How to Write a Christmas Letter - Step by Step Guide

What to write in your Christmas Letter

When you're looking for ways to switch up your holiday greetings, a Christmas letter is a charming option. Packed with personal anecdotes and family updates, these newsy little notes are a delightful way to keep your loved ones in the loop and create a wonderful holiday season. If you're worried about how to write a Christmas letter, rest easy—​there are no rules! The process is relatively simple, but there are many different factors to consider.

Writing Christmas Letters: Step-By-Step

Step 1. Make a Recipient List

Before you pick up a pen (or open your laptop), decide who you want to receive the Christmas letter. When you know your readers, it's easier to tailor the content of your holiday letters to complement your relationship. If you're writing to aunts, uncles, and cousins, for example, you can easily reference funny family stories or mention relatives by name in your heartfelt message. When the Christmas letter has a wider audience, you might stick to more general-interest anecdotes and updates.

Step 2. Generate Your Content

Write a rough first draft of your Christmas letter. Don't edit yourself at this point—​write down everything that comes to mind. Start with warm wishes, and offer an overview of the key happenings in your life.

Some of the things you can include in a personal message for Christmas letters are:

  • Important events: You might mention weddings, family vacations, or a big move.

  • Accomplishments: Discuss graduating, getting a new job, or meeting a personal health goal.

  • Family updates: Let your recipients know what everyone in the family is up to. 

  • Photos: Include photos to accompany your stories, or simply choose shots you love.

  • Funny stories: Make your readers laugh with a hilarious anecdote; just make sure to get permission from the family member in question.

Once you're happy with your draft, edit the letter for length. Keep the format in mind; if you're printing it on a Christmas card, stick to a few paragraphs.

Step 3. Choose a Card Design and Color Scheme

The content of your Christmas letter should inform the format. If you have a variety of stories to share, break up the text with paragraphs, headers, or separate sections to make the letter easier to read. When it comes to formatting, consider these Christmas letter ideas:

  • Traditional letter: Stick to tradition and write your letter as though you were speaking directly to the recipient. Insert photos between paragraphs, or print them on a separate page with short captions.

  • Newsletter: Make your loved ones smile with an adorable family Christmas newsletter. Format it like a traditional newsletter, dedicating a short "article" to each family member or important topic. This is also a fun way to integrate photos naturally into the text.

  • Christmas card: Streamline your holiday mailings by printing your letter directly on your Christmas Cards. At Truly Engaging, you can edit the holiday card design and add a custom Christmas message. If you're sending a photo card, select a photo that matches the content or theme of the letter.

When it comes to color, consider your audience. Black text is visible on a light background, while white text shows up nicely on dark-toned paper. Avoid red or green text; it can be hard to read, especially for older relatives.

Step 4. Produce and Mail Your Letters

When you're happy with your letter, print a test copy on your chosen paper. This step is particularly important if you're using a specialty paper with a border or a pronounced texture—​it's an opportunity to check the layout and make sure the photos look true to life. If everything looks good, print one for each recipient. It never hurts to add a few extra copies to keep for yourself or save time in case of a spill.

As you're printing letters and stuffing envelopes, keep your mailing date in mind. In general, the first week of December is the ideal time to mail a Christmas letter. It gives the Postal Service plenty of time to deliver each envelope.

Are you ordering printed Christmas letters or custom Christmas cards? Order them about three weeks before you plan to mail them out to allow time for processing and shipping.

7 Tips for Writing Christmas Letters

Writing a Christmas letter seems simple enough, right? It is, but there are a few factors to consider in the process. Use these tips to create a letter that captivates readers. 

1. Start Brainstorming Early

As soon as you decide to write a Christmas letter, start thinking about the stories you might include. There's no need to start writing immediately; just take notes as anecdotes and events occur to you. If you're stuck for ideas, scroll through your social media posts, or ask your family members to contribute ideas.

Speaking of social media—​your Christmas letter shouldn't simply rehash everything you've posted online throughout the year. Take time to thoughtfully curate your content to provide a more personal and meaningful glimpse into your family's life. Leave plenty of time for editing, so you can create a sharp, concise letter that encourages people to keep reading.

2. Write with Your Audience in Mind

While you brainstorm, tailor the details to your relationship with the readers. After all, your cousins might appreciate different stories than your current circle of friends. If you're struggling to write a letter that appeals to everyone on your list, don't limit yourself to one document. Write a different version for each audience: family, close friends, and colleagues, for example. This is a great way to help your readers feel included and connected to your family.

3. Draft Your Letter and Use Spell Check

You can take notes for your Christmas letter by hand, but it's important to switch to the computer when you're ready to write. Programs such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs make it easy to edit text, cut out stories, and change the order of paragraphs. Seeing the digital version of the letter also helps you assess the length, making it easier to select a fitting format.

When the final draft of your holiday message is ready, run a spell check on the document. The tools that come with your software can typically catch most typos and errors. If there are colleagues or professional contacts on your mailing list, take it a step further, and run the letter through a program such as Grammarly to ensure that every sentence is grammatically correct.

