How To Write a Farcical Holiday Letter

Since Christmas is the season for garish Santa ties and getting hammered off eggnog sharing, I am turning my blog over to Lisa Nowak today. Lisa is both a fellow Portlander and writer who specializes in Young Adult fiction. I had the pleasure of meeting her in person at the Wordstock Festival in October, where we were both hobnobbing with our fellow literati. If you hurry over to Amazon, Lisa’s book Running Wide Open is on sale for 99 cents. If I owned a Kindle, I’d probably have three copies by now! Her latest release, Getting Sideways – Book 2 in her Full Throttle series – is available, as well. Lisa is a talented writer and an all around cool person, so pay her a visit! And without further ado, I’ll let her talk about a topic near and dear to her heart this time of year: holiday letters.

How to write a farcical holiday letter

Last year I heard a lot of talk about holiday letters—mostly how tired everyone was of the bragging involved. Devious person that I am, I set out to write one that was so funny and outrageous people would clamor to read it. What my husband and I came up with was a hit, which made me think I should share my thoughts on how to create such a masterpiece. You know, so I could have an excuse to drag ours out again this year in the name of educating the masses.

Courtesy of

The following is my basic formula for a hit holiday letter, with examples provided:

  1. The achievements depicted should contain enough truth, and enough of an individualized flair, that they’ll make your friends and family groan. (In the letter below, Bob is a mechanic who’s not exactly the epitome of physical fitness, and I’m a cat-lover who’s far too “Type A” to ever achieve enlightenment.)
  2. While you should use a personal touch, the ideas and traits should also be universal enough to be funny to a complete stranger. (Hence the men-and-toilet-seats joke and the reference to swimwear for cats.)
  3. If you don’t have a lot of people in your family, include your pets. (All four of our cats got billing in our letter.) If you don’t have pets, consider an inanimate object. For example, a car that’s notorious for being a clunker might have achieved immortality by securing a place in Carhenge.
  4. Use photos to liven it up. If you can pose or Photoshop them to make them ridiculous, that will add to the laughs.
  5. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, let the family get involved. (My husband provided a lot of the stuff in our letter.)
  6. Make it outrageous enough that no one can possibly mistake it for fact. If you have any doubts about the gullibility of your friends and relations, include a humorous disclaimer.
  7. Keep it to one page. Really, you’re not THAT funny.

Dear Friends and Family,

Holiday greetings! We have had a truly wondrous year and would like to share news of our good fortune with you.

This summer, Bob hiked the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail in his Birkenstocks while carrying three Haitian orphans on his back. In September, he invented a fuel injection system that will allow cars to get 500 miles per gallon. But most impressive of all, after years of intensive training, he finally learned how to put down the toilet seat.

Lisa started the year by designing an entire line of swimwear for cats. In March she achieved enlightenment and went to Tibet to have a beer with the Dalai Lama.  In October, movie studios went into a bidding frenzy for the rights to her best-selling, coming-of-age/mystery/fantasy/thriller tome, “Larry Otter: Prisoner Of The Marshy Mallows.”

Margaret received national recognition for watching every program broadcast by the Hallmark Channel in 2010. In addition, she single-handedly saved Barnes and Noble from financial ruin with her online purchases.

As for the cats, Keelan and Loki achieved fame by e‘rat’icating all the vermin from the state of Oregon and chasing them back to California. A special award will be presented by Governor Kitzhaber in January.

Dakota was called to Washington D.C. to spearhead a campaign entitled, “A Mouse in Every Pot And A Cat On Every Lap.” Despite an embarrassing altercation with the First Dog, she received bipartisan support.

Laptop was a bit less ambitious, but none-the-less discovered a cure for depression. She is currently in negotiations with Pfizer. 

In closing, we’d just like to say, if anything in this letter strikes you as the least bit plausible, please go out and stock up on hay. Santa’s bringing you a pony.*

Best wishes,

Bob & Lisa

*(Okay, maybe the part about Laptop was true.)


Lisa Nowak, a certified professional smartass, thinks humor is a plus in almost any circumstance and sprinkles it liberally throughout her books. The first one, Running Wide Open, was published in June. For those of you who might be wondering, she is not, and has never been, a diaper-wearing astronaut. She lives in Milwaukie, Oregon, with her husband, four feline companions, and two giant sequoias.

20 thoughts on “How To Write a Farcical Holiday Letter

  1. Absolutely hysterical, especially for me, since my partner just sent me upstairs to finish OUR Christmas letter and I’m procrastinating my reading blogs. NOW–I can get to work in the proper fashion.

    Love the part about Phizer!



  2. Hi Lisa! Nice to meet you. I will, in fact, check out your books over at Amazon, and unlike Mark, I am a Kindle user and I’m all about putting a little bit of extra change in an author’s pocket.

    Christmas letter was funny…thanks for the ideas!

    Happy Holidays to all of Mark’s followers!


  3. After reading this, my little evil brain is just a-humming with how to word a snarky letter to our friends & family! Thank you, Lisa. Oh, and Mark, too, I guess…

    P.S. I’m going to find your book now!


  4. Thanks, Carl. I’m happy for you that your team won, but frankly if the Ducks aren’t playing I don’t really pay attention. Too bad they won’t let college teams in the Super Bowl.


      1. What would be fun is to do a blog hop. Readers could go through all the stops then vote on their favorite letter. Lots of traffic for everyone. Add a contest with some book giveaways (or maybe an Amazon gift card) and it could attract even more traffic. Which might result in new subscribers and book sales.


    1. Yeah, Tori, you might think the part about the cats was funny, but they wouldn’t speak to me for a month after they found out I got a laugh at their expense. Spiteful little beasts.


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