The Christmas Letter

by Barb, at home in Portland, where it’s beginning to look a lot like…

Over the past couple of days, I did spend some time writing that wasn’t work on the next Maine Clambake novella. I wrote our annual Christmas letter.

It’s an increasingly ridiculous exercise, I know, what with email and social media and other ways to keep in touch. But I’ve been writing them since 1995 and they’ve become a chronicle of the important events in our family year. I even took a survey of Wicked blog readers about their feelings about Christmas letters in this 2015 post, which also documented my history with them. At this point, my kids would think there was something terribly wrong if I didn’t write one.

Anyway, with only modest changes, like last names removed to protect the guilty, and photos inserted, here is this year’s effort.

December 1, 2022

Dear Friends and Family,

The merriest of seasons to you all. We hope this letter finds you happy, healthy, tucked up and cozy.

It’s the first day of Advent and we are off to the races! We’re decorating this weekend. Kate and her family will come to Portland next weekend for cookie baking. Granddaughter Viola arrives the weekend after that, just in time for the (renewed) annual Carito family Feast of the Seven Fish at Bill’s brother’s house. That is if weather and viruses cooperate. If there’s anything we’ve learned over the last three years, it’s that plans are only that.

In the meantime,

Bill has continued with his iPhone photography. He has a new website up at, where you can buy a some of his pictures in a variety of sizes, with and without frames, even on mugs and tote bags! If you have a favorite photo of Bill’s and it’s not on the site, email him and he’ll fix you up. Bill’s also teaching a class at the Studios of Key West in March and one here in Portland in the summer.

I’m still writing. The tenth Maine Clambake Mystery, Muddled Through, was published in June. Two standalone ebooks, Hallowed Out and Logged On, previously released in the novella anthologies, came out in this fall. The Jane Darrowfield series has ended after two books. I’m a little sad about it, but I didn’t love writing two and a half books a year. So not that sad.

Bill and I spent January to March in Key West, and this year all the kids and grandkids were able to join us for a visit. Kate, Luke, Etta, and Sylvie, then three and two, endured a movie-worthy series of travel disasters to get there, but we were all together in the end. We were even joined by Luke’s parents, Kim and Bob, after Rob, Sunny, and Viola left. Etta and Sylvie loved being surrounded by all their grandparents.

All of us in Key West, March 2022

In early May, Bill, our sister-in-law Mary Ann, and our daughter-in-law Sunny, all had big birthdays within a day of one another. Kate and her cousin Emily were able to pull off a wonderful celebration in Kate’s backyard. Rob, Sunny, and Viola flew up to surprise Bill, which he thought was the best present of all.

Bill’s birthday cake, ironic in retrospect. For years he’s been distinguished by his mustache and glasses. But in September he had cataract surgery and the glasses are gone. If he shaved off the mustache none of us would ever recognize him.

Then things got crazy. In June, Viola flew up on her own for the first time to spend a week with Kate’s family. They found out they’d been exposed to covid and had their first positive test while Viola was on the plane. So instead of spending a week with her aunt, Viola spent it with Bill, exploring the attractions of coastal Maine, while I rushed to meet a book deadline.

Viola and Bill visit the food trucks on the Eastern Prom in Portland, Maine

Bill and I had a fantastic trip to Ireland and Scotland in July. We spent two days in Dublin, our first time, and then took a small cruise ship over the top of Scotland, with stops in the islands along the way. We spent a week in Edinburgh. Bill found the most amazing Airbnb on Thistle Street in the New Town. It was an exceptional visit and would have been even better if I hadn’t come home with covid.

At Culloden Battlefield, 2022

In August we spent our traditional week at the Jersey shore with my brother and his family, except Bill missed it because I’d given him covid. Then, over Labor Day, we had a family wedding for the first time in ages, which Rob, Sunny and Viola missed because they had covid.

