Like fruitcake, the self-published newsletter is an ubiquitous part of the holiday season. At once a cheerful greeting and an experiment in determining exactly how much cute clip-art one can fit between the printer margins of an 8.5 x 11″ piece of paper, these mass-mailed missives fill our mailboxes during much of winter.
As early as Thanksgiving (American, not Canadian – one hopes), folded and stapled copy paper arrives via post, sometimes sporting stickers or custom-designed stamps, other times merely printed on paper in colors found only in the “festive” section – bright orange, planetary purple, obnoxious pink, and, of course, the traditional red and green, as well as utilitarian white (most often used with colored fonts).
December is when the serious newsletters begin to arrive. These are designed by hard-core mailers, and often come on thick or glossy stock, or written entirely in verse (though the latter is often comprised of questionable rhymes and uneven meter). While most such posts arrive by the 25th, there are often several sprinkled throughout early and mid January. Often, these sport snowflake designs, and titles like “Winter Wonders” or “News of the Great White North.”
It doesn't really matter when they come, though, for holiday newsletters are, in some ways, relics of the days when sending Christmas cards was a normal activity, and not something only engaged in by neo-Martha Stewart clones, or over-achieveing students of Alexandra Stoddard, holdovers from times when written correspondence was looked upon with great anticipation, and not the dread of wondering who is begging for money this time.
As I have an unabashed love of stationery and the written word, of pen and ink and postage stamps, it should come as no surprise that I've succumbed to the pull of the desktop publishing software, and am printing copies of MY holiday newsletter as I write this entry. While it DOES have some clip-art (just a border, I swear) it also features a picture of my tree from last year, in front of a window, with a snowstorm beyond, the whole thing photoshopped by a dear friend into something soft and worth sharing. It does NOT contain a minute-by-minute breakdown of the last year, however, just a few teasers, and an invitation for folks to read my blog. Yeah, I'm shameless.
Whether you send newsletters, or only receive them, and whether or not you actually read those that arrive in your mailbox, consider this when you next come across one: even a kitschy newsletter is still a “real letter,” and real letters are special. After all, a gift from the hand is a gift of the heart, even if a keyboard was involved in the translation.