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I Know I’m Over-Thinking This. Want to Help?

Evidently, I have Christmas cards on the brain these days.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about my slightly unhealthy obsession with getting the perfect Christmas card picture, but I’m afraid the neurosis doesn’t quite end there.

Once the perfect (or imperfect, as it were) photo has been taken and printed, the labels have been printed, and the stamps have been bought, it’s time to stuff the envelopes. Which brings me to a question I have never fully answered to my satisfaction: Should I include a Christmas letter? And by that I mean, of course, the mass-produced letter explaining what we’ve been up to in the last twelve months.

I’ve been a little surprised, as I’ve had this conversation with others in years past, that it seems to be a topic that brings out strong opinions. Some people love them, some people hate them, and I suspect I have members of both camps on my list. What to do?

Every year, my thoughts meander along the same general path:

I really, really, really (and, may I add, really) dislike writing these letters. It seems impossible to walk the line between too little and too much information. How do you brag on your kids without bragging on your kids? I start to feel weird about it, and I abandon the entire project.

Okay, so I won’t write a letter.

But I really love receiving these letters. When a Christmas card arrives with nothing but a signature, I feel let down. I mean, the Currier and Ives print on the front of the card is lovely, but what I really wanted to know is how your kid likes the third grade. Or, at least, I’d love to see a picture. I keep the cards we receive on a basket on the coffee table, and reading through the letters every year is one of my favorite parts of the season.

Fine. I’ll write a letter.

But a hand-written note would be so much more ideal. In this world of hyper-connectedness, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, do I really want to add to all the mass-produced, impersonal information?

Alright, no letter.

But I have two weeks to accomplish a to-do list that is seven miles long. I don’t have time to write a hand-written note. Neither do the people on my list, for that matter – they’ll understand me being pressed for time.

Okay, back to writing a letter.

See? I waffle like this every year. Most years, I’ve ended up on the side of going ahead with a mass letter, swayed in large part by my fondness for reading others’. I try to keep it short; I certainly don’t need to include every single thing that happened to us in the last year. Some years, I’ve gotten especially creative; most years, I haven’t. This year, in the spirit of keeping things fresh, I’ve asked my eleven-year-old son to consider writing the letter himself. He’s an excellent writer, and his eyes lit up at the suggestion until I reminded him he’d have to say something nice (publicly) about each of his brothers. Suddenly, the enthusiasm has waned.

But I’m still not entirely comfortable with the whole Christmas letter issue, as evidenced by the fact that I hash this through every single year. So, readers, let me toss the question out to you: Do you write a mass letter? Do you think they’re impersonal and obnoxious, or helpful and informative? Do you include a photo? Or do you forgo the whole Christmas card thing altogether? Please, weigh in and help me further indecisively paralyze myself with options.

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