You get the theme. A wonderful year that required flexibility and the ability to plan, and then re-plan, and then plan again. Our new, fully electric car also requires flexibility (at least as far as charging on long-distance trips is concerned), not a naturally strong suit for either of us. The world may teach these old dogs some new tricks. Or we may go on cursing and mumbling into the great good night. Either way…

On the Carito side of the family, John and Heather’s son Alex married Paula, in the Labor Day weekend wedding mentioned above. It was a beautiful ceremony and reception in a lovely old mansion in Connecticut. Carl and Eliana’s daughter, Christelle, her husband Pablo, and their son Julian were joined by baby brother Damien in September.

On the Ross side, Rip and Ann’s daughter, Julia, and her husband Ben welcomed their first child, daughter Meera, in February. Rip and I have six granddaughters between us!

All six second cousins in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, August 2022

And so, we’ve continued for one more trip around the sun, for which we are very grateful. We are also grateful for all of you. We miss you and hope to see you soon.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

Barb & Bill

Readers: I’m updating my survey from eight (!) years ago. Christmas letters–yay or nay? Fun to find out what friends are up to, or annoying since they only tell the good stuff, or irrelevant with social media and so on. Be honest!

38 Thoughts

  1. My ex-sister in-law used to send them and I didn’t care for them. I knew everything already and she wrote them way too long. She should have only sent them to the ones that didn’t live close and see them all the time, like family you hardly ever see. We are still friends as I’ve known her all of her life and she is the mom of 2 of my nieces.

    1. I do try not to send them to people who “already know everything.” Sometimes it’s half-half, so I write a note at the top that says, “You probably know all of this!” Other times, in a year when I’ve seen someone a lot and they DO know all of it, I don’t send the letter and then the person says, “Where is my Christmas letter?”

  2. That’s a lovely letter, Barb! I’m all for Christmas letters, but I don’t write them myself. My father did (“The Maxwell Express”), every year since he was about ten, and my brother continues the tradition. I do like receiving them.

  3. Oh, I love your Christmas letter!! Social media is good, but will never replace the feeling of getting mail, holding a letter and touching something another person touched. I feel the same about ebooks vs real books, I like to turn the pages, smell the paper, hold an actual book. Your letters may be a warm memory to someone someday! And it’s so nice to read your family getting together this year, you’ve had some great adventures!!

  4. Guess I’m old school because I do love Christmas letters. I should say I’m a written letter person all year long. It’s a skill so many have lost with all the modern technologies. Up until this year, I at least had hubby’s Mom to write to on a regular basis. She was in her 90’s and hard of hearing making phone calls almost impossible and definitely not a computer person. Her only phone was still a land line so no texting. She told me numerous times how she so looked forward to mail from us. This always made me think of my Dad who would sit where he could see out the window for the mailman.

    Sadly I can remember my Dad’s words about getting older and there being less and less news as friends and family pass away. We are now just the two of us. Both sets of parents, siblings (all but 2 of hubby’s) and our daughter have all gone on to their heavenly home. Between life changing and moves (both on our part and others), it seems that contact between several seemed to disappear with time. With that being said, I still write my Christmas letter and put it in the cards we send out. Honestly there’s nothing I dislike more than a Christmas card just signed from someone that lives off or that we don’t see often. Dad use to say they are only a “I’m still alive” cards.

    Christmas letters are a great way to remember the year in the written word, which make them fun to look back on years later. I do believe they need to include both the good and bad highlights of life. After all life, isn’t all smiles and rainbows so why try to paint it that way. So my vote is – KEEP THE CHIRSTMAS LETTERS COMING!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. I share you’re sentiments about letter writing. The only person I write to regularly is my granddaughter who has moved to Virginia. When she was younger, she used to treat the letters and cards a precious objects. Now that’s she’s old enough to Facetime us anytime she wants, I’m thinking not so much.

