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

Email vs. Snail Mail

Message to the mail man

When’s the last time you received actual mail?

Not a bill. Not an advertisement. Just a straight up piece of mail – bonus points if it was handwritten.

Can you even remember?

First class mail volume through the US Postal Service has declined over 50 percent in the last decade. Junk mail, just over 10 percent. In fact, advertising mail outstripped first class post by over 15% in 2012.

Even with shrinking numbers, the US Postal Service still processes an average of 528 million pieces of mail each day.

When was the last time you got an email? Or is a better question, how many emails do you get each day? Estimates vary on the number of emails sent each day, but the low end is 144 billion.

Even if you can’t remember when you last got personal mail by post, you probably remember what you do still receive. A birthday card from Mom, a sympathy card from a friend, a get well card from your aunt… You get the picture.

As for email, it’s easy to get lost in all the digital noise of our busy world. Facebook notifications, text messages, and work email after hours add up. An iPhone dings in a crowd and everyone dives for their pocket to see what new communiqué awaits them.

Digital communication is great! It’s efficient, inexpensive, and convenient. But it’s also common.

Junk mail flyers go straight into the recycle bin, but real mail simply carries more weight than email. A physical paper card has more impact than an e-card. Even if you save an e-card in your inbox, what’s the chance you’ll look at it again? I’ve never seen suggestions for attractively displaying e-cards for the holidays.

Make your communication meaningful. Don’t add to the noise, cut through it with something concrete. Whether it’s a birthday celebration or an expression of genuine sympathy, seasonal greetings, or a congratulatory note, people appreciate the extra time, energy, and thought that go in to sending a real card.

When is the last time you sent real mail?

Photo credit: gajman

Disconnect With A Digital Detox

Think about your day thus far: how many minutes have you spent using electronic devices? And how many minutes have you spent talking with people face-to-face?

Technology is great for creating a business and exchanging information with people around the globe, but it’s not much help in the way of nurturing the relationships that you already have. In his TED talk (above), Simon Sinek explains that humans are social beings and, because of this, the most successful at survival over the centuries.

Personalized interactions create relationships that thrive. Talking to a friend in person, chatting on the phone to grandma and sending cards to loved ones are all ways in which humans fulfill this need.

But who has time? We all have 24 hours in the day; the key is to disconnect from technology.

Continue reading “Disconnect With A Digital Detox”

Keep an All-Occasion Box of Cards Handy

Don’t you hate it when you realize you’ve missed someone’s birthday or other important life event? Who wants to be known as “Belated Birthday Guy?” Giving cards to co-workers or clients at work is a thoughtful gesture. But beyond getting that birthday card to the recipient, you want to have some cards on hand for all occasions. That way when something comes up that you’d like to acknowledge, you’re prepared.

What Cards Should you Have on Hand?

1. Birthday
Start with an assortment of different types of birthday cards. You’ll want several styles:

  • More formal, traditional birthday cards that you would send to a client or colleague that you don’t know well. These also work for new business associations.
  • Casual cards that are appropriate for a closer work relationship or a client with whom you’ve had an account for a while.
  • Funny cards that would be great for a colleague/buddy.

2. Thank You
Stock up on a selection of different cards in this category, too. Have some formal cards with pre-printed verses and a few that you can insert a personalized greeting. Also add more casual, blank cards for co-workers.

3. Congratulations
These can be great “all occasion” cards. Congratulate someone on a promotion, landing a new account, or acknowledge a personal milestone.

4. Get Well
Have both traditional and casual or funny cards in this category.

5. Sympathy
This type of card takes more thought and discretion than the others. Pre-printed verses on formal, traditional cards are appropriate for almost anyone. Blank cards work well for people to whom you want to include a personal note.

6. Assorted Holiday Cards
Have versions of both traditional and more casual on hand for all holidays.

If you put some thought into getting your “all occasion” card box together, you’ll never be caught empty-handed at the next colleague’s or client’s event that you want to recognize.