Letter Writing Day
annually on December 7th
The revival of the tradition and art of handwritten letter writing is the basis of this day. Letters have been written since antiquity: they were written in ancient India, Egypt, and Sumer, and during the time of ancient Greece, Rome, and China. Throughout history they have been written on various materials such as papyrus, animal skin, and pottery, but have long since been written on paper. The mass production of paper and advances in transportation led to an ascendancy in letter writing. Family and friends were able to stay connected more easily over long distances, and in some instances letter writing became an art form, both in the substance of the text, and in its calligraphy. With the advent of the telegraph, and later because of other forms of communication, letter writing has abated. To a large extent letter writing has today been supplanted by email and instant messages, but letters are still often used for business and official communications.
But not all letter writing between family and friends has disappeared, and that is why this day really exists, to keep that tradition going. Writing a letter to a loved one, instead of firing off a quick email, forces us to slow down and to deepen our thoughts. It helps us be more creative, and maybe even a little poetic. Letters take time and effort, and they teach us patience—both while we are crafting them, and while we wait to receive one. In the end we are left with something tangible to hold onto, that represents the essence of the person who wrote it.
How to Observe
Celebrate the day by getting out some paper and writing a letter to a family member or friend. There are no rules as long as you put your soul into it. As the holidays are coming up, this may be an opportune time to add a letter along with a holiday card you were going to send out. Letters have served as great primary source documents for historians, giving them an opportunity to study how people lived and thought in a particularly time and place. Letters can be inspirational and moving, and can shine a light on someone's humanity. Because of this, today could also be appropriately celebrated by reading letters. Many fascinating letters can be read online at Letters of Note, and can also be found in print form.