Christmas and Family Stories are like Pudding and Ice Cream. It’s simple and natural
Have you ever thought of having Christmas without pudding and ice cream or custard? Whether Christmas is celebrated as part of a large extended family event or a smaller more intimate affair, the message should be the same – family stories and Christmas are like Grand Central.
Christmas and Family Stories
Christmas time is an emotional time where families connect and rehash all the family stories, exaggerated or not, of life events and experiences, family members’ quirks and interesting behaviours.
Everyone needs a shared past to sit comfortably in their emotional and mental wellbeing. It promotes one’s sense of identity, and ties to family traits, characteristics and rituals that improve self-esteem and self-knowledge. Personal identity is strongly tied to the family and something to be celebrated and cherished. Even the ‘odd’ people in the family take on a different role when their story and perspective is listened to and heard.
Telling family stories to children promotes their understanding of themselves and increases their empathy for others. Children love to hear everyday stories that they can relate to such as where their parents and grandparents went to school, what they ate or maybe what they played. Children are practical. They love to hear of ‘naughtiness’ and a touch of danger in any story will make it edgy and exciting, therefore interesting. These techniques enable children to see themselves as part of the family saga and they will relate better to the life message they are being told.
The hills or the snake
My granddaughter loves to hear of how her Aunt (my daughter) refused to walk on the footpath when coming home from school because it was too hilly. She preferred instead to walk through the bush despite my many warnings. One day she met a very big black snake sunbaking on a warm rock, straight across her bush track.
My daughter’s description of how she felt at that moment is quite chilling, but she had to muster courage and face the challenge of edging around the snake to get home - there was no other option. The story provided opportunities for many topic of conversation with my grand-daughter from bush behaviours, heeding parents warnings and other quirky family stories containing life messages.
Linking Christmas and Family Stories
Establishing a link between family members and generations through simple stories is one of the most powerful gifts you can give children and Christmas is the ideal time to start the collection. If families made a practice of recording their stories each year, they would have a wonderful collage of their own history.
Even if the family Christmas is a small occasion as many are these days, rekindling memories and recording them is a warm and fuzzy Christmas day activity for the smallest of groups.
Recording family stories
Encouraging families to start collecting family stories needs to be made simple, fun and interactive.
· A smart phone is, in my view, the magician of the current generation, and there to be used.
· Equipping potential interviewers with a list of questions as a guide is a great motivator.
· A few interview techniques are helpful and encouraging.
· Useful conversation starters like ‘remember when’ and ‘what really happened when’ usually get the ball rolling.
· It is useful to consider strategies to help those with signs of dementia, so their story is captured and recorded.
What happens then
Families may love to hand over their precious recordings to a professional for transcribing into a book of some sorts or they may wish their recordings edited. Whatever the journey, it is a wonderful feeling to know you have contributed to a family assembling their family history in such a simple and natural way.
Rose Osborne is a freelance writer and memoirist living in Sydney.
See more of her articles www.writemyjourney.com