It's polite to write a "thank you" letter each time you receive a present. You can also write emails to thank people, but it's still considered more "personal" to write a short letter by hand.
Layout and format
"Thank you" letters can be quite short, and fill one or two sides of A5 paper (one side of A5 paper is half the size of a sheet of A4 or office paper). You can write your address in the top left hand corner of the paper, but you don't need to write the recipient's address. You can also write the date under your address.
You normally start the letter "Dear..." followed by the name of the person you are writing to.
In the first paragraph (which can be short), you should thank the person for the gift and say something complimentary about it:
"Thank you for the book tokens. I'm looking forward to choosing a book with them."
"Thank you for the wall calendar. It will be very useful to me this year!"
"Thank you very much for the beautiful soaps. I'm looking forward to relaxing in a hot bath!"
"Thank you very much for the lovely photo frame. It will look very nice on my chest of drawers."
"Thank you very much for the elegant scarf you sent me. It's exactly what I need for special occasions."
In the second paragraph, you can give general news about how you spent the holiday period (or how you spent your birthday if you have received a birthday present). You could also show interest in the other person's holiday.
"We had a very quiet and relaxing Christmas at home. The kids ate too many chocolates as usual, so now we're all on a diet! I hope your Christmas was as good, and that you were able to relax for a few days."
In the third paragraph you can talk about more general family or personal news.
In the final paragraph, you should thank the person again for their gift, and give your wishes for the New Year if applicable. (See below for useful phrases for ending the letter.)
You should start your letter with "Dear" and follow it by the person's first name:
"Dear Tom" or "Dear Uncle Bill"
You can end your letter with any of these phrases:
"With love (from)", "With much love (from)", "Lots of love (from)" or "Love (from)" followed by your name on the next line. The "from" in these phrases is optional.
You normally end the letter with repeated thanks and wishes for the New Year:
"Thank you again for my present."
"Thank you again for such a thoughtful gift."
"Wishing you a happy New Year."
"With all my best wishes for a happy New Year."
"Wishing you all the best in 2006."
An example thank you letter
7, London Rd
30 December, 2005
Dear Uncle Bill
Thank you very much for the French cookery book you gave me. The recipes look wonderful, and I'll certainly enjoy using it.
I hope you and Auntie Susan had a good Christmas. We stayed at home, but had a couple of day trips out nearby. Our local theatre put on a production of "A Christmas Carol", which was fun.
I go back to University next week, and this year I'm going to have to study hard for the final exams. I've really enjoyed the course so far, but I'm not sure what to do once I get my degree. The University arranges career interviews, but I don't really have a clear idea of what I want to do. Hopefully it will all become clearer during the course of the year.
Thank you again for the lovely present, and Happy New Year!
With much love