If being with your family makes you want to crawl into a punch bowl full of spiked egg nog and stay there until New Year’s – let’s talk about what to do, how to cope, and how to make it through the holidays without committing murder. I personally love to be with my family (at any time, not just during the holidays) and I think this is because (unbeknownst to me that it had a name) we practice the Danish concept of hygge. One of the things that I love about the practice of hygge that I hadn’t even been able to articulate until I read this article is that everyone pitches in. Without being asked. Everyone makes a dish, everyone pitches in, everyone contributes. I love the no drama, safe environment part to! And finding the hidden almond in the dessert was fun too!
If your family doesn’t work that way and you are looking for hints to have a better experience during family events during the holidays, read on.
1. Put me to work, give me something to do
Having a task gives you a focus that may be enough to minimize any usual drama or negative interactions. Chopping carrots or peeling potatoes may give you enough to do and it puts you in a position to have a conversation with whoever else is in the kitchen.
2. Volunteer to go to the store
If the person you are trying to avoid is in the kitchen, then I suggest you volunteer to go to the store to get more butter or more wine or whatever else is needed. Taking a little time to do something helpful makes you feel useful. It also gives you a chance to bring along someone you do want to talk to and catch up with. Sometimes it is nice to have that one on one time rather than try to have a conversation in the middle of a complete melee of all family members.
3. Play with the kids
If you don’t want to help in the kitchen or with another task, you can always volunteer to hang out and play with the kids in the family. I loved it when my aunts or uncles would come play with us and help us build a mouse trap (the game, not the trap). It was always fun when they came to talk to us and actually took the time to sit down and build something with us – whether it was a blanket and pillow fort or something with LEGOs. Kids love it when you read out loud to them. Watch a movie with them unless you have seen Frozen 150 times already and can’t stand that for another minute. Then be sure to bring a movie to share, like Bad Santa. Kidding. Just know that if you do that, your siblings may not welcome you back if you do that with their (young) kids! If there is snow out, taking them outside to build a snowman or snow fort may be the perfect thing to do to avoid the usual family drama or arguments!
4. Shared activity
Try a shared activity like doing a puzzle or playing a card game or board game. A game of Mah Jong, Life, or Monopoly, anyone?!? That could take days. Or try a card game like spoons or hearts where a lot of people can play is always fun! Or perhaps a good game of Cards Against Humanity… Beware that not everyone likes to do puzzles or play games. We drove my step-dad nuts with game playing and he always retreated to the garage when we started playing games. If there’s a man cave in the house, that might be the perfect place to share an activity – watching a football game or playing darts or pool or poker.
5. Sports (Basketball)
Now, coming from Indiana, this suggestion may be specific to us and where we lived. There was always a basketball game going on during family gatherings – even with snow on the ground. Almost everyone except my grandmother would make their way out to the driveway to play or watch the basketball game in progress. I secretly think that my dad and uncles all played basketball in the driveway to escape my aunt Jeannie who would always talk your ear off about whatever her latest scheme was. To give you an idea of what these sales schemes were, one year it was Amway. Basketball was always fun or sometimes we would just play H-O-R-S-E, in which case, everyone could play. My grandmother’s favorite saying during this “game” was “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.”
6. Share photos
My favorite thing to do at family gatherings is to look through photo albums and old family photos. I love to hear the stories and learn about events and family members. It’s always fun to hear the different stories and perspectives. My grandmother was a photographer and we really enjoyed her slide shows and pictures! I learned about how my grandmother ended up in college during one of these sessions of looking through a pile of pictures.
OK – there are a few suggestions in here – I hope you find something that works for you to make for smoother sailing at your family gatherings.