November is National Family Stories Month. Together with Thanksgiving, it is the perfect time to reminisce about our blessings and consider what and who we are thankful for. In addition to recalling our gratitude, it is heartwarming to share those thoughts with our loved ones. They need to know how much we appreciate them.
To encourage everyone to get into the act, take time to plan some fun activities for your next holiday gathering with friends and family.
Whether you have a small group or a large one, everyone loves to hear a good story.
From the youngest and to the oldest members of the assemblage can participate when you use simple memory prompts to get people thinking – and sharing.
The challenge is to capture all those great family stories before they are lost.
One easy way to save them is by using a recorder, whether it is cassette tape, digital audio or video. If the recording device has a USB connector, you can easily transfer the information to a computer and/or create a CD or DVD to share with others. Best of all, have fun and really get to know each other!
As you make the final preparations for Thanksgiving over the next few days, think about ways to get people started talking about those precious family stories.
WARNING: Consider the best time to start these exercises. If your family is like mine, right before you eat dinner is probably NOT the right time: the guests may not have the patience on empty stomachs to listen to everyone’s stories. A better time could be after the meal is finished, perhaps while you are letting your food “settle” before tackling the pumpkin pie and other delectable desserts.
Here are some simple story prompts to help people recall their memories in fun ways:
1. I am thankful for …
This is probably the most common Thanksgiving activity, as each person takes a turn to describe who or what they are thankful for. It is an easy icebreaker, but it may help to give an example or two to get people in the mood to participate. If someone can’t think of anything, offer to let them pass until later, or give them another question.
2. What I like best about Thanksgiving is …
Responses to this question may range from visiting with relatives from near or far away, from favorite foods to football games, from nature walks to afternoon naps, from yummy desserts to plentiful leftovers. Each person may relate to something unique to them.
3. I felt special when …
This memory prompt is a little more revealing than some of the others. If the speaker gives a short answer, ask for more details about the recollection. If they never felt special, remind them of a time when you thought they were special. You may surprise them with your own memories about them.
4. Draw from the hat
Here’s your chance to get really creative. Write a variety of questions onto small slips of paper and put them into a hat or bowl or basket. You can customize the questions to fit your own family or group of friends, mixing serious questions with silly ones. Be prepared to allow guests to switch the question if they are embarrassed or reluctant to answer. Remember that the purpose of the questions is to learn more about them while having fun with everyone.
5. Photo albums
Pull out your old family photo albums. Let each person find a picture of themselves and describe the occasion, including who, what, where, when and why. This is a great learning experience, especially for younger family members who may not know many of the old family stories.
6. Cherished heirlooms
Most families have some cherished heirlooms or stories that have been around for many years. Think about things like hand-made ornaments, sentimental trinkets, an old quilt, a child’s rocker, or anything else that makes you recall a loved one. Move one of your favorite items into the room, or take a photo of several of them if they are not on the premises. Ask your most knowledgeable guests to talk about the origin of the item, especially where it came from and why it is special to your family.
Here is a simple activity to keep children occupied either before or after dinner. Kids as young as four can draw pictures; they can also talk about their own impressions about the big holiday gathering. This free template is available on my website, but you can easily make your own version to get all the children involved. The great thing is that they can create their own keepsake to help them remember time spent with their loved ones.