Christmas letters are a dime a dozen. Don't get me wrong: I love a good Christmas letter as much as the next gal. I especially love getting the photos and comparing them to the ones we got last year and seeing how much everyone has grow, but usually you just replace one family's name with the next and you get a general idea that most folks are communicating the same thing each year.
We got one this week from a long-time friend of Craig's and it is, in a word, brilliant. I emailed him to ask if I could reproduce it here and he agreed, so here's Ken Bradbury's Christmas letter this year:
I have a friend who cannot read an entire letter. Well, actually, he can read an entire letter but he won't. I'm serious. The guy has a college education…he's a teacher, for God's sake, yet when faced with anything longer than a paragraph, he refuses to read it. When I send him an important email (and I send him lots) I must be sure to put all important information in the first paragraph or he'll quit before he gets to the end and he'll miss my point entirely.
Okay, I've looked this stuff up and found that this guy is in a small but irritating minority. Approximately 7 percent of people who get a letter of one page in length will read no more than the opening. If they don't know the sender this percentage drops to under 2%. This means that if you've read this far into this letter you belong to a not-too-elite 93%. So…before I lose you, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. There. Got that done. Go on with what you were doing before the mail came.
I've got to tell you, the percentages drop quickly from that point on. Unless the letter begins "Dear winner of the Illinois lottery," or "The I.R.S. regrets to inform you," the hangers-on are mighty sparse from here on out.
The same article said that when it comes to what it calls "seasonal letters," of which this is probably one, nearly one-half of all readers don't follow the text closely once they reach the half-way mark unless there's something in the top half that piques their interest. Since in reading over what I've written I've found more pits than piques, I'll assume that half of you are about to leave me, so I'll throw in a "May you have the most joyous of holiday seasons." This has become a popular greeting, especially among corporate entities that don't want to offend anyone.
As you might suspect, the older we grow, the more of a letter we read. I guess we can't blame them, but kids…students…teens…are the first to stop reading (except for my above-mentioned friend). Who can blame them? Their lives are filled with reading assignments and Harry Potter and since I'm neither giving them a test on this nor will I be turning any toads into cannonballs, I've probably lost the younger set by this point. I guess this then would be time to throw in the rally dirty stuff. But…since I don't really have any dirty stuff, I'll just wave good-bye to the youngsters with a quick, "May the iPod be with you." (Besides, if I really wanted to talk to you, I would have text-messaged.)
We're now getting down to the serious readers of Christmas letters. If you've made it this far you're either a relative, in a nursing home, stuck in traffic, or an extremely caring and curious friend to whom my thoughts mean a great deal. Since most of you have just put yourself into that category, I'll give you a further statistic. Only one-third of all readers actually make it to the end of a mass-produced letter at Christmas time.
The world has 19 major religions that are divided into 270 large religious groups and with Christianity there are 34,000 separate Christian groups. Statistically, at least, the percentage of you who've made it this far in the letter exactly equals the the percentage of our world's citizens who proclaim Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. 33%.
Interesting, isn't it? (Of course if you follow that logic out, 5.9% of you who made it this far are Buddhists and since I don't think I know any Buddhists, the analogy sort of falls apart at this point.) So even though I'm preaching to the choir now that we're down to the end of the letter, let me just remind you…despite all the Christmas hoop-la we've created, Jesus is the man of the year…and forever.