4. Keep it Short and Sweet

After an eventful year, it can be tempting to pack your Christmas letter with all of your great news and accomplishments. Instead, keep it short—​ideally, one page or less. You'll have plenty of room to share the list of highlights, and you can avoid overwhelming readers with details.

Font selection makes a difference, especially if your mailing list includes older friends and relatives. Script and handwriting fonts are pretty, but they can be difficult to read in large blocks of text. A traditional serif or sans serif font is a better alternative; make sure it's large enough to see without squinting.

5. Add Personal Photos and Be Yourself

You don't need to be a great novelist to write a memorable Christmas letter; you just need to be yourself. Don't be afraid to infuse your own unique voice into the writing. If you're a natural jokester, give your stories a funny spin.

Photos are a great way to add personality. Choose images that illustrate your time with family and anecdotes, aiming for storytelling over perfection. If you ran a marathon, an emotional finish-line photo can be more impactful than a shot of you posing with a medal. Likewise, candid family photos feel more personal than formal portraits.

6. Share Your Accomplishments, But Don’t Brag

Have you ever gotten a Christmas letter that feels like a long humblebrag? It's not an enjoyable experience for anyone. Fortunately, it's relatively easy to avoid. The trick is to be brief. Mention your family's accomplishments, but don't go into great detail. By erring on the side of modesty, you can share good news without lording it over readers.

Keep in mind that a Christmas letter doesn't have to be composed entirely of highlights. You can share your struggles, too. Maintain an uplifting feeling by adding a positive spin; if you mention health issues, you might express gratitude for friends' support. If you lost a loved one, reflect on the wonderful memories together.

7. Share the Love Equally

If your Christmas letter discusses family members, make sure everyone gets equal attention. Find something to celebrate for each person, and show enthusiasm for each story. This is often easier said than done, especially when one person has had an exceptional year. When in doubt, ask everyone to share their most important accomplishment. 

Example of a Christmas Letter for Friends and Family

Printed Christmas Letter on a Christmas Card

If you're searching for family Christmas letter examples for the special people in your life, we've got your back. Below, you'll find a sample letter. It's short enough to fit on a Christmas card or a printed page. Not sure where to put photos? Check out our notes for the perfect placement.

Dear [Recipient],

Merry Christmas from the Ross family! It's been snowing non-stop here in Minnesota, so we're feeling extra merry.

As many of you know, it's been an eventful year for our family. Jennifer landed her dream job as the Executive Director for Smith Media, so we moved everyone to Minneapolis. Our new house is definitely a fixer-upper, so Chris has been learning to install tile and refinish the floors. (Note from Jen: I keep telling him he should start a home-remodeling Instagram account because everything looks amazing!) The kids have handled the move like champs—​Becky made the cross-country team at her new school, and Josh joined the marching band as the first chair trumpet. We're so proud of them for being positive throughout the process.

[This is a great spot to include photos of the family in the new house or the kids in their events.]

We miss everyone in Milwaukee, but we're so grateful for the opportunities here in the frozen north. (Seriously; it was -70 degrees with the wind chill yesterday.) Our guest bedroom is ready for visitors, so we hope you'll all start planning trips to the Twin Cities soon!

With lots of love and hope for a happy holiday season, 

Chris, Jen, Becky, and Josh

Example of a Professional Christmas Letter

When writing a Christmas letter and getting into the holiday spirit for employees, clients, and partners, it's a good idea to balance professional and personal content. Feel free to include photos that make your Christmas card recipients feel more connected to your brand.

Dear [Recipient],

Happy holidays from our team at Smith Media!

Thanks to your hard work, it's been a fantastic year. We surpassed each one of our production, marketing, and sales goals and experienced the fastest growth in company history. In the coming year, we're looking forward to expanding the team and establishing our position as an industry leader in the Midwest and beyond.

As you know, the Smith Media mission is to be a force for good in the community. Since we launched the volunteering initiative last January, you have touched the lives of more than 200 local families in need. We appreciate the love and generosity you bring to each event, and we're thrilled to continue our efforts in the upcoming months.

[Include a photo of employees at a volunteer event.]

On a personal note, I'd like to thank everyone for the warm welcome to the company and the Twin Cities. My family is so grateful for your support and helpful tips—​we're now proud Twins fans, and we hope to run into you at Holidazzle!

Best wishes for the holiday and the new year, 

Jennifer Ross

Executive Director, Smith Media

Christmas Letter Alternatives

Don't have time to write a Christmas letter this holiday season? If even short Christmas letter examples seem daunting, fear not; you can still spread festive cheer. Try one of these Christmas letter alternatives:

  • Photo collage card that showcase the year's highlights through images

  • Postcard with a short Christmas message

  • Christmas video with greetings and a quick update from each family member

  • Video calls to catch up with close friends and family members

Spread holiday cheer with Truly Engaging

Photo Christmas card with room for a Christmas Letter

Now that you know how to write a Christmas letter, it's time to get started. Explore Truly Engaging's broad selection of customizable Christmas Cards; you can even print your letter directly on the card. Order online today, and head into the holiday season feeling prepared to spread festive cheer.