How The Christmas Letters Are Made & The Philosophy Behind Them

Emily Beckloff CEO & Founder of the International Elf Service

For those interested in the ‘behind the scenes’ of how these Christmas Letters are made up, and the philosophy behind them …

One of my main aims with my Christmas letters, is to inspire children to read, get them asking questions, and to leave as much up to their imaginations as possible … including what the Elves look like!

Different families do things in different ways, and that’s what’s so wonderful about Christmas.  Christmas is a family affair, where children can feel a strong sense of belonging and magic.

These letters aim to be a fun newsy adventure style, rather than focus on behaviour, the children’s life, or what presents the children are going to get.  I’ve worked very hard to make them different to conventional Christmas Letters.

*On the certificate I haven’t wanted to say too much about why children have been selected to receive Christmas letters, but to leave it up to their imaginations. There’s nothing I would want them to try and do to ensure they, or their friends are selected, but to leave it as a ‘luck’ thing.  I also try to make it clear in the last letter, that they won’t necessarily be receiving letters next year!

A reply system for children who write back to the Elves

SO many children write back, which I just love! I can’t provide a reply system myself yet as it would be a massive massive task, but parents will now be able to squirrel away all the cards, letters, pictures and pressies the children leave for the Elves, and pop them in a keepsake box without feeling they have to reply 💫 .

So, there’s an emergency note from Mother Christmas in each letter bundle, explaining that Elves are under strict instructions not to reply to all the children’s letters, as they love writing back so much they don’t do enough work! Mother Christmas is very keen however, that children continue to write and draw pictures for them as the Elves keep everything a child leaves for them in a box by their bed in Cranberry Cabin!

Colour

The idea is to make the letters look more authentic and less mass produced and ‘book like’.  I insist on a certain kind of print finish, or the letters look very unnatural, and again more professionally book like. So, the illustrations are designed to look hurriedly hand-drawn and then smudged and splatted, just as you’d expect from busy Elves.  The way we add colour is to add coloured splodges, which we’ll be adding more of this year!  The concern originally, was that too many might be too distracting for the kids and stop them making the most of their letters, particularly the younger ones.


eliza-colouring

Certificate from the International Elf Service. Perfect for colouring in!
Certificate from the International Elf Service. Perfect for colouring in!



candy-cane-christmas-letters-coloured-in

girl-colouring-cccls


 

Personalisation

Four topics of personalisation have been raised, but I thought it might help to understand how the Christmas letters are made before I talk about this as it’s actually quite complicated.  Each letter is made up of 4 layers: I write all the letters, then Amee formats my text to make it look balanced on the page, puts it under a light box and hand-draws illustrations around and over my text.  Once those two layers have been put together, Amee adds a layer of watercolour detail to each drawing, smudges out areas that overlie the text (to make it readable again), and then finally, we work together while Amee adds all the coloured splodges and smudges on top.

1) To be able to add their child’s school, best friend’s name, or what they’re getting for Christmas…
We could do this if we had far less story and news on each page.  Currently every millimetre of space on the page is accounted for!  As soon as you start adding words, potentially of varying lengths, the whole text on the page moves around, becoming covered by the illustrations and splodges and becomes unreadable.  The text too would potentially disappear off the bottom of the page!  This sort of personalisation would work if we kept the drawings to the borders, and had very little story or news on each page, but this is the generic style we’ve so worked hard to move away from.

2) ‘To be able to have letters signed off from our own Elves.
Many children in schools, families and groups of friends receive these Christmas letters.  If children were to receive the same letter, but from different Elves, it would cause great confusion and blow the whole ‘live news’ concept.  Lots of families have their letters addressed to their child(ren) and Elf(ves) too!  Parents are encourages to talk about it being a big team up in the North Pole, where some Elves visit families, while others stay behind and write letters / carry on getting everything ready / cause mischief / make all the uniforms etc

3) A letter from families’ own Elves explaining why they’re not writing the letters.
Currently families are encouraged to have letters addressed to their Elves too, or to explain that not all Elves have access to Father Christmas’ computer seemingly.