  5. After the obligatory groan and eye roll, I secretly, eye rolling for appearance sake, tear into the yearly letter from my old college friend. She moved to the left coast, and never looked back. She was my older sorority sister back in the day. We raised all sorts of mischief and mayhem in the Berkshires, not being a “tea and pinky” sorority, but a rabble rousing, close knit bunch of girls.
    Many of the other .”sisters” keep up on social media, or over lunch, but not Trish!
    Trish the Dish writes yearly letters, and I love getting them (please don’t tell my husband!). She is the only one I send a card to, with my own condensed, yearly update.
    So do I enjoy those groan worthy, eye roll evoking Christmas letter(s)…….? Have I perfected the eye roll? If a bear groans in the forest, will the hard of hearing notice?
    Shhhhh! Don’t spill the beans. It’s all about keeping up appearances!

  6. I love your Christmas letters! And that picture of all those girls!!!! I used to write funny Christmas letters and people would write me about how funny they were. Then there was more pressure to write a funnier Christmas letter and my family seemed to be letting me down in the doing funny things department, so I quit writing them. Bob took over one year but now we are lucky if we send out a card.

  7. YAY!!!…absolutely…Especially if the letter is written by one of you, beloved authors! I will be so glad to read your letter (and any other author’s) to my book club when we meet again on January 04! Though I have been keeping up with each one of you via this blog, and others, it is important to me to read what you wish to share with us readers in one condensed letter. Thank you for sharing your lives as well as your writing talents with us readers. When we hook up with you, it is so important to know who you are, besides who you write about. It just creates more joy. I thank you for all that you do to keep your loving fans entertained and in the know. Blessings to everyone!!!! Luis at ole dot travel

  8. I’m a Grinch when it comes to Christmas letters. Most of them are just a bunch of bragging, with references to people I don’t know. I don’t mind cards that are just signed, but I’m not a fan of pre-printed signatures. Actually, I’m happy to receive all cards. Then, indeed, I know someone is still alive and that I’ve been thought of, even if only fleetingly.

  9. Great letter, Barb.

    I don’t write them, mostly because I’m in regular contact with all the people I’d send them to so those folks already know the news. Our Christmas card list dwindled to the point where we either didn’t have addresses for people or they’d fallen out of our lives for other reasons (like the death of elderly relatives) so we don’t even send those these days.

  10. I enjoy finding out what friends and family are up to, even if I know most of it. But I don’t send them out myself. I am doing well to get Christmas presents for my family bought and wrapped. I’d probably have to skip decorating if I were going to send out a Christmas letter/cards.

  11. Yes, I enjoy Christmas letters. It give a peek into the lives of friends and family (even if only the good side) that we don’t see regularly.

  12. I enjoy Christmas letters. In the first place, I am delighted whenever someone cares enough to send me a Christmas card! Most of my family and my friends just don’t think it is relevant anymore, but to me, it most certainly is! When someone posts a Christmas greeting on Facebook, it just is not the same to me. Christmas letters included in the card give information that I want to hear about. If someone just posts a simple greeting on the Christmas card, that is appreciated, too! Social media makes a Christmas greeting too impersonal, in my opinion.

  13. We used to do Christmas letters, which my husband has always hated, but now we do a cute photo card of us and the pup doing something or being soemwhere and get lot of cool comments on them. Wish that I could post some here. Yours was very good and Key West is one of our favorite spots that we visited 13 years in a row later in life. I still like to receive Christmas letters from friends to see what is going on and keep them all. Sometimes, I later write letters and send them out anyway, but do not call them Christmas letters.

  14. I really do enjoy Christmas letters. Many family members and friends are not on social media – GASP – so the letters are a way to catch up on events that I somehow missed.

  15. I like receiving Christmas letters. I save them with my Christmas card list and read them every year. They are time capsules that remind me of happy times for friends and family. They also often remind me of events that happened outside my circle of friends and family – as your letter will do in future with your references to covid.

  16. I do enjoy letters telling the story of your year especially if you donskip the truth. I do at times admit I almost envious of others life.

  17. Hi Barb! I love a good old fashioned Christmas letter! It’s nice to get hard mail instead of everything always being online. When I get a Christmas card and there is a holiday news letter tucked in there – oh yeah, jackpot baby!

Comments are closed.