Among the chief smells of the holiday season, warm, crackling spices folded into baking, roasting and soups rise to mind. But next to a fresh Christmas tree and my dad’s crockpot apple cider, I also think of scotch tape.
Scotch tape forms the Tetris scaffolding of names and faces we love on my family’s fridge, the right side covered in holiday cards of names and faces we love — and some I don’t know. Many of the kids I’ve seen grow up over the years I’ve only seen through glossy photo collages sent by their parents, friends of my parents from grad school and old jobs and churches. But we still stick the pictures on our fridge and decorate it with almost as much diligence as our tree.
December means an influx of mail and a ticking clock to send out our own.
I started writing our family’s letter a few years ago when I was still in college. I think it was out of trying to relieve some of my mom’s stress but now, as our house’s editor-in-chief, I’m often the cause of her stress and on the verge of being fired. Still, it is a unique way I get to contribute to our family’s holiday traditions and to our family in general.
I know which holiday letters are my favorites to anticipate reading: the one from the family of three who always hide an Easter egg prank in their brief update; the long, hilarious letter from the family of five kids, always written by their dad; and the red and gold cards my mom receives handwritten from cousins in Hong Kong. I can’t read those.
But since usually it’s a mom or dad issuing the annual statement of who’s at what college and who is what-and-a-half years old, it’s a fun honor to be the herald saying, “My brother is now at this college and I am now what-and-a-half years old.”
My family has always valued long friendships, but I don’t think I’ve gotten to appreciate that value as more than normal until now. Here in my early twenties, this is probably the first time I get a chance to do so, with more friendships in my life having the better portion of my life under their belts.
People look at me weird, in a good way, when I bring up that I’m going to see my kindergarten best friend. There’s a sibling/cousin sort of comfort that comes from returning to an old church or group where things have changed; it means a new chance to more truly and personally know people I’ve known my whole life.
I didn’t realize how unique it could be to get to share in the successes, the victories and also the sorrows and times filled with waiting with so many families for decades. I won’t be stranded relationships-wise if I don’t write and send our family’s Christmas letter, but it’s more than an annual report. It’s a continual ping in the midst of changing tides, a consistent “I’m here” with a stamp in a time of text read receipts.
I didn’t realize how unique it could be to get to share in the successes, the victories and also the sorrows and times filled with waiting with so many families for decades.
My favorite holiday tradition is really just that it’s a season meant to be unlike any else, a time to give thanks reflecting on the past and to resolve what we want for the future. As I think about how to start my own family someday, I don’t think much about who will write the letter or whose side of that family we’ll visit on Christmas Eve and Day.
But I do think about how I want to add to my family in the present, living at home and beginning my career, and that means writing a letter.
Do you or your family write an annual holiday letter? What are your feelings about receiving one?
Images via Amanda Nolan Booker