Sarky journalists have been making a few shillings these last years by writing annually about how naff the Christmas letter is, and how boring. This year, a Times reader answered back, and published a letter asking if she was the only reader who feels devastated if there is no "news" attached to the Christmas card.
I am with that reader. If I haven't seen the person during this calendar year, I send a letter. No matter how recently I saw them, I love to read whatever they choose to include in their letter. Perhaps, the sentence should stop after "I love to read". The longer the better, and two closely typed A4 pages about all the holidays taken will keep me enthralled.
I have had feedback from time to time about my letters. One friend of my husband's (dating back to 1972) expressed surprise that there was so little about hubby in the letter. Well, as he doesn't play any musical instruments, or take exams, and his only sport is golf, that is hardly surprising, is it!
Another friend of my husband's (now an ex-friend), complained that all we did was boast about how wonderful our girls were. I, on the other hand, am always happy to read about the successes of other people's children (now moving on to their adorable grandchildren!)
One year, I wrote two Christmas letters. The official one, about how wonderful everyone is, and where we went on holiday. Then the unofficial one, which included details of some of the more epic marital rows, and household problems that year (the only one of which I can recall is that nine different plumbers crossed our threshold). I think I sent that to one very close friend. She thought it was funny, which is about the best one can hope for.
What that taught me was that in every aspect of life, one can present two different faces. The public, cheerful one, which emphasises the positive, which looks smart and well-kempt, and remains upbeat. The other face, the deep, dark and troubled one, exists in every life, but is better kept in a dark cupboard. As I grow older, I find that even with one's closest, nearest and dearest, there is little sympathy for the dark side, and it is better not to bring it out for inspection. And then, as my mother said about grumpy faces: "If the wind changes, you'll stay that way!" So, if I keep looking smart and cheerful, I will grow to be that person more and more, to everyone's benefit, especially mine.