the art of the christmas round-robin

Way back before Facebook, the human race had another way of sharing inane details about their lives with those they loved the most: the Christmas round-robin. We still receive a few of these each year, and I have to say they make entertaining reading, although perhaps not always intentionally. This year, we’ve rattled one off for the first time in ages – so if you’re returning to tradition like us and planning to send your news by snail mail, let me offer you a few words of wisdom:

1) Two A4 sides. Absolute max. And don’t be thinking you can shrink the font lower than 11pt and get away with it.

2) Photos. Lots of them. 90% of round-robin readers say they don’t read the text anyway. (This statistic may or may not be true.) The pictures have to tell a story.

3) Hide the evidence. Every employer knows that their staff will use the company photocopier to reel off their Christmas round-robins in full colour – it’s kind of a done deal. But at least you can be discreet and take the master copy with you when finished. I got some interesting gossip from a newsletter left by the machine when I went to do mine.

4) I’m not interested in why you didn’t renovate the bathroom as planned, how you’ve ended up with six cats, or a lowdown of all the possible schools your little one could have gone to, with all their pros and cons. If you want to write this sort of info, do us all a favour and start a blog, where you can drone on about it to your heart’s content, and at least we can ignore you.

5) By all means embarrass your kids if it’ll entertain your readers – after all, you’re writing it for them, not your offspring. Think of it as premature revenge for the hell they’re going to put you through in their teenage years.

6) Add a bit of gloss (and I’m not talking about the photos). Lying? Not at all. It’s merely a bit of ‘artistic license’ – this is an actual Thing that writers use, you know. It elevates your writing. You need to realise that Christmas round-robins function in much the same way as Facebook: people nosey into your life to see if it’s better than theirs. If you’re going to go to the effort of writing up your year, you might as well provoke a bit of envy.

7) Choose your Christmas cards wisely. Folding your carefully-worded Christmas missive seventeen times to cram it into the tiny little envelope along with its tiny little card will only occur Royal Mail charges – for you or for your recipients. And that is not cool.

So there you have it, readers. Never say I don’t do anything for you. And, if you’re on our Christmas card list, expect your round-robin shortly…

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