Tis the season to get flooded with Christmas letters — often a litany of bombastic bragging disguised as holiday cheer.
When we asked you to share some of the most outrageous letters you've received, we got a multitude of replies, ranging from missives proclaiming the joy of a $5,000 pool table to a week-by-week recounting of children's activities. While some of you saw the humor in them, they sucked the Christmas spirit right out of many of you.
"I hope we don't hear from her again," wrote one reader who is fed up with a niece bragging about her escalating paychecks.
At the other end of the spectrum are the anti-holiday joy letters — those copied correspondences recounting personal details of messy divorces, memorializing deceased pets and reviewing all physical maladies endured throughout the year.
One daughter demanded her mother recall her letter after she realized it disclosed the daughter's broken engagement and unhappy job situation.
One reader came up with her own way of handling those postal intrusions: "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."
Read on for more responses:
We got one last year in which a neighbor told us about how her husband was 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.
We got a letter from a niece who bragged about her "450,000 starter home" she got for a stunning $390,000. What a blow for my kids who were struggling to get a $90,000 townhouse or just to pay the rent. All this at age 26. She is now buying a $1 million plus home. I hope we don't hear from her.
— Elizabethtown, Pa.
We heard that a halfway house for sex offenders was opening in the sender's neighborhood.
— Karen, Frederick, Md.
[The most memorable letter I received]was actually my own mother's back in 2001. 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 about dropped dead on the spot when I read it. 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 and I also had to say something about what you were doing." I was steamed and I demanded that she send a retraction of the paragraph about me to the same 250 people to whom she had sent the letter. Granted, we patched things up. Other family members were just as taken aback as I and she ended up "eating those words." Since then, though, I have always demanded a copy of the Christmas letter before it goes to the copy shop. She has obliged with it because she understands now how badly she hurt me in '01.
Excerpt from last year’s letter from friends of my parents whom we had not seen in 16 years: "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 Doug's dream. He and the boys love playing on the $5,000 pool table. Personally, I think it was just a little too expensive for a pool table, but if my boys are happy, I'm even happier! Yes, I am. This addition, along with the new kitchen last year, has definitely made this a home for the ages!"
— Rob C., West Chester, Pa.
My family actually received a Christmas letter about how they accidentally ran over their new puppy with the mini van and now the puppy has three legs (they said this thinking that was funny.) The letter also stated that the father was teaching the 7-year-old to hunt deer. Being an animal lover, I felt sick to my stomach after reading this letter. How depressing.
We receive a Christmas letter from a childless, senior couple. It reads like a to-do list. Last year's entries included Bernard changing the blades on the lawn mower and Alice attending a secretaries conference in Detroit. I kid you not!
— Susan Wilston, Sugar Grove, Pa.
We got a letter last year from friends. The husband was writing the letter and he said: "Sue got a bone scan recently and she was told she has a spine of a 90 year old." Sue is only 64 years old. I would kill him if he were my husband.
— Sandy, Omaha, Neb.
One letter we received was an oddly anti-bragging letter. The senders went on about how they painted their garage in the colors of our alma mater, but did not mention their only child even once!
— T. Hayes, Ill.
When I was a newlywed and not yet a parent, we received a card that said, "If you don't have kids, you won't understand paragraph 4, 6, 7 or 8."
— Ann D., Fredericksburg, Texas
Several years ago I received a holiday letter from a high school chum I hadn't seen or heard from in years. It told (in great detail) about her debilitating illnesses (physical and mental), her inability to maintain a job due to those illnesses, several paragraphs devoted to her decision not to have children due to those illnesses, the death of a beloved grandparent (that I'd never met), the demise of her parents' marriage, and her own glorious ambition to build a house close to the local Wal-Mart. It was painful and depressing to read — not a scrap of holiday cheer to be found. I think I'd almost prefer the stereotypical parental brags.
My family laughs every Christmas because I always write a letter about what REALLY happened all year and my sister in Maryland's letter is always about her perfect life. The joke is, if you want the "Leave it to Beaver" version, read the Maryland letter, if you want real life, read the Florida letter.
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. One year, we wrote our own, only our kids were horrible, juvenile delinquents just to spice up the Christmas letter. I sometimes wonder how the wonderkids turned out in all those perfect families. Well, actually, I don't wonder often.
— Karen Read, Montgomery, Ala.
My mother last year decided that she would tactfully degrade those who feel it is necessary to write "brag" letters. She decided last year to sit down and discuss our immediately family in depth. The letter started with the fact that she was sitting in front of the fireplace drinking a bottle of wine. I quote, "Tis the season to drink straight from the bottle." She proceeded to talk about her new Lexus that she took out a 7-year note on and if she was lucky she would make the first payment within 90 days of its due date. From there she talked about how thankful she was to have refinanced her home to pull all of the cash out to stock up on the vodka she would need to survive the holiday season. From there she spoke of her children as though we were "objects of her affection." She talked about me and how I was a mortgage broker and how she couldn't help but question if I was that or just someone trafficking in illegal substances. If that was the case she was hoping I would be so kind as to give her a discount. Then there was my sister who proceeded to climb the corporate ladder. She was so grateful one of her children took the right avenue in life and was sleeping her way to the top. From there it was off to my brother who "God love him" is still remodeling his trailer for him and his girlfriend and the five children that they had out of wedlock. To this she added that "I really hope they have a couple more of those things they can not afford." Along with this she reminded everyone that she just refinanced to buy the alcohol and she wouldn't be able to pull more cash out for another six months or so. All and all it was a huge hit with our immediately family. Pertaining to our extended family this didn't go over so well. Last year it wasn't necessary to attend any Christmas functions and I along with my siblings are encouraging a letter equally as offensive this year. Happy Holidays!
— Tom, Seattle