4) Santa vs Father Christmas
We’re in the UK and when I did a survey a couple of years ago to ask what people preferred, ‘Father Christmas’ was by far the preferred. Unfortunately we can’t offer a choice, as the text would move around and mess up the letter as described above.

Little items to add to the letter bundles

A couple of years ago I had the idea that I wanted to supply cute little bags filled with things ‘from the North Pole’ that people could pop inside the envelopes with their letters.  I bought a ton of stuff, packed up a load of these little bags and then in the middle of the night one night, I sat up and thought – oh crikey – do I need to get clearance from someone to be able to provide these?  I did some research, spoke to a couple of people, including Trading Standards, and the unanimous answer from the powers that be, was that I would have to spend £1,000s to have it all assessed, safety checked and labelled!  So, as I’m just a Mum working from home and not a big company, that idea had to be shelved.  The good news is, you almost certainly have enough little things in your house already. I wrote a post to give you some ideas here.

International Elf Service™ Envelopes for the North Pole Christmas Letters

These are now available as an add-on for people who prefer envelopes to scrolls!

Age Ranges & Content

Every child and family is different, and it’s probably better to judge which bundle is best for you based on on your child’s developmental age and whether they like to sit down and read or listen every day, or whether they’re a ‘pop in, pop out and not concentrate for very long’ type person (like me!).  The time of day you choose to deliver and read your letters will also have an impact.

The Candy Cane Christmas Letters are most suitable for 3+ yrs, with an upper range of 4-5 years old depending on the child (although having said that, our 8 year old was keen to get to them before his brother!).  The North Pole Christmas Letters are for children of (4)-5+ years old, or those who are very busy. Elfie’s Christmas Letters are 5-6+ yrs, the same level as the North Pole Christmas Letters, but as they form a story they require the same concentration, input and timing, as you would have with reading a normal story book with them.

I made of close up videos on Facebook, so people could judge the different letter bundles for their own families: Close up Candy Cane Christmas Letters and the Close Up North Pole Christmas Letters. I’ll do some more for this year’s bundles when they’re ready.  Elfie’s Christmas Letters are the same ‘level’ as the North Pole Christmas Letters, but there are more of them, and they all follow on from each other with various story arcs like a book.

Adding the letters from different Elves was a new addition to Elfie’s Christmas Letters this year, and there was an overwhelmingly positive response.  I’ll make sure I add more about Father Christmas getting ready, looking after the reindeer, more funnies, make the letters a bit shorter and link up the North Pole Christmas Letters a bit more!

Naughty or Nice List

A few people have mentioned they would like the letters to refer to children’s behaviour, and whether or not they’re on the naughty or nice list.  These Christmas Letters purposely avoid that, as many families don’t have this as part of their Christmas philosophy.

Value For Money

“A small price to pay for a month of magical fun and adventure!”

A huge amount of thought, time, energy and high quality materials goes into these Christmas Letters.  Not everyone has the same budget, but there’s a 15% pre-order discount available each year on all Christmas Letters for those who wish to get organised and save some pennies too! 🎄💫

Fairy & Tooth Fairy Letters

The Fairy & Tooth Fairy Letters are available and have been a huge success!  They’re slightly unconventional fairies, who also leave some streetwise advice woven in to each letter!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, I hope you’ve found it interesting and please do leave me a comment with any other thoughts or suggestions.

Emily x

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FREE Guides To Common Christmas Conundrums

 

“The best Christmas idea ever.” – Charlie Condou (Actor)

 

If your child believes in Father Christmas and you want to keep the magic for as long as possible, There are DIFFERENT and NEW! Christmas Letters each year!

 

Unconventional Fairy letters from the unconventional fairies in the international Fairy Service!

Fairy letters from a world of dragons (who set fire to your lunch by mistake), Mystery Gardens (with changing adventures inside), Magical Potion Fairies, Secret Underground Passageways, Magical Tree Bark, Time Travel … and more.

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Birthday Letters

Tooth Fairy Letters

Dummy Fairy Letters are available too!

Come and join us on Facebook, or find us over on Christmas Traditions & Magic For Children for all year round festive chat.

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Emily x

 

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