Is The Holiday Letter Dead?

November 14, 2014 by in Activities, Outside Hong Kong tags: , , ,

Holiday cards can be anxiety provoking these days. Many now send e-cards saving paper and being environmentally conscious. I have always appreciated seeing the annual family photo anyway it was sent, but once I moved abroad the card became more important. There were so many people I had known who I no longer had time to see on my annual trip home, yet I wanted them to know I still cared and thought of them. Each year these holiday missives were the only way I had to really catch people up and touch base. A letter felt formal and honestly too old school, yet I had a lot of experiences I wanted to share and summarize. I saw the A to Z card and as my kids were just learning their alphabet it seemed to fit, and thus this became my family’s method starting in 2008 the year we moved to Hong Kong.



That first one I worked really hard on. I was in the Philippines with my mother and my children; my mom and I focused on how to balance between my family’s day-to-day life and more once in a life time moments, travel, etc. in 26 letters. It took us the whole week and then more revision with my husband later. I thought it was a one-time thing, catch everyone up and go back to the standard picture and happy holidays greeting. I had no idea the response that would come.



Our first A to Z

Our first A to Z



People loved it, sent thank you notes (for a holiday card!), best ever messages, we were getting added to more holiday card list, receiving emails with address changes from people I had not heard from in years. Seven years later I am still writing it, and it sits all year in the grandmother’s handbags being shown to all of their friends. I never thought I would be the one writing the holiday letter but let’s call a spade a spade that’s really what it is.



samples of cards

samples of cards


Writing the Content: It has gotten easier now I have developed a method. I start by writing all of the letters of the alphabet on the left side of one sheet of paper. I use erasable pen, which is essential, as many changes will be made in the end. I review all of our family photos from the past year and take down notes on the right side of the page. It is a bit of a juggling act to make it all fit and when like this year we have been to both Ireland and India figuring out which will get the I is a matter of looking at what else could be used to describe the trip. Ireland won India was listed under N – New Year’s in Jodhpur. Then it is about getting the wording just right, trying to make it a bit more poetic if possible, if not at least descriptive.


the process

the process



Once I am down to the last three letters, I will give it to my husband who will try to figure out what could be moved or anything significant I have left off. Then I have to go back to past years and make sure I am not repeating myself. We go to Bali every summer, it is on there every year, but has only been B twice.


Color Choice: Choosing the colors to highlight our activities each year is a bit of a game. Sometimes, I use the picture I have chosen to dictate colors, sometimes, it is just my mood, last year I did a Pinterest board to show the printer. The printer hands me a pantone set of colors. I have found yellow does not work well, this year after so much time choosing JrMagellan colors I think I will use them, but once I meet with the printers you never know.

Choosing colors for the card

Choosing colors for the card


Picture Choice:  Here I go back to traditional form, the best picture we have of both kids. This has nothing to do with travel, or telling about experiences, it is all about showing friends and family how much more beautiful my children grow each year.





Is this a lot of work for a card? It is a ridiculous amount of work, but it is also an opportunity to talk to my family about our experiences of the year and remember and to be grateful. Maybe that is what the whole card is about, I am so appreciative of the life we have, each year I get the opportunity to review all we have seen and experienced and share it with others. So is the holiday letter dead? I hope not because I have just started to understand how important it is.

About the Author:
Lizzie is a mother of two boys, aged 7 and 10 and a co-founder of JrMagellan. She has lived in Hong Kong for 6 years and has been an avid traveler all her life. She loves to eat, play, shop and experience and explore new places with her family.


  1. Hannah 14 Nov 2014 6:43 pm Reply

    What an excellent idea! Wish I could devote the time and energy needed to create one! 🙂

    • Lizzie Livingston 17 Nov 2014 8:13 am Reply

      Thanks, Hannah! I totally understand lacking the time and energy for this, trust me every year I wish I had never started it, but by the end I am glad I did it. Some years I get mine out by end of November this year it looks like end of December, for the very reason you said, lack of time and energy!

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