Do you send a yearly Christmas letter to your close friends and relatives? Do you call it a Christmas letter or a year-end letter? Does it include colored photographs?

Do several Christmas letters show up in your mailbox around January 1st? Do you now get them as email attachments or from the post office on cream-colored double-thick 110 pound stationary with personalized thermographic organic ink?

Before you even start reading them, you know that the messenger is not a definitive indicator of the content. Cousin Mary might be secure enough in her social standing to send a simple email with a picture of her blushing granddaughter holding a cup from the 2019 World Equestrian Games.

On the other hand, your college roommate might FedEx you a photo of her granddaughter’s new sailboat with the caption, “Bankruptcy Starter Kit.”

If you are old enough, you might know at least one man who could casually mention that he played polo on a field with Prince Charles.

Today, however, Christmas letters are not likely to mention that their little Susie had the pleasure of dating English royalty.

What a difference a year makes. The process of composition might be the same every year but what one chooses to say about grandchildren is always subject to rapid change.

My contributions to our Christmas letter are negligible. Because I was a bit over 80 before I could afford to have children, it is very unlikely that I will jump at the opportunity to do so now. This is definitely a good thing. I am descended from Edward Doty who, in 1621, fought the first duel in New England. Although he became a wealthy landowner, “He had a quick temper that often was out of control and had many business dealings that in some cases bordered on the fraudulent.“ With that kind of blood in his veins, the worst of my sons might easily have been elected president.

I remember well two visiting grandmothers who, while sitting at our breakfast table, discussed their respective families. Both ladies agreed that their children were at their best when they were small and could be compelled to act in a reasonable manner. Intrigued, I asked what happened when the kids grew up. Oh – they got married – they don’t know how to take care of their children – they borrow money.

There are grandmothers in this world who probably do not feel the need to send out a Christmas letter. My wife, Marsha, however, has beautiful, intelligent and accomplished granddaughters, so her letter has always been more of a proud duty than an onerous chore.

She usually starts to work on it a week or two before Christmas. I’ll see her sitting at a table with her current diary, pages of hand-written notes on a tablet on the side. When she finishes, I type the whole thing into Word and she edits that down into something that fits on one page.

She always asks me if there is anything I’d like to add to the letter. Should that happen this week I’ll tell her that although there’s no cure for my deafness, on January 1st I’ll have 2020 vision.

Alas, although I asked my Facebook friends to send me colorful examples from any year-end letters that they might have received this week, no one wanted to chance going on record.

I did, however, receive an earlier email and photo from a man who in 1958 was my college classmate in Potsdam. His granddaughter is standing by a strung-up 500-pound feral boar she shot in Georgia. So my Yule season was not completely devoid of enrichment.

To make matters even more difficult, yesterday Marsha got a year-end letter from a brilliant and accomplished couple. Every year we take it for granted that he will have written another book, outlining and exploring with abstract complexity the depths of the human soul. But this letter started out by saying that in 2019 his cousin was inaugurated governor of Maine. The following week her cousin was inaugurated governor of Massachusetts. Can you understand why Marsha might not feel it worthwhile to send out a year-end letter listing her little family’s trips and awards?

There is always the upcoming year, however, and we’re at the point where we might even settle to comment on the unique or remarkable achievements of our friends. Is there any way you can introduce us to a contractor who worked for Donald Trump and got paid?

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:


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