Story is a tie that binds us to one another. Escape the rush of the holiday season and turn off the television and the video games. Do what has become an increasingly rare occurrence in a stress filled world; sit down with your children, parents and stepparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and neighbors and talk to one another. Sing songs. Play silly games. Recite poetry and verse. Read traditional stories aloud. Share secrets. Tell each other the stories of your lives.

  • Before sitting down for your holiday dinner, set an old family photo next to each place setting. Ask each family member to tell the story about the photograph sometime during dinner.
  • Have a CD or digital music player available with familiar movie or Broadway music, like the “Sound of Music,” at the ready when you find that gazillions of small cousins are getting under foot while their elders are organizing the holiday meal. Pick out a reliable boss among the kids and send them off to the rec room, basement, attic, or family room with the music. Ask them to produce a “musical” for family’s entertainment after dinner. The kids can be kept busy casting the parts and rehearsing, either lip synching the tunes or singing themselves. Shyer cousins can make programs and act as ushers, seating family members when it is time for the post-dinner entertainment. If you have young children and grandparents are visiting for the holidays, don’t worry about the noise level. Grandparents, especially if they live alone, rarely hear the hustle and bustle of family life, and, for the most part, cherish the sounds of simple family living.
  • If your kids are in high school or college, get out the old home movies and videos, especially if they are bringing dates or fiancées home for the holidays. It is a parent’s duty to embarrass the offspring in front of their dates during the holidays. And their friends, especially the dates, will love it! Old films and videos will surely trigger everyone’s memories.
  • Set an old card table up in your living room and put an old fashioned 575 piece puzzle out in the table. Make sure a part of the puzzle is already started when your guests arrive. Set a comfortable chair or two around the table. The puzzle will draw family members together in surprising ways.
  • Have some board games ready that can be played by teams. Board games not only provide entertainment, but they can help generations connect. Board games are ice breakers. And, interacting while playing a game will act as a catalyst for conversation.
  • Your local library has many carol and song books. Photocopy a few songs and lyrics from those books and staple the pages together to make your own family song books. Later, you can add to the books and use them over and over again. If one of your family members plays an instrument, ask them if they will perform at your family get together so you can all sing-along. Get a very brave and gregarious cousin with a not-so–perfect voice to lead the singing. With the words in front of them, few people will be able to resist joining in.
  • In the evening, get out the afghans and pillows and encourage everyone to gather ‘round the fireplace. If you don’t have a fireplace, light candles and turn out the lights. Give the kids hot chocolate, and the grownups, wine or coffee. Ask someone with a good strong voice to read a favorite holiday story aloud. Or, ask each person, from the oldest to the youngest, to tell everyone about the very first holiday celebration they can remember. Ask them about what they saw and smelled that day, what they ate, what they did, who they visited, what they sang, where they went, and what the weather was like. Ask them about a person they remember with love on that day, and when they are through with their story; tell them how much they are loved by you.Instead of, or in addition to exchanging gifts with each other, ask each family member to write a short story or anecdote about their favorite family holiday memory to exchange with a gift partner. Host a special family breakfast or brunch. It’s a treat to see extended family in the morning. People sometimes display entirely different, and fascinating, aspects of their personalities than at evening gatherings and conversations may reflect those changes.We all have piles of family photographs which we rarely look at. This year create a special family photo exhibit. Ask your guests to bring an amusing family photo to post on a special bulletin board, or tape the pictures to a foam core board that you have decorated. Display the board in an area where everyone can see and admire it, and make time during the day to share the stories surrounding the photographs.

From the NCBLA family to yours, have a joyous and peaceful Holiday Season!

© 2016 The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance