Richard Louv

Recipient of the Audubon Medal

Author of the National Bestseller Last Child in the Woods

From the Blog

Christmas Love Letters

Every year....

One December, I wrote a newspaper column about Linda Evangelist, of El Centro, California, who did not enjoy shopping. 

Linda and the members of her family decided that, rather than buying each other presents, each would write a love letter to the other family members, to be read aloud on Christmas morning. The love letters would list at least twenty-five reasons why the person receiving the letter was loved or valued.

Among the reasons her son Brad (then a teenager) gave for loving his dad: "You would bribe me to go get ice cream late at night after Mom went to bed."  Among the reasons her two sons gave for loving their mom: "You come up with weird ideas like this one." Among the reasons the brothers gave for loving each other: "You rode me on your handlebars to school when I was in junior high," and "You were considerate enough to put your banana peels under the couch." And so on

Christmas morning love lists became a tradition in the Evangelist household—and in other homes, as well. One year, at Christmas time, a talk-show host on L.A. radio station KFI read the column over the air. The idea began to spread. So I decided that my family had better get on board, too. 

That year, we sat down and wrote our own Christmas love letters. Here are a few items from my love lists.

Among the reasons I listed in my letter to my son, Jason: "You let me read you bedtime stories, even though you're 12. You protect your brother even when he irritates you. You make a mess I wouldn't trade for anything. I can trust your word. You teach me about UFOs and comics. You work hard for a goal. You try to do what's right, even when it's hard to know what that is. You treat people with respect. You're dreamy and imaginative. You like me to watch 'X-Files' with you with the lights turned off, and you tape it for me when I'm not home. You love your family. You sing to yourself. . ."

I listed the following reasons, among others, for valuing and loving my 6-year-old, Matthew: "Every night when I tuck you in, you laugh at my joke: 'Can I take your glasses off so your nose can grow?' You like to fish even more than I do. Your enthusiasm for every moment. The way you snuggle. The way you laugh when I give you a belly beezle. You stand up for yourself. You love Rex the Wonder Dog, even when the rest of us have had it with his whining. . . "

My list for Kathy included: "You gave birth to Matthew and Jason. You care deeply about your patients at work. You're honorable in every part of your life. I trust you. You don't pick up my socks. You took care of my mother, and me, when she was dying. You go family camping when you'd rather get room service. You introduced me to the joys of room service. You read better books than I do. The scent of your clothes. The way you look when the covers are wrapped around your face ... "

We wrote these Christmas love lists for a few years, and put these time capsules in a safe place. The ones the boys and Kathy wrote to me and to each other were lovely. Fishing and other family adventures in nature were mentioned, including my propensity to appear to be lost in the woods, and more private things.

Then the boys were older, and then they were off to college, and now they’re young men on their own. The ritual faded.

 Perhaps we should revive it. Your family might want to try it, too. It's just an idea. Life's short.

__________________

Richard Louv is chairman emeritus of The Children & Nature Network and author of eight books, including THE NATURE PRINCIPLE, LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS, and THE WEB OF LIFE (Conari Press, 1996), from which this essay is adapted.

The photo is from a walk in New York during a blizzard.

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Comments

Quite the coincidence! I’ve already prepared the holiday menu to have visits through old pictures, videos, and grandparents’ memory boxes. Both offspring will be home from college. It would be a fine thing to do!

I’ve already sent them this linc!  I’ll let you know how it goes!

That’s beautiful.

I have a young family myself and want to have as much joy as possible between now and when the fledgings leave the nest, which everyone says arrives far too fast…

Wonderful idea. I hate shopping anytime. My eye Dr. Says I’m the hunter type. All the external stimuli in malls kinda drives me batty. It’s just too much. I’d rather be in my garden watching the birds.

Thank you for sharing this post. I have been trying to find meaningful ways for us to reach each other…as we are often apart at this time. We have a blended family and every Christmas choices must be made as to who we visit at this time. Often during a trip their is the time for reflection.

nice artical, cant wait to read more, thanks.

Christmas is the time, we tell each others how much we care and love them, I will write someone a christmas love letter as well

The coincidences are amazing.  I’m SO grateful to have discovered this blog and heard part of your interview on KERA today.  Thank you.

Wow…what an amazing article.  I really like the idea.  Heart-felt words are a lasting legacy and one that I know your family will cherish.

nice share, great idea..love christmas,memorable..

I really like the idea.  Heart-felt words are a lasting legacy and one that I know your family will cherish.

Good idea Richard!! Like the way you describe everything. I’ll use this idea next year. Thanks

I’m SO grateful to have discovered this blog and heard part of your interview on KERA today.

Letters and familial messages are much more powerful compared to material things. although the kids might not have that notion yet. smile

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