12 Conversation Topics for Family Holiday Gatherings

One of my co-workers reads this blog and said she especially liked the Guilt post because she thinks  it would make an excellent discussion topic when her gang is over for Christmas. She’s going to feed them all wine and get them to talk about what their ideas/opinions/feelings/experiences are about guilt.

While that certainly sounds like a fun time, I thought it might be prudent to offer up a few other options for discussion in case the guilt thing doesn’t pan out and/or goes horribly awry. And, of course, I welcome your topic ideas, too, because lord knows we’re all going to be grasping for something – anything – to talk about over Christmas dinner so we can avoid that minefield of hot-button topics with which every family gathering is rife.

  1. Go around the table and ask everyone if they had to have sex with a member of the family who it would be. Make note of those who don’t squirm or don’t have to think about their answer.
  2.  Get everyone to stand up and then point out those who have gained the most weight since last Christmas. Tell them what they’re doing wrong and how easy it would be to drop those pounds if only they put their minds to it.
  3.  Ask the gathered clan to imagine that their spouse/partner/girlfriend/boyfriend dies tomorrow — who would they want to marry/date next? It has to be a real person like the neighbour or their boss or their fitness coach or something, not a celebrity or some historical figure.
  4.  If you’re part of a nice Christian family,  a good intellectual discussion topic would be whether or not Jesus was gay. Why wasn’t he married? What was the deal with all those bearded men he hung around with? And what exactly does a “disciple” do for a guy anyway??
  5.  To whet the appetite and keep the hostess on her toes, everyone can recount Christmas dinners they’ve had in the past and the ways in which they were better than this one.
  6.  Someone should nominate themselves as the official announcer of the fat and calories content of everything on the dinner table and instructor on how exactly the turkeys/pigs/etc.,  (that are featured in the main course) lived and died.
  7.  Once everyone has been through a few marriages and divorces it’s fun to play “Remember the Ex. Compare everyone’s current spouse with their Ex, especially if the Ex was really hot or smart or rich or something.
  8.  A family dinner is a good time to tell everyone that you’ve discovered your spouse has been cheating on you and that you’re getting a divorce. Make sure you don’t warn your spouse ahead of time that you’re going to do this. It’s really great if you have photos.
  9.  Women’s rights have gone too far. Discuss.
  10.  Try to help the least financially successful member of the family figure out why he doesn’t measure up to the rest of you and tell him that he had to pull his socks up. (You can similarly converse over the perennially single person in the family or the not-so-newlyweds who show no signs of getting on with childbearing)
  11.  To get a truly wild conversation going, make up something vague but outrageous like,” So, Dad… someone told me they thought they saw you making out with some young guy one night in a bar or something. What was that all about?” You’d be surprised how many times your “made-up” story actually turns out to be true. The ensuing chat is sure to be interesting.
  12.  Invite a random stranger to dinner. Instruct them to pretend not to understand anything anyone says, to speak only gibberish and to display some odd habits and behaviours. Don’t offer any explanation for the stranger’s presence. When someone asks you who they are say you don’t know, you thought they came with Aunt Phyllis. Trust me, this one will spark conversation for years to come.

Okay, so here’s hoping all your Christmas family gatherings are warm, joyous and harmonious occasions. And remember to make sure all family members are kept constantly supplied with booze; because well-lubricated guests ensure the conversation is as lively and free-flowing as raw sewage in the Ottawa River.

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36 responses to “12 Conversation Topics for Family Holiday Gatherings

  1. Holy crap, this post had me crying from laughing so much. Thanks. And my personal fave on the list would be #1.

  2. Have everyone in the room describe what their ideal mother/father/brother/sister/child would have been if they could have chosen that person from a catlogue. And the real mother/father/brother/sister/child that you assign for them has to be in the room.

  3. I’m quite sure that topics numbers 4, 5 and 9 actually came up at Christmas and other dinners at my ex in-laws’ place. I don’t miss the dinners or the ex in-laws. (Does that make me a bad person? To be fair, I don’t miss my ex either.)

  4. True story…I actually saw #8 happen when I spent Thanksgiving with a college girlfriend’s family. The person with whom the wayward spouse had been cheating was right there at the table, and married to another unsuspecting family member.

