Annual Christmas Newsletter is our Family Journal


How many of us have received yearly Christmas newsletters from friends and family? Some have great news

and info on what is going on with their family. There are some that are too short and you walk away wondering, ‘What in the world did they do?’ I have also received some that are pages long with pictures, a huge expense and frankly, just too much information.

Our family has been doing a family Christmas newsletter since 1998. My motive was pretty self-fish at first as I wanted to start recording a type of family journal that would be kept forever. If family and friends enjoyed it, that was an added bonus.

I don’t email this, I send it U.S. Mail with our Christmas cards, as it should be. No e-newsletters or e-greeting from our family. It is nice to receive cards in the U.S. Mail, maybe I am old-fashioned but it is still fun to receive mail. If you really don’t want to mail it physically, or think some recipients would appreciate electronic-only, you can always use a festive template to type the letter in. Then insert pictures, etc. directly in the letter, and finally convert it to a PDF and attach it to an email. This makes it much more like a physical snail-mail letter, and those who receive it can even print it exactly as you prepared it if they want a physical copy. This lets the recipient decide.

I print the newsletter on fun Christmas paper that you can get at any office supply store and have some fun with the fonts a bit. Just be careful to not go so crazy with the fonts that it isn’t readable and don’t go too small in size. After each year, I place a copy of the Christmas newsletter in an acid-free plastic protector and place in a binder. Instant Holmes Family History Book. I also have an electronic copy of it on my computer and copy/paste it into my electronic journal each year. This way I ensure that for generations to come, there will be a recorded history of our family.

Some Guidelines

When you are writing your newsletter keep it to no more then one page, printed on both sides if needed. Ask yourself ‘one column or two?’ Don’t forget the date at the top and sign the bottom. If you are going to include a family picture, have it printed separately on a 4×6 photo paper and insert it. I usually include a Christmas card, the newsletter, (folded in thirds and then in half again), and a 4×6 picture. Keep an eye on weight for postage. I can get all that under the current postage with the regular size card. Some families just include the newsletter, folded in thirds, and a long picture about 4×8 and stuff in an envelope. Experiment what works and have your family members help stuff, label and mail them.

Remembering The Past

Now as you are writing your newsletter you might have writers block and can’t remember one thing you did during the past year. It is amazing how during the event you thought you would never forget and now you are trying to write about it and you have blank. Here are some suggestions to trigger your memory:

  • Calendars: go through your family and personal calendars, electronic or paper.
  • Cameras: with digital cameras it is so much easier and faster to go through pictures. Go through your pictures since Jan 1 and see what you did, vacations, weddings, funerals or award ceremonies.
  • Journals: do you write in a journal? Does anyone else in your family? Go through journals and ask your family to go through their own.
  • Emails: we all send certain emails that have a ton of news in them.  Search your ‘Sent Mail’ box for keywords, or friends and family you were likely to send news to. Also, when you know you’ve sent some family news, put it in a folder in your inbox titled “journal” or something, or give it a label (Gmail) with the same name. They’re great for remembering stuff for the family Christmas letter, but you can also print them for your journal or copy/paste them into your electronic journal.

Do’s and Don’ts

Don’t include things like this in your newsletter: “On May 4th, we boarded a train for San Francisco. We arrived the following day with a big breakfast on the train and we had waffles with fruit and whip cream.” That might be great for a journal entry but not for the newsletter. If in doubt, have a friend proof read it before sending out. Once again: keep it to one page, double sided. Truly anymore than that is just too much and it can weigh down your card and add extra postage. I usually have one paragraph for each family member and one paragraph for family events. We talk about the ups and downs but keep it positive throughout the newsletter and always end on a positive note. We close each newsletter with our family information including each of our email addresses and mailing address (in case it needs to be updated). No need to add your Twitter, Facebook and MySpace info. Email is good enough. Too much information can be overwhelming for some. Have a deadline to mail the first week in December, then if “life happens” you still have time to mail it out the following week. Bottom line is to make it fun.

These were just a few guidelines to get you started. If you’re an empty-nester, talk about the grandkids, missions, vacations and accomplishments, like going back to school. If you are single, did you just return from your mission, did you finally go on that big trip you have been planning? How about any promotions at work? Or did you finally get your PhD? The ideas are endless. Just spend a bit of time brainstorming and jotting down ideas. They don’t all have to be used, just brainstorm.

What do you or your family do to make a record of the events?

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