Are your Christmases with extended family often, quite frankly, boring?
When I was younger I loved Christmas. It brought family, which meant having other children to play with and to sleep over–it was the best part of my year.
Unfortunately, my grandparents were both a little senile, so we children couldn’t be raucous all day. We had to be calm and subdued over the dinner table, during which my grandfather would recite all the recent plot lines from Matlock (which he thought was actually a documentary). So we children ate silently while we learned how Matlock pulled yet another trick out of his hat.
Later, though, we would play family board games, and take hikes, and bake sticky, sweet things. We would choreograph dances and write plays and perform them, forcing our parents to sit through yet another performance with no actual plot and no discernible ending. But they watched, because that’s what family did.
Do families today know how to actually have fun together?
We recently watched the movie Dan in Real Life, which is quite cute. The part of the movie I found so heartwarming, though, wasn’t actually the love story; it was all the activity in the background. It was real life family.
The bulk of the action centers on a family reunion at a rambling old farmhouse. The grandparents, the four adult children with their significant others, and countless grand-kids are stuffed in this house, forming a bustling, crowded mass of humanity.
But what’s so charming movie is what they do. No televisions or computers are anywhere to be seen. Instead, the family actually does stuff together. Weird stuff, mind you, but they’re laughing together all the while. There’s a contest between the males and the females to see which gender can finish the newspaper crossword. They play charades, touch football, and hide and seek—even the adults. They jump around aerobically first thing in the morning, and produce a talent show. The grandma teaches the younger girls to knit.
For many of us Christmas is our only family reunion.
It’s the only time of year the extended family is together. And if we spend that time watching television or playing the latest video game, we’re squandering the opportunity to create fun memories where we all just plain silly together.
I once attended a Christmas party at a friend’s house that was enough to snatch all the festive spirit from one forever. The only activities planned seemed to be drinking beer. Everyone was bored silly, even those who were partaking. The fifty or sixty people inside the home didn’t know each other, so natural conversation didn’t flow well.
And then, in desperation, I started suggesting games. We played euchre; we played charades; the room came alive. My husband wanted to bury his head in the snow in mortification because I was taking over the party, but that is what I do when I am desperate. And once I took the lead, many others followed, so we could sneak out early.
I think we have forgotten how to have fun.
The screen has replaced so much of our lives that we never actually just spend time together laughing and playing. And that’s a shame, because it’s only when we’re doing things together—rather than watching things together—that we can really share our personalities, our hearts, and form closer bonds. The message of Christmas is all about God bridging the gap so that he could have a relationship with us. And whether or not you celebrate that message, surely the idea of Christmas being a relationship-building time resonates with everyone.
So I’m warning my family: this year we are going to play charades, even if it kills us. I want to bring laughter back to our family, so here are 10 ways that you and your family can laugh together and have fun this Christmas!
1. Tell stories
Get people talking by putting prompts in a box or by going around the table and having everyone answer a question. What was the best thing that happened to you this year? What was your favorite memory with someone at this table? What was the weirdest thing that happened to you this year? See what answers people have!
2. Bring board games
If you’re looking for family board games, I have a post that lists some great board games to try this year!
3. Get people moving
Are you an active family? Why not whip out one of those 80s aerobics video you know that one aunt has hidden in her basement and do one as a family?
4. Add an element of competition
Get out a trivia game or even a Sudoku puzzle or word search and see which team can get it first! Split it up boys versus girls, or kids versus adults–but the losing side has to clean up after dinner!
5. Let the kids put on a talent show
Have a bunch of kids in the family? Send them downstairs to get into costumes and put together “acts” and have them put on a talent show for the adults sometime during the visit! You may be surprised how talented your family members are, and if you’re not–well, it’ll at least be a memory.
6. Play charades
You really can’t go wrong with this one. You’re up and moving, adrenaline is pumping, and if you keep it simple it’s easy enough even for kids to play!
If this isn’t enough of a challenge for your family, my daughter and son-in-law’s friend group take this up a notch by having each team write the other’s cards–and they don’t make it easy. You try miming “bucking bronco,” “diplomatic immunity” or “creative juices” without having everyone roaring with laughter.
7. Have a card game tournament
You really don’t know someone until you’ve seen them get stuck with the Queen of Spades 5 rounds of hearts in a row. Choose a card game that you all know how to play or is easy to learn and get a tournament going!
8. Break out the cringe-worthy home videos and pictures
Take a trip down memory lane–even if it makes you cringe at the awkwardness. My family recently found videos that my kids made with their cousins in Jr. High and they definitely made us all laugh! But the best part about looking through videos and pictures is that everyone inevitably starts reminiscing about those times. You may hear some stories you’ve never heard before!
9. Go outside
We get so stuck indoors in the winter! So get the family outside! Go cross-country skiing, or take a hike on a trail near your house. Maybe even have a snowball fight, or a snowman-making competition!
10. Try Timed Challenges
These can be a ton of fun. Split up into teams of 4 or 5 and see who can make the tallest tower, or the best cathedral using only marshmallows and toothpicks before the clock runs out! Or google some minute-to-win-it challenges and have family members go head-to-head–keep a tally to see who is the ultimate champion.