    There was a lot of yelling, some stuff got broken, and somebody got punched in the face. And after it was all over, my girlfriend turned to me an apologized. I was speechless, but thinking back on it, there would’ve been two great replies:

    1. “Doesn’t this happen in EVERY famly?”, or
    2. “Will you marry me?”

  5. Number 8 could bring about the scene in the movie Heartburn where Meryl Streep pushes the chiffon pie onto her cheating husband’s face. If I ever get the opportunity to do that to my ex, I wouldn’t do it gladly. If I told you what he did, I think I would win the worst ex award.

  6. My family is so boring. They would just pretend to not hear you, then half of them would just get up and leave the room, to get more food or drink. Then the deafest one would apropos of nothing, start a totally different conversation which would confound everyone. Then the other half of the gathering would get up and leave the room, etc.
    So predictable.

  7. Dr. Monkey – Cool – I made a monkey laugh. My work here is done.

    Geewits – Ummm…that already sort of happens at all of our Christmas gatherings. Not yours?

    Pinklea – Ya, I suspect while we guffaw at these there are families where these topics actually do come up.

    The Fool – Damn, I never thought how much better that would be if the the person they’re cheating with was also at the table along with their spouse. Thanks. Adds a whole other dimension. Did you marry into that family?

    Linda – Why waste a good pie on a louse? You should write about your ex some time. Or maybe I’ll hold that “worst Ex” contest in a blog post one day and you can win it!

    Violetsky – Ah, the conveniently deaf family members. My mother has that affliction. There’s nothing medically wrong with her hearing, but she doesn’t hear what she doesn’t want to hear. I think in your case you should bring the random stranger home. It would even be fun if they all just ignored him/her.

  8. Marry into that family? Dear God, no!

    An interesting footnote, though. I’ve seen her name three times in our Alumni magazine in the little classmate news section that reports on how much better everyone else’s life is than mine, and each time, she’s had a different husband.

  9. It’s not often that I laugh out loud when reading something but you had me doing it with this piece. Once you get the drink to come up my nose, you will have achieved Greatness!

  10. Wow you really “enjoy” the holiday season don’t you.

    I’m actually quite enjoying these not so cheery posts (which are very funny).

    Except of course for the box story, that was wonderful.

    I guess you’re covering both the joys, and difficulties of this time of year.

    I can surely imagine #9 actually generating a good discussion in certain families!

  11. Sounds like this would be a good Reality Show.

    I suggest you approach Fox TV and and pitch this idea to them, before someone scoops you.

  12. LOL. Its a “Springer” Christmas!

    What really bugs me though are ‘Work Holiday parties’. For some reason, some people think that once their juiced enough at these events they can just let their prejudices out in the open. Like one guy who I used to work with actually complained on and on about all the “gays” on TV and how they were a bad influence.

    If he wasn’t my coworker, I would’ve definitely said some pretty choice words to him.

  13. Those dinner topics pretty much sound those “discussed” at some family dinners I’ve heard described.

    I prefer to just shut the hell up and keep out of the way.

  14. The Fool – Well then, marriage to her woulnd’t have been such a big deal then would it?

    Daniel – It’s good to flush out the sinuses every once in a while.

    Justin – Ya, that’s me. Covering all the Christmas nooks and crannies.

    Friar – Hey, are you available to be my agent? You all sorts of great ideas for turning my blog posts into big money.

    Hannah – You have to be really careful when mixing co-workers and alcohol. Most of the time it’s a bad combination.

    Jazz – There’s nothing more volatile that holiday family dinners. All the shared baggage piled in one untidy heap in the middle of the room; everyone tiptoeing around it UNTIL, the drinking starts and/or the first wrong word is uttered. Then it’s a free-for-all. Ah, yes…looking forward to dinner already.

  15. A brilliant list to which I will add:

    -Which person at the table gave you the stupidest gift this year.
    -Who do you most wish wasn’t at this gathering.
    -Who is the ugliest person at the table.
    -Guess which person is really adopted.
    -Who can hold out the longest before throwing up this undercooked supper.

  16. Add to #4: “while he is down there on his knees.”

    Gee, My Master’s Daughter’s in-laws Christmas gathering have #7 for a conversation every holiday and, as it turns out, the ex is invited to all the gatherings too.

    Good post, XUP. Of course, it could be that I am on four medicines for whooping cough and anything would have worked. Going to go sleep it off now.

