“Home for the holidays”. The phrase sparks a whirl of differing emotions among different people. For some, it evokes a feeling of warmth and excitement, with anticipation of reuniting with old friends and far-away family members. For others, a feeling of social anxiety begins to creep in at the thought of surface-level interaction. Some feel dread at the idea of facing family tension; while others feel overwhelmed with joy to rekindle those relationships.
Whatever feelings the holidays may surface in you, be comforted by the fact that those around you are probably feeling a weight of emotion around this time too. Every single person has a unique story, background, and family dynamic that can contribute to a very specific and strong view towards the holidays.
All that being said, have hope. This year, you can cultivate an environment for the people around you that makes them feel loved, heard and celebrated. You have the power to initiate a holiday celebration that is intentional, inclusive, and redeeming for your family, no matter what the holidays have entailed in the past.
One of the most effective ways press in to your family is utilizing your “table time” for intentional conversation. Repetitive small talk won’t work wonders for a friendship. Your nephew that just moved and started a new job needs a little more than just “how’s (insert new city/new job)?” in order to feel cared for. It’s never wrong to genuinely inquire about these new experiences, but he probably hears that question several times a week. If you don’t quite know how to take that next step into a deep interaction, just meditate on it before the time comes. We’ve curated a list of questions that will unpack a non-cookie-cutter answer from those that you love, and will help you to grow in relationship with them.
Start with some fun questions that will get everyone smiling and chatting:
- What’s your funniest story from this year?
- Describe your perfect Saturday.
- What would you choose to be your useless superpower (i.e.: the ability to shoot mustard from your thumb)?
- If you had to choose one zoo animal to take to battle with you, which one would you choose?
- If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would you pick?
Then move on to some more meaningful questions:
- What makes you feel loved?
- What is something you love about yourself?
- What is something you love about the person next to you?
- What’s your favorite family tradition?
- What’s something you love about this season of life right now?
- Is there anything you would change about this season of life?
- What’s your favorite memory?
- What’s something you are you proud of?
- Where do you feel most like yourself?
- What’s something that makes your heart soar?
- What are some of your favorite moments from the year?
- How is your soul?
- Do you feel well/taken care of?
Asking a handful of these questions will not only initiate conversation around the table, but will encourage the family to reflect on their thoughts, emotions, and memories experienced throughout the year. There’s more to the holidays than good food and football (as much as we love those, too). It’s about gathering, reconnecting, expressing thanks, looking each other in the eyes, being honest, reconciling, going above an beyond to make another feel cherished. It’s not always easy, but intentionality is always worth it. Be brave, go the extra mile to make someone feel heard, hug someone a little tighter than normal. While you’re at it, make sure to take a step back and soak in all the love for yourself.
Our team at Gracious Garlands wishes you a truly wonderful Thanksgiving filled with conversation, laughter, affection, and gratitude. We are thankful for you!