the time.”

    That would be more realistic.

  4. December 19, 2008 6:59 pm

    Brad, I am loving this series of posts. With my generation, photobucket picture cards seem to have solved the problem. We get mostly glossy photos of people’s kids looking cute. (And we send one too.)

    My father in law sends a sarcastic New Year’s Family update though. It’s pretty funny.

  5. shrinkingthecamel permalink*
    December 20, 2008 10:04 am

    Merry Medical Christmas? I like that one.
    I have actually had a couple people email me asking if I would set up a website to post “The Worst Holiday Letters Ever.” Apparently there is quite a backlash in America these days around obnoxious Holiday Letters, and people need a place to vent. A “Hall of Shame” of sorts.

    Maybe next year!

  6. Rebecca permalink
    November 26, 2009 10:37 pm

    It’s nice to receive letters from people and getting to catch up on what’s been going on in their lives. But, it shouldn’t be all bragging about how good their life supposedly is. It’s not a time to say, “Hey, look what I did this yr. Look at all my accomplishments. Look how great my kids are.” It should be a time to just update everyone on how you and your family are doing and what’s been going on…realistically.
    It’s stupid that people think they need to brag about all the things they’ve done rather then just being realistic about what’s gone on in their lives. There’s no need to just focus on all the great things, acting as if nothing bad ever happens to you. It just makes everyone else dislike your letters because of all the bragging…that’s just no way to be, bragging all the time. So what if you did achieve a lot or go on an awesome vacation, so what if your kids did great things, that doesn’t make you any better then anyone else. There’s no need to take on a tone in your letters as if that does.
    Sure, all the great things can be included, but be serious and if something bad happened, be real about it and include it along with the good. Don’t take a bragging tone or a tone of showing off. Just be real and send a real update. No one wants a letter of bragging, I know I sure don’t.

  7. November 27, 2009 8:32 am

    Thanks for linking to this post.
    We do not send out a Christmas letter, and only receive one, and it’s pretty balanced.
    I agree with all of your observations, and know that the saddest of them would go in the trash unread. Saddest meaning fake of course.
    And , give Beth a hug for me. Without actually touching her unless you ask first.

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