I don’t know when the habit of round robin Christmas letters began but I recently found our first one, from 1996. The cause of this phenomenon is clear from our opening sentence – ‘since we now have a [another] new computer complete with laser printer, we thought we might celebrate by telling everybody about what happened in 1996.’ And we have done so every year since. Our friends include colour pictures, so we do too. Before writing this year’s I re-read all the previous ones and belatedly appreciate what a valuable archive they are – a kind of substitute for a diary. I will own up to being rather proud of them and am thinking of binding them altogether in our own family edition – perhaps with some commentary, aka Simon Hoggart.
The journalist and broadcaster, Simon Hoggart, caused much hilarity from 2003/4 by publishing bits from round-robin family Christmas newsletters sent in to him by mischievous or aggrieved recipients. His commentaries are deadly! Extracts were printed in The Guardian and collections published annually from 2004-7 with titles ‘The Cat That Could Open The Fridge’, ‘The Hampster That Loved Puccini’ and finally ‘The Christmas Letters, the Ultimate Collection …..’ in 2007. We have not dared contribute the most outrageous we have received over the years, in case the senders guessed who had done it. Most of those published have been by turns pompous, boastful, ridiculous, miserable and inept – and deservedly held up to ridicule.
That has not deterred us from continuing to send them, and enjoy receiving them but it has made us, and others, mindful of common pitfalls. They have a useful role in keeping our scattered families and acquaintance in touch, even if somewhat impersonal. I wonder if anyone knows when this custom became widespread?