Holiday Tradition by
(360 Stories)

Prompted By Holiday Letters

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Cards and letters through the years

I sent seasons greetings to everyone in my cabin, my friends and special teachers when I was in the High School Division at the National Music Camp from 1967-1969. It took me a long time to get through my list. I’d be done right around the new year. I gave that up for years, but when David turned a year old, in 1986, I resumed the tradition of sending a card with a current photo. I didn’t start sending a “year in review” letter until 1998. As much as people grouse about it, my family and friends seem to look forward to these. I send close to 200 each year.

My Featured photo shows a few of the most recent, as well as the first, and the stack of all through the years (don’t you know me well enough by now to know that I’ve got every one saved in a folder in my study). It becomes increasingly difficult to get something resembling a family photo, since my children live eight time zones apart and are rarely together. Last year, I used a photo of a Zoom screen. This year, there will be no actual card and it won’t go out until we return from London, so there can be photos of our granddaughter incorporated into the body of the letter. That may have to be the way forward in the future. I try to have them all in the mail by December 15. Then I can relax for the remainder of the month.

All of my first cousins, some of their children, lots of friends, neighbors, former neighbors and even a few former clients (and I haven’t worked in over 30 years) receive one. It is how they know what we have been up to. I try to stay upbeat. I learned long ago that no one wants bad news (obviously, I will share important news, but try to spin it in a positive way and not dwell on it). It must all fit on one page, double-sided. So when I include photos in the body of the letter this year, I will have to be a more judicious editor.

We used to receive loads of beautiful cards that I’d put out on my piano, the letters would be piled along side and I’d always enjoy reading them. Increasingly they come via email these days. I send some via email, though I don’t use a holiday frame for mine. It is typed as a Word document, printed at home, then taken to Staples so I can get it printed double-sided and all the copies made on a high-speed copier. Not sending via snail mail seems to be the trend. I understand, but still like the touch and feel a beautiful card, even if I don’t keep all of them (I do keep the photos from my family members). I appreciate all who reach out to me at this time of year. It is nice to hear from everyone.

Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Characterizations: been there, moving, well written


  1. John Shutkin says:

    Thank you, Betsy, for also keeping this tradition alive. And, as I continue to receive cards back with lovely notes from lots of friends whom I probably would not have heard from but for having sent them a card first, I will continue to continue the tradition. It is worth it., especially in these days of COVID isolation

    And of course you would have saved your cards going back to,,,, forever. But, given the birth of your first grandchild just a day or so ago, will you be sending out “addenda” this year? This is certainly upbeat news, to put it mildly. In any event, my heartiest congratulations to all involved!

  2. Khati Hendry says:

    I am not surprised you are so organized and in touch with everyone, and I’m sure the pictures of your new grandchild will be adorable. Here it is a far smaller enterprise, but every year I feel a little more old-fashioned as I send out real cards with personal notes–but admit I enjoy getting a few in return. We did send out a holiday letter one year to update everyone that we had moved to Canada, and I appreciate knowing major changes in others’ lives, even when not all positive. Over the years, I have an increasing number of cards sent only to find the person has died (more distant relatives or friends of parents), and off the list they go, with a few poignant memories attached. Good on you for keeping connections.

  3. Marian says:

    You are the great communicator, Betsy, and I know that those who receive your letters appreciate them. I do miss the beautiful cards that could go on display. How exciting that you will have your new granddaughter’s picture on the letter this year!

  4. You’re right Betsy, I could have guessed you’d have a folder in your study with all your past holiday letters!

    And so wonderful that new baby Rosa came in time for her photo to be included in this year’s letter!

    May you and yours be safe and well in the new year!

  5. Suzy says:

    Betsy, I love that you have every one of your holiday letters saved in a folder in your study! And that you took them out and photographed them for this story! I’m glad that you maintain the tradition, and even send a card to me, despite the fact that I do not reciprocate. This year you have such joyous news that if your letter is late, nobody will mind a bit!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I send cards to lots of people who don’t respond to me, but they would be upset if they didn’t hear from me. They would wonder what was wrong. I’m glad you think Rosa is worth being tardy. I hope everyone on my list agrees with you.

  6. Jim Willis says:

    Betsy, part of the enjoyment of being back on Retrospect is reading engaging reflections like this one. The Christmas card ritual, like everything else, seems to have changed a lot over the years, as has the year-in-review letter. And, hard as it is to get it written and into the mail, I agree with you that it’s still a nice surprise to find old-school mail in the box. Merry Christmas to you!

  7. Laurie Levy says:

    Betsy, you are amazing in your continuing the tradition of updating people in your life with an annual letter. Sadly, the number of actual cards I receive are fewer each year. Maybe the pandemic made it harder to do these as people don’t gather as they once did to take these lovely photos and don’t have as much to say about life. But you have wonderful news to share! Seeing Rosa on FB was a happy moment on a gloomy day for me.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Yes Laurie, fewer and fewer cards each year. So happy that my FB post cheered you up. Even better news: they just came home from the hospital moments ago. Hopefully we can see them tomorrow, though they may be too tired.

  8. daiseaday says:

    I’ve always enjoyed getting others holidays letters. I still love getting cards. Time got away this December. Didn’t get any out. Maybe next year, ha-ha.

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