Around Christmastime a couple of years ago, one of my friends ranted about how much he hated those holiday "brag letters" people send out each year. After making a mental note never to send him one in the future, I began to wonder what it is that makes people so irate about the good fortune of others.
I actually like hearing about what the people who lived down the street from me 20 years ago are up to. Sure, it initially takes some remembering to figure out who they are and why they're sending me that card, but if it weren't for the annual tradition, it would be easy to lose touch.
Of course, it's possible I'm defending the practice because I was born into a family of serious yuletide letter writers. The annual Vick Family Christmas Letter is an organized and well-thought-out publication edited by my father. Although a pilot by profession, Captain Vick's true calling in life may have been publishing.
Each November he begins the process with a call for submissions. The letter is formatted so that each family member gets a little blurb mentioning his or her highlights that year, and it is our job to tell him what we'd like included.
Inevitably, one of my sisters or I complain, "Nothing exciting has happened in our life this year," which forces my dad to highlight some less-than-exciting event - like moving from seventh to eighth grade.
Of course, it always seems that when you've had a slow year, everyone else has had a banner one. This year my older sister's section will probably read something like: "Jennifer is still happily married and is finishing up her PhD program at Columbia."
Alternately, my blurb might read: "Despite being out of college for seven years, Julie is working the front desk at a nonprofit and taking a couple of graduate classes at night. She still isn't dating anyone. Next year she promises to do something more exciting."
That last line actually appeared in one of the past editions. I'm pretty sure it was in my section.
Once he's gathered the necessary material, my father puts the finishing touches on the letter by sprinkling sarcasm throughout the sections. Past letters have featured jokes about my mom being "39++++++++" that year and my younger sister working on her "fifth and, hopefully, final year of college."