Tips for family history ‘conversation starters’ at Christmas

Christmas conversation

Creating and tapping in to family conversations at Christmas is the perfect way to collect the anecdotes you need to start writing your family’s history.

An Aussie Christmas

Picture an Aussie Christmas lunch with the extended family. The feast in the backyard has just finished—the endless dips, main courses and pavlova filled with fresh whipped cream, juicy strawberries and passion fruit. It is sweltering, even in the shade.

The bad jokes have lost their charm. Everyone is bored with COVID statistics. Politics and religion are off the list of acceptable topics. Awkward silences fill the air. What your family members need is a safe conversation to take them through the afternoon.

The perfect time to get those family stories flowing

This the perfect time to ask Grandma and Grandpa about their childhood. To ask the aunties and uncles what life was like growing up with your parents. To ask your elders to talk about the old days on the farm. You’ll be killing two birds with one stone: 1) creating interesting conversation, and 2) making a start on collecting the stories you need to start documenting your family’s history.

Stuck for questions? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

20 Christmas family history conversation starters:

  1. What are your magical childhood memories, especially of previous Christmases?
  2. Who from our family warms your heart when you think of them?
  3. What do you appreciate most about your childhood?
  4. What is your favourite Christmas joke?
  5. What is the favourite gift your parents gave you as a child?
  6. Earliest memory of putting up the Christmas tree?
  7. Favourite decorations and the story behind them?
  8. Is there a family tradition you want to bring back?
  9. Favourite Christmas carol from your childhood? Why?
  10. Funniest (or most memorable) Christmas memory?
  11. What is your favourite thing about the person sitting next to you?
  12. What three words would you use to describe your family?
  13. What is the nicest thing the person sitting across from you has done?
  14. Who is the funniest person sitting at the table? Why?
  15. If money wasn’t an issue, where would you want the next family reunion to be held? Why?
  16. Describe your life ten years ago? Twenty? Thirty? During childhood?
  17. What was your all-time favourite toy, as a child?
  18. What is the funniest thing your parents ever did?
  19. If you could give one present to the whole family, what would it be? Why?
  20. Do you remember when … (prompt them to talk about an event you know about).

Life Stories Australia – helping you write your family’s story

Once you have collected anecdotes from your family members, you’ll need to write them down. Why? Go to: Preserving your family’s story for future generations

How about writing your parents’ stories, or your entire family’s history? If you don’t feel confident to do it yourself, you can ask a life stories professional from Life Stories Australia to help you.

A Life Stories Australia professional can:

  • write your family history for you,
  • coach you in writing your family’s story yourself,
  • edit your family history once you’ve written it, and/or
  • help you self-publish your family’s story as a book.

So take the plunge this Christmas: fill those awkward silences with family history snippets, then write them down to get your family history started. You won’t regret it!

Other articles about documenting your family’s stories

How sharing stories brings people together.

Gabriella Kelly-Davies and Sally-Anne Watson Kane, Life Stories Australia

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