Most people enjoy getting into the Christmas spirit by decorating, shopping and participating in Christmas programs and celebrations. However, writing the annual Christmas newsletter is often considered to be a last-minute chore for the procrastinating letter-writer of the family. Fearful that it sounds boastful or worse yet, boring, the family letter is finally sent and reaches busy friends and family, who skim over it and set it aside to read later because they have more urgent things to do. Our family has taken this whole communication dilemma and wrapped it up with a theme to create a strategy that makes the annual family letter not only compelling to read but fun to write too.

This innovative approach began in 1985, the year of the big family move with three young children, when I had so much to tell our friends back home. I knew that individual handwritten notes were too time consuming, but I resisted sending duplicated newsletters since they were uncommon at that time and widely regarded as impersonal brag letters. One day I came across a box, left by the former owner, full of stationery with an artist's rendering of our new house on it. It almost shouted, "I'll write your letter!" Indeed, as I wrote about our activities from the perspective of the house (you know how the walls hear all) it did seem to write itself! Best of all, the playful attitude of the letter concealed the shades of boastfulness concerning how well things had gone for us that year.

Each year after that, we followed three easy steps to write a new creative Christmas letter. The first step is to make a list of events, accomplishments and activities for each member of the family. This task can be accomplished in a festive family atmosphere around a fire or in the car on the way to Grandma's house every Thanksgiving. As each individual's strengths and accomplishments are celebrated, the family creates a bonding experience, an unexpected bonus to the process.

Step two requires the family to select a theme. Themes may be selected from three categories: list letters, format letters and perspective letters. The easiest themes are list letters. These letters might list the top ten TV shows or best-selling books. Each show or book, of course, would describe the activities of one particular family member. Sometimes themes are drawn from various media formats. A crossword puzzle, game board and dictionary are among the options. Some letters can be written from a perspective other than that of the family members. Perhaps, the house, the family dog or a guardian angel might "write" the letter. One letter appeared to have been written about our family from the perspective of having lived 100 years ago with a picture of us in Victorian dress, taking on a stoical pose. The possibilities are endless.

Step three allows the family to blend the topics with the theme, adding humor and creativity to develop an informative and entertaining package for their friends and extended family to enjoy. The letters can be copied onto decorative Christmas stationery or enhanced with drawings, pictures, stampings and scrapbooking materials as well. The creative Christmas letter format perks up a boring annual report and tones down what may otherwise appear to be a brag letter.

Three other benefits emerge from the creative Christmas letter-writing experience. First, parents and teachers can take advantage of the opportunity to enhance creative writing skills as children are actively involved in the authorship of the family letter. Next, as years go by, letters can be compiled in a notebook establishing a written family history that contributes to a sense of roots and family values. Furthermore, Christians, who strive to share the true meaning of the Christmas message, find it more personal and effective to share their faith in a unique way every year.

Letters can be compiled in a notebook establishing a written family history!

Our family has compiled all the letters that we have written over the years, including those written by the families of our adult children, and produced a book to offer theme ideas and guidelines to others who desire to give their letters a creative flair. "Ideas for Writing Creative Christmas Letters That People Are Actually Eager to Read!" is written by Janet Colbrunn and is available at bookstores and from our website: A website purchase provides a free bonus ebook on motivating children in creative writing.