I’ve never been able to bring myself to write a Christmas letter. The late humor columnist Erma Bombeck explains why better than I ever could:

I regard the family Christmas newsletter with a mixture of nausea and jealousy—nausea because I could never abide by anyone organized enough to chronicle a year of activities: jealous because our family never does anything that I can talk about on a religious holiday.

For years I have been assaulted with Frieda and Fred’s camping adventures. Marcia and Willard’s bright children (their three–year–old has a hit record) and Ginny and Jess’s kitchen table version of “The Night Before Christmas.”

“You know something?” I announced at dinner the other night. “We’re a pretty exciting family. This year, instead of the usual traditional Christmas card, why don’t we make up a newsletter?”

“What would we say on it?” asked a son.

“What everyone else says. We could put down all the interesting things we did last year. For instance, you kids tell me anything you did in school that was memorable.” Silence. “This is no time for modesty. Just spit out any award or recognition you received throughout the school year.”

Finally, after five minutes, one son said, “I passed my eye examination.”

“See?” I said excitedly. “I knew if we just thought about it a bit — now, where have we been that’s exciting?”

“We got lost that Sunday and went by the Industrial School where you told us one of your uncles made license plates.”

“I don’t think our Christmas list wants to read about that,” I said. “Let’s see, have I been anyplace?”

“You went to that Sarah Coventry jewelry party last spring.”

“How about that?” I said excitedly. “Now, keep going. Anyone get promoted? Married? Divorced? Hospitalized? Retired? Give birth?” Silence.

“Anyone say anything clever last year? How about the year before that? Did anyone compose a song? Write a letter? Belch after dinner?” Silence.

“Anyone protest anything? Stop biting their nails? Scrape a chair in the Christian Science reading room? Get up in the morning before ten?” Silence.

“Anyone lick a stamp? Kick the dog? Wash their gym suit? Sit up straight in class? Replace a lightbulb? Breathe in and out?

They all sat there silently contemplating their year. Finally, I brought out a box of Christmas cards.

“What are you doing? We thought you were going to send out a family newsletter for Christmas?”

“No sense antagonizing the poor devils who sit around and do nothing all year.”


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