Noel Newsletters: Are typed recaps of your family’s year appropriate?

Q: I have noticed that more and more people are sending lengthy family ‘newsletters’ in Christmas cards. I have even seen these suggested in magazines as a way to keep people informed. I have always included a handwritten note to those with whom I exchange cards and rarely communicate with otherwise. What is the proper form of written communication in this case?

A: There really are no rules, and some people take this time to type, copy and insert in their cards a lengthy recap of the year. This is all right, as long as their letters are not gloomy or depressing. A hand written note is of course always thoughtful and appreciated, but it is your choice.


  1. Diane

    I submitted a request for time off in writing to my employer, and have never heard one way or the other. Is it my responsibility to contact them again to find out? I do not know if I just take the time without asking again or not.

    Thank you.

    • Go ahead and follow-up with a quick email or drop by in-person. “Good morning,Boss. I just wanted to check on the status of my request for time off so I can better schedule my work load.”

      • Jody

        Diane, I don’t know how your office normally operates with respect to leave requests but I think Just Laura’s suggestion is a good one. I would definitely ask your employer about the leave request, especially if you need to make travel arrangements.

        I know that my office normally issues an email approving (or not) the leave request. For popular times of year (such as Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s) they issue an email at one point that says “please do not make any nonrefundable travel arrangements unless you have approval in writing” because so many people want the same time off.

  2. Joanna

    Everyone’s mileage will vary, of course, but IMO those “family newsletters” have always struck me as rather boastful. As a child I had a great-aunt in another state, whom I had never actually met in person, but every year without fail we’d get the holiday card with her month-by-month recap. She would always write things like, “In January, I received (yet another) honorary doctorate from Prestigious University; then in February, we spent several weeks doing volunteer work in India with AIDS orphans…” and so on.

    Of course, everyone attached to Auntie was also extraordinary, including her toddler grandson… “In January, Little Johnny recited the Gettysburg Address from memory…what a thrill, considering he’s only six months old!”

    IMO, if the person you’re sending a card to is close enough, but you’ve simply not been in touch for some time, take a few moments to send a personal note updating them about the highlights of the past months. If the person is NOT all that close, such as Auntie with my family, either just send a card with a little typical sentiment, or else skip the card altogether.

    • Alicia

      Love the newsletters they are a bit like a summary of the persons facebook posts for the last year. So much better then not hearing anything for years from someone except Happy Holidays. The only awful one was some friends of my parents always send a poem newsletter. The year this woman lost her mom and they put the death into a poem of iambic pentameter well our family both felt sad for her loss and laughed at how inappropriate it was to this day that awful poem is mentioned every year.

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      You are right that Christmas letters should not be a vehicle for bragging. Unfortunately it seems like most people who write Christmas letters cannot resist the temptation.

  3. Winifred Rosenburg

    While we’re on the subject of holiday correspondence, is there a right way to address Christmas cards? Is it better to write “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith” or “John and Jane Smith”? In the past I’d always used the former, but I’m wondering if I’m being too formal.

    • Alicia

      Either is fine. Depends on the formality you like. I’m about halfway through doing my holiday cards and family and friends I say either John and Jane Smith or The Smith Family but for work and professional contacts I write Mr and Dr Smith.

  4. Roy

    This year I received not one, not two but 4 holiday newsletters that seemed to have the sole purpose of enumerating the senders family’s health maladies for the year. These were not appreciated. If you are on familiar enough terms with someone that you feel the need to share a health crisis, please share it with them in another medium other than the broadly distributed holiday newsletter. Those that know you on a more casual basis really dont need to know. It seems that folks seem to think that everyone they know needs to know every detail of their lives. Trust me, they do not.

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