With only a couple of weeks to go before Christmas is here, we’re right on schedule to start sending out our Christmas or holiday cards. But while as a writer you might like the idea of sending out a written update, you might not know how to do so without coming across as braggy and obnoxious.
Sure, you could send a long letter detailing your family’s grievances for the year as well as your successes (and I have cousins who do this), but probably you want something that comes across in a positive light and still seems down to earth. Here are some ideas for how to engage your readers without making them want to throw your letter in their holly, jolly fireplace.
Be a Comic
Portray your family members’ adventures in comic strips that can fit on one page or so. Between the drawings and the speech bubbles, you’ll have the liberty to show some nuance in your experiences while being creative and entertaining rather than boastful or depressing.
If you’re an illustrator, you can draw cartoon figures that may or may not look like people (think Hyperbole and a Half). If your family is particularly into comics, you can portray different members of the family as superheroes or other comic-book characters. If you’re not an illustrator, you can use photographs and then add speech bubbles on top of the images using a computer program such as Adobe InDesign. If you want to, use a filter to make your pictures look like they were illustrated by hand.
Bring Out the Competition
You can talk about more than just you. Send out something that involves your friends and family members, and let them follow up with you. You can try a holiday bracket that lets readers figure out what their favorite Christmas song or movie of all time is. Or your bracket could list a variety of holiday treats that then has your friends figure out which treat they prefer most. If you send a letter like this out via email or social media, your friends and family members can easily tell you their results.
Mock the Genre
If you want to be a little more blatant in setting your letter apart from those that brag about all the great things their family members have done this year, send out a newsletter- or newspaper-style announcement that goes far over the top.
Is your sister fond of space? Announce that she’s just gone to the moon. Is your dad into politics? Claim that he’s about to unseat Santa Claus as president of the North Pole. Blow everyone’s accomplishments so far out of proportion that no one will ever outperform your powerhouse of a family.
You can also mix in real events—such as adopting a puppy or starting an exercise program—with the outlandish accomplishments for greater effect. You know, “Sally solved world hunger, brought eternal peace to the Middle East, and also managed to go to the gym a couple of times.”
Have Fun with Your Pictures
Be creative with your family pictures. Snap an awkward family photo, take an old-fashioned and super-serious shot, or poke fun at your life in your pictures. For example, one man I know was used to being bugged about getting married, so he sent out a Christmas card that showed him smiling and sitting on the arm of a plush chair. He clearly was sitting next to where his wife would have been if she had existed. Next to the picture was a festive signature that read, “Love, The Smiths.”
Just be careful not to confuse people with this idea. If you are tired of people harassing you about when you are going to have a baby, you shouldn’t show you and your partner with an invisible baby. People might interpret this as a pregnancy announcement.
Whatever you do for your holiday cards, have fun with them, and don’t be afraid to try something new. Your friends might just appreciate it.