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Keeping Family Close from Far Away: The Christmas Book

The Christmas Book

My oldest sister started The Christmas Book in 2001. Our family had always been extremely tight knit, probably even more than we would have been by default because we moved around so much. We were beginning to grow up – going to college, graduating, getting jobs, getting married, and starting our own families. My sister proposed that, every Christmas, we each send something that she could compile in a family book, so that – no matter how far away we were – we could share a piece of our lives, keeping family close during the holiday season in spite of physical distance.

Twelve years later, the Christmas book is still going strong – and, this year, six-year-old Emma started pulling out old volumes. She loves reading about her aunts and uncles and cousins over the years, and she finds my submission one year of some of my favorite kid quotes from when she was younger particularly amusing!

There are no rules about what you can submit. We have poems, songs, drawings, essays, memories, family histories, and old photos, letters, and journal entries. It’s a chance to share something that might not come up at a family gathering – especially when geography and the continued absence of teleportation (despite my constant requests for someone to please, please, please invent it) make family gatherings few and far between.

How do you keep in touch with family and friends from far away?

MaryAnne at Mama Smiles
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MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

35 thoughts on “Keeping Family Close from Far Away: The Christmas Book”

  1. I’m coming into this entry so, so late, but I still had to say what a sweet tradition this is! Our family is similarly geographically challenged and yet close knit from having moved so frequently when we were young. I bet my mom would hop into this book with gusto! I’m only sad that my grandfather, who used to write children’s stories, is gone now, as I can imagine what a wonderful legacy his contributions would be.

  2. This is precious!!! I wish I had a sample of your work. Is this mostly memories about family from childhood memories or both family grew up with and family memories now to share? Love this!!!
    Thank you!!!

    1. It’s a little bit of everything! We have kid quotes (quotes of fun things our kids say), drawings from grandkids, childhood memories, old journal entries, poems, short stories, old family photos, the description of a day in our lives as they currently stand – everyone contributes something different every year, and you never know what it’s going to look like. It’s always a lot of fun to read through – my seven-year-old spends hours poring over the copies from previous years.

  3. Such a great idea. I wonder if my family would be up for it. I would love more ways to keep in touch and I miss them most over the holidays.

    1. It’s also really fun when the in-laws get in on the fun. They don’t always, but when they do it’s a great way to learn a little bit more about them!

  4. Oooh, I love this idea!:) We also have family in several countries, an this would be such a great way to save memories of them that the kids can read the whole year. I was going to ask how you did it, when I saw you answered in the above comment:).

  5. HOw exactly does your sis do it? Does she makes copies and send them to everyone or scan tham and send the files to everyone (having every family print them out individually)? Does she give you a binder? Do you have your own… one for each year? Thanks in advance for your reply!

    1. We all send her electronic copies of our submissions, she prints them out, and sends them out in binders. We each have our own copy. Each binder lasts about three years – the years we don’t get a new binder she sends us our pages tied together with ribbon. She changes the page color every year so it’s easy to see where one year ends and the next starts in the binders. It’s a big project!

  6. What a sweet idea! Thank goodness for Skype and Facetime. We use those weekly. But it is sad to be apart from loved ones. I, too, am waiting on that teleportation device!

  7. This is Such a lovely idea, although my mum lives next door, gary’s family are in Ireland. I wonder if they’d be up for it? Have a lovely 2013!

  8. What a great idea! We do a family recipe books/holiday card that has an update on each of us (at least the 3 families who participate). Who is in charge of the book? Does the copying responsibility rotate?

  9. So does one member of the family keep the book or does it get sent around too?
    love the idea and I would like to use it, just looking for inspiration in the logistics too. :)

    1. Copies of the book get printed for each family member – the pages go in page protectors in three-ring binders so they can be looked through over and over (and by young children) without getting ruined.

  10. What a wonderful tradition. Our family is much-much smaller, plus there is a language barrier. We mostly keep in touch in a very old-fashioned phone way.

  11. I LOVE this idea! Thankfully most of our family and our chosen family live in a short distance, so we can keep in touch with them.

  12. I’ve read about this idea somewhere once and I thought it was great but haven’t put it into ptactice… yet. It’s still easy to keep in touch with my side but not with Robin’s. A MUST for Christmas 2013!

  13. I LOVE this idea!! Gives me an idea for our own family (in-law)….to keep close even though we are not ;-)

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