  17. Women’s rights: Don’t even get me started. And I tried that “hey dad I saw you making out with a young guy at the bar” thing last Christmas after I saw him making out with a young guy at the bar. Best Christmas ever. I highly recommend that one.

    By the way, I wrote a post talking about how much I love Canadians (except the french ones.) It’s my tribute to all of you (except the french ones.) Sorry in advance.

  18. Stella – Merci cheri.

    Loth – Oh! What fun!

    H&B2 – My mum always loses the throwing up part. It’s all part of the seasonal basketcase syndrome. And unfortunately, we’re painfully aware than none of us were adopted. We tried, but no one else would have us.

    Sheryl – You’re addition to #4?? Oh my. I didn’t know you were such a dirty, dirty girl.

    Mayopie – For real? About your Dad? See what I mean about it all turning out to be true?And shilling for your blog post would net you more customers if you provided a link on your name when you comment. It’s easier than making people troll through my blogroll looking for your name. That goes for all of you — especially those who’s comment name is different than their blogroll name. Part of the fun of commenting is picking up new readers, right?

  19. Great ideas, gonna use a few of these! Haha

    That last one, “inviting a random stranger”, well I actually used that one before. For one of my birthdays I had a private dinner room reserved at the Edgefield. Problem was the dinner was for 20 but had 21 people I wanted to invite. So with that last spot open but 2 left on the list I decided not to play a fav. Instead I decided to go to a bar and walk up to a random girl and invite her to my dinner party. It ended up being a gal from Germany. It worked she showed up had a good time. She will always be know as my “wildcard”.

  20. Yeah, I’m not very good at marketing. But seriously, I thought you Canadians would appreciate some good American press for once. And since you’re one of my favourite (used a “u” in your honour <— did it again!) Canadians and I, from time to time, poke a little fun at Canadians here, so I thought I 'd let your readers know how I really feel about you. Even the French ones. Go Canada! Dammit! Did I forget to post the link again? See? Stupid American.

  21. Thanks for the suggestions, XUP, but you so don’t know my family. We don’t need any of those ideas. WE have enough skeletons in the closet and past experiences of our own, that the conversation is never dull, nor does it drag.
    But thanks again.

  22. this post made me laugh harder than i’ve laughed in ages! i WISH i had the guts to test even one of them out! lol!

  23. Nevets – Cool story. You should write it up on your blog. And I double dog dare you to try one of these conversational gambits at Christmas and then come back and tell us what happened. (PS: the link to your blog doesn’t work – did you type it in correctly or do you not actually have a blog?)

    Grouchy – Well, I always knew you were odd, but I’m happy to add the shock. (It’s a good thing, right?)

    Mayopie – No. Still no link. And like I said in my last comment on your blog, the Bloggess always cracks me up, but the comments kind of spoiled it all for me. I should maybe not read them anymore. They were all so boring and unoriginal with their stereotypical guffaws about stupid old Canada. At least when we mock Americans (and we do it a lot only you guys don’t get to see it because you don’t watch Canadian TV) we come up with fresh material every time. Of course we have the advantage since we’ve actually been to the US and keep up with what’s going on down there.

    Sean – Try it at your next family gathering. What the heck, you won’t be there much longer anyway!

    Bob – No one’s family holiday conversations are dull or drag. I was just trying to avoid the dragging of the same old tired skeletons from the closet by introducing some brand new family horrors.

    Betsy Mae – Hi. Where’ve you been? Can you link your blog here again, please. I didn’t bookmark it and can’t find it back now. I’m glad to give you a chuckle. And you’d be surprised how much courage you can muster up after a good stiff bourbon. Go on – just do it!!

  24. So funny – every suggestion is brilliant! I am actually looking forward to certain family gatherings this holiday. Bring it on…’cause I have some goooooood questions to ask everyone. Thanks for the chuckles.

  25. Grouchy – Whyyyyyyy….. you…I oughtta….

    MM – Welcome to the blog. Enjoy your holidays.(PS: This blog takes no responsiblity for any physical or verbal fallout that may ensue as a result of this blog)

  26. Leah – Aw, let loose. Go ahead and try some.

    ACG – Welcome to the blog! You have a strange family. So, maybe it’s time to introduce #1 at the dinner table this year — just to shake things up a bit.