Receiving Christmas cards and letters is one of the most favorite parts of the holiday season in our family.

I look forward to checking our mail every day to see if any cards arrived. I will open them right away, read and place them in our card basket near the tree. On Christmas Eve after all the hustle and bustle of our family dinner is finished and everyone is gone and the house is quiet with just my husband and I, I get a glass of wine, sit down to relax and reread all our cards and Christmas letters. It is my time to reflect on family and friends near and far.

We also like to send cards. I am a big fan of writing a Christmas letter. It is pretty safe to guess I have written one every Christmas since we were married umpteen years ago. With most of my husband's family in New York and mine in South Dakota, it seemed a great way to keep them in touch with our family and special events throughout the year. At first I hand wrote each and every one, then as time went on and I got busier, I typed the letter and made copies. Now it is done on my computer. I just compose the letter, spell check it (a must for me), and print them off on some cute Christmas copy paper.

It is a family tradition that each year a family photo is sent along with the letter. The pictures were usually taken around our tree, or in our dining room, some were outside in our back yard and sometimes we would go to the bandstand in our borough park. My husband would set up the camera on his tripod and the fun would begin. It was easy when the kids were small but as they got older it became more like a project.

Trying to get four children and two adults to all look straight and smile at the same time is always a challenge. No matter what, we always got a suitable one to add to the letter. Even today we still add a picture but now it is of our grandchildren.

Except for the years that I had handwritten the letters, I have managed to keep a copy of most of those Christmas letters and pictures from years gone by. I keep them in a special album and bring them out at this time of the year. Reading those letters takes me back to babies in diapers, to school days and sporting events, to engagement announcements, to wedding celebrations, anniversaries, the arrival of grandchildren and some sad times, too. Where does the time go?

Here are a few tips that I have followed in writing a good Christmas letter.

Share your most memory-making events that happened throughout the year. Even your friends and neighbors who live close by love to read a short recap of things special to you.

Write just enough details to make the letter interesting and fun to read. Stay away from bragging. Add humor whenever you can.

Let your creative juices run wild. Write a "Top Ten" letter, a multiple choice letter with all answers correct, write it from your child's or your grandchild's perspective, or add your own memories of the past year to the outline of "Twas the Night Before Christmas."

This keeps the letter format different each year and more fun for you to write.

Keep it to one page and break it up by paragraphs. One large paragraph is not easy or fun to read.

Handwrite a short personal note on each letter. No one likes to feel they are just part of a "To Send" list.

Above all, just do it. Don't worry about your letter being the best ever. Just write it how you want it to read and send it out. Don't be concerned if you think you may have run-on sentences or incorrect punctuation. These letters are written from our heart. If you think one of your recipients is going to grade or cut up your letter, maybe just a signed card would do in that case.

It is no secret I love to write and receive Christmas letters. Touching base with loved ones near and far is a wonderful way to celebrate this lovely season.