• Why I Find Joy in Receiving a Great Holiday Letter

    by Lance Gunkel CFP® CFA Managing Director | December 14, 2022

    We have numerous holiday traditions in my family, and one of my favorites is collecting and reading holiday cards and newsletters!

    The first card usually floats into our mailbox just after Thanksgiving and they continue to arrive until just past the new year. My wife reads them right away, but I enjoy the anticipation of reading them all at once at the end of the holiday season. I get to experience the joy of each card twice: once upon seeing it arrive, then a second time when I finally sit down to read each card the first week of January.

    I enjoy the variety of cards and pictures. Some are simple, containing just a picture or two along with a wish for a Happy Holiday, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy New Year. My favorites, however, are those that provide a glimpse into the lives of the sender. Job changes, family additions, vacations, the kids’ favorite classes – I enjoy it all. Perhaps my favorite read is from a college friend. He begins each card with a short update on each family member, followed by 5-10 pages of in-depth concert reviews. It’s fantastic!

    Crafting a holiday card and letter is tricky: How much information is too much? Does this sound braggy? Is health news too much of a downer to share during the holiday season? 

    One of my favorite episodes of the sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond” addresses the pitfalls of holiday letters. It includes a scene where Marie (Ray’s mom) receives a letter from a relative about how tremendous her life is and how well her kids are doing, which drives Marie to jealousy. Marie then sits down with Debra (Ray’s wife) to write her own family update; despite her best efforts to make her family’s life sound exceptional, the letter makes them all feel inadequate. The update on Frank (Ray’s dad), is less than flattering. Ray informs Frank that “all they do is list your favorite cable channels, and then they say ‘his love affair with bacon continues.’”

    To avoid a letter like Marie’s, we take the easy way out and send a card with a generic message and the most flattering family pictures we can find.

    In this digital era, it’s interesting that I find so much joy in the receipt of news in physical form, a reminder of the special friends and family in my life. I hope others enjoy receiving our card as much as I do theirs, and even if they don’t, at least they know they are on my mind. 

    This year maybe I’ll throw caution to the wind and write out a full letter. I hope it strikes the right tone, showing thanks for our blessings and not gushing too much over our kind, brilliant kids and perfect new puppy. But, even if I cross the line, please know that I’m only trying to share my holiday joy with you!


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