Before social media, many families followed the tradition of writing an annual holiday newsletter to kith and kin, briefing them on the highs and lows of the ending year.

For unpaid humor columnists, holiday letters are gold mines, though the motherlode seems to be depleting. We receive fewer family epistles than we used to. Perhaps it’s because we can look back at a year’s worth of Facebook posts and emails, reading everything the writer thought, ate, wore and did.

Not everyone uses electronic media as a public diary. There is still a purpose to writing those yearly recaps, beyond providing grist for the humor mill, intentionally, as two of my in-laws hilariously do, or unwittingly.

NBC once asked viewers to share their cringe-worthy examples of holiday dispatches. Here are actual responses that show the importance of rereading holiday missives before mailing them off or hitting “send.”

- An example of “too much information”:

We got one last year in which a neighbor told us about how her husband was unfaithful to her and information regarding his partner! It gave specifics that would have given it an adult rating. She proceeded to tell us they were getting a divorce. She also had a recent gastric bypass and gave us info on that and how much weight she had lost.

- One variation on the “TMI” theme is to include someone else’s private life in the “family and friends” gossip roundup:

I'd had a rough year thanks to some relationship trouble (a broken engagement) and my job was on the rocks as well. My mother wrote about that in the Christmas letter. I asked her why she had written about such things and her explanation was, "I had to explain why you didn't get married this year.”

- Some writers rub the family’s noses in their own good fortune, forgetting (or not caring) that not everyone is as fortunate:

We have put on a 1,000-square-foot addition on the back of the house this past summer. (See enclosed digital photos.) This was (husband’s) dream. He and the boys love playing on the $5,000 pool table. It was just a little too expensive for a pool table, but if my boys are happy, I'm even happier! This addition, along with the new kitchen last year, has definitely made this a home for the ages!

“A home for the ages”? How many in the family are in homes for the aged? For many, 1,000 square feet isn’t an “addition,” it’s the house. And to brag about a $5,000 billiard table you have to have balls.

- One writer started a new tradition:

We used to have a dramatic reading every New Year's Eve of the top runners for most outlandish Christmas letter. Then we would vote and all would be ceremoniously burned.

After nearly two years of forced isolation, we should do whatever we can to reconnect, without the connection driving us further apart. enjoys a letter that expresses gratitude for our blessings, regrets for our losses, and hope for our future.

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