“Dear Friends and Family”: A Love Letter to Annual Letters

Dear Folks Who Send Annual Letters,

Keep it up. You may get ragged by friends who think they have less time than you, or who have allowed electronic media to take the place of the good ol’ USPS in sending yearly greetings and updates. (Note to those  who’ve gone all-electronic: good for you too! You’re using fewer resources, and I do love hearing from you.) Your cards may not grace all your friends’ mantelpieces, even if they have mantelpieces, nor your photos their fridges, at all any more. But they’re on mine.

Keep sending photos, and if you have kids, please send pictures of yourselves WITH your kids, rather than just the kids. (Remember, I’m YOUR friend even more than theirs, and I want to see YOU grow along with them.)

Keep sending updates. Want to go long, detailed, month-by-month? I’ll read. Want to go pithy, one paragraph per family member? That’s my own method; I’m all over that. How about a poem? I LOVE annual poems. Get your kid to write the family letter? Even better.

Some of you may be wondering right now, “Is she being sarcastic?” So let me assure you otherwise. Here’s what’s left of my own pile of 120 letters:



I always sent cards, even before I had kids, but when I decided to write an annual letter, some 10 years ago, I set some rules.

1. Limit one page

2. These are NEW YEAR letters, not Christmas, so as long as they’re out by, say, Martin Luther King’s birthday, they’re not late

3. If it stops being fun, or if my friends start hinting they hate it, I quit.

10 years later–no complaints.Except that I would say the experience is more than fun; it’s an exercise in love.

 Each time I look up an address, each time I add a personalized note at the bottom of each letter, I’m “holding that person in the light,” as the Quakers say. I’m focused on them. How are they? When did I last see them or hear from them? What are the ongoing burdens or joys in their life? When might I see them again? What can I say that would bring them joy to read?

120 letters and two weeks later, I feel as though I’ve been through a long, happy, slo-mo receiving line.

I can’t post the picture I’m enclosing in this year’s letter, ’cause I’ve promised The Fam that I wouldn’t violate their privacy via photos. But if you don’t know me well enough to get one in your mailbox, here’s the cropped version:


So, annual letter-writers? More power to ya. Send ’em in July, include paw prints from your cat. I don’t care. Just stay in touch, and give your friends the gift of holding you in the light.

Are you an annual letter-writer, or do they annoy or overwhelm you? Do you have particular likes or dislikes or recommendations of your own to share with those of us who are? Please share.

3 thoughts on ““Dear Friends and Family”: A Love Letter to Annual Letters

  1. In 2002, I wrote my first and only letter. I remember the year, and why it was the last…

    In it, when talking about our son, then 15 months old, I mentioned that he was going to be a big brother in July.

    And he was.

    Expect that Elijah died 12 days after he was born.

    By the next Christmas, I was pregnant again, but not ready to publicly reveal the fact.

    Elijah would be 11 years old now. Annalise is 10, and Jeremiah is 13 -and I still don’t know any way I could have said “Merry Christmas”, and “Our baby died” in the same message…

    But I like your idea of “holding in the light”.

    Maybe, this year, I’ll write a letter, and send it out, one way or another…

  2. No, I cannot imagine that letter either–receiving it, writing it, or having to write it. I think when you feel called to write another letter, you will, but hopefully not before then. Thank you for sharing this, SJ.

  3. Pingback: Second-Serving Sunday: The Multi-Faceted Edition | shanjeniah

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