Here's an idea my family has enjoyed for almost 30 years now that has kept us from getting too distracted by the little stresses and reminded us of what's most important....
Years ago, when my husband and I were first married and about to join my parents, my sister, brother-in-law & 2 nephews and my brother and sister-in-law for a Christmas Eve dinner, I was anticipating all the little stresses that would go along with such an event. Which serving dish was appropriate for what...whose recipe to use for something-or-other...did the napkins match and did somebody remember to iron them...do you want me to wash that for you, no, I just did that, Mother...etc., etc., etc. Not to mention the commentary on my haircut and my outfit! Maybe your family isn't like that, but mine was back then, or so it seemed to me at the time.
I was determined to find a way to deflect all the tension and remind everybody to have fun and enjoy each other. So here's what I came up with...a Christmas Memory Chain.
I cut strips of construction paper to make a paper chain. On each link I wrote a Christmas memory. I started with the kind of things you think of when you say "It's just not Christmas until..." or "You know it's really Christmas when...." and then branched out to funny or sweet things I remembered from Christmases past. I had no trouble coming up with things to write! Here are some of them:
Red & Green Hershey's Kisses in a silver candy dish (My mom put that out every year!)
Candles lit in every room
"What size does your mother wear?! (My dad could never remember!)
Steve & Eydie on the radio
Christmas Ideals magazines sent every year from Aunt Fiesty (yes, I really did have an "Aunt Fiesty!" That wasn't her real name...we just called her that because she was!)
"You can't come in here!" (something my mother always yelled from behind a closed door when she was wrapping presents!)
A Charlie Brown Christmas on TV
The weatherman's radar showing Santa's getting close!
Aunt Becky's "pregnant" Christmas tree (flat on one side and rounded on the other...it fit perfectly up against her window!)
So many more, but I won't bore you with them all here!
I gathered my paper chain and we took it with us to my sister's house.
At some point in the evening I got up and I hung this paper chain around the bookshelves in my sister's living room. Right away everybody started asking what it was and what it was for. I just told them to go read it. They did.
They'd read one and smile. They'd read another and grin even bigger. By the time they read a third they'd be laughing and reading them to each other out loud!
We had a wonderful time reliving some great Christmas memories. Good thing I'd brought along more blank links for the chain because we thought of lots more things to add to it.
Now, each year, we all notice things that should be added to our Christmas Memory chains, whether figuratively or literally. Whether I use an actual paper chain now or not, there's always something that happens every year that makes me say "Oh, there's a good one for the Memory Chain!"
So, whether you're looking for something to get your extended family laughing or just an excuse to tell stories to your kids, you might want to give this a try this year. It might become a tradition for your family, too! (You can keep the kids busy decorating the links of the chain, too!) Let me know how it works for you!