Sharing the Holidays Through Christmas Letters

Central Park, Manhattan

My wife’s family lives in South Carolina, mine lives in Tennessee, and we live in New York. We don’t get to see either side as often as we’d like, though we fly south when we get the chance.

The holidays are a problem.

We want to see both families, so we try to divide and conquer. We spend Thanksgiving with one side, and Christmas with the other.

Both families want us for Christmas, though, so we alternate years. Last year was Christmas with her family, and this year we’ll be with mine. It’s the best we can do, but it’s far from perfect – one family always misses out on Christmas morning.

We make phone calls and send gifts, but what really helps is the Christmas letter. When we mail our Christmas cards, we enclose a 1-2 page letter describing highlights from the past year, along with a couple of photos and funny stories.

Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. The holidays are a time for storytelling and reflection, and these letters help our friends and family feel more connected to us.

Even if you don’t have time to write a letter, you can send a photo card with a personalized message. Family photos are great, but pictures with a story behind them can be even better. Find a way to let loved ones into your life this Christmas, even if you can’t be with them in person.

Do you send an annual Christmas letter?

Photo credit: Jon Nicholls

My (New) Thanksgiving Tradition

Not-So-Festive Thanksgiving Table Setting

Whether your traditions are old or new, there is always room for people. Growing up in a military family we never spent the holidays in the same place. No matter who hosted us, however, my fondest memory is trying to fit everyone around the holiday table.

As an adult living la vie Boehme in New York City, most people eat their holiday meals in studio apartments on couches or even the floor. This was an appalling adjustment for me. It didn’t seem fair.

So, being resourceful (as an NYC transplant must be), I made the best decision of my life: I bought a dining table and insisted on hosting Thanksgiving dinner each year.

My table is magical.

The first time someone comes into my home for a holiday they see the table, the china, the candles, the servingware, and they usually gasp with delight and say, “Wow, you have a TABLE? It’s just like going home!” Somehow, a carefully set table with a dozen or more places, a clever centerpiece, and a 23-pound turkey make us all feel comforted and happy.

My old tradition of jostling family members for the best seats at the family table has transitioned into my new tradition: making the community of family-less Bohemians of New York City feel warm, welcome, and at home for the holidays.

I’m sure I’ll continue tweaking my traditions to fit into my chaotic life, but one thing will always remain constant: Thanksgiving is about connecting with people, and my beautiful table helps us NYC Bohemians celebrate the holidays as we were meant to do: with family.

What is your Thanksgiving tradition? Have you been to the same seat at the same table for the last 30 years? Or are you a nomad like me? Do you spend your Thanksgivings watching football, or do you rest in preparation for Black Friday shopping?

Image credit: BFS Man