Happy Wednesday, everyone! With Christmas fast approaching, I’m starting to check the last few names off my Christmas list, to bake Christmas cookies and plan Christmas day activities. I’ve recently become curious about the different ways people come together for the holidays, and for this week’s post I thought I’d share some games and traditions I’ve come across over the years.
First, I’ll share a little bit about my own family dynamic. This year, I’ll be spending Christmas with my dad and my brother . . . We lost my mom in 2020. Last Christmas was hard on us, since many of our Christmas traditions brought with them a shadow of grief. But the most healing thing we were able to do was create spaces to honour my mom while also creating new traditions that would help us see a future for our family.
Small Family Activities
So let's start with games and activities you can do with a small family.
Last year, my dad, brother and I wanted to find something that would keep us occupied all day long. My brother came up with the idea of a chess tournament (since The Queen’s Gambit was such a huge hit). He created a set of rules and rituals– a song that would play as the two players approached the chess table before their game, a set up that involved a glass of water and an alcoholic beverage next to each player, and a trophy ceremony for the winner. I admired all the effort my brother put in, how he created a schedule for the games, even leaving enough time for “happy hours” and meals in between.
I also think other competitive games could work too — like table tennis, air hockey, or even card games.
Big Family Activities
My dad’s side of the family is pretty big, so I’ve also come across activities that work for larger groups.
Big families have their own challenges. I think the main things to consider are: How many people will be attending your gathering? How much space will you have? Are outdoor activities an option? Once you’ve analyzed the particular needs of your group you can decide if you want to do something more physical– think relay race style activities — or table games.
One game I played recently was Quarter Pass. It’s great for all ages, you only need dice and quarters (you can also use candy), and you can play with an unlimited number of players.
I’ll briefly explain it, but if you’re looking for a more detailed outline click here. Basically, each player starts off with three quarters, and three dice are passed around the table (everyone rolls at the beginning of the game to see who goes first). On your turn, you roll a die for every quarter you have. If you roll a 4, you place a quarter into the centre pot; if you roll a 5, you pass a quarter to the person on your left; if you roll a 6, you pass a quarter to the person on your right. When there is only one player left who still has quarters, they roll for the pot. To win, they need a 1, 2 or a 3.
I may have mentioned this in previous blog posts, but I lived in Bogotá, Colombia, for eight years. Although I wasn’t usually there on Christmas Eve, I would often participate in what are called “novenas”, a nine day religious ceremony leading up to Christmas. Novenas were also when we ate delicious food, sang carols… and played Aguinaldos.
Aguinaldos are ongoing games that are played either between two individuals or between two groups of people during the Christmas season. There are few typical ones that I remember playing year to year: Tres pies (where you catch your opponent off guard by sticking one leg between their legs), Sí y no (each team has a prohibited word, either “yes” or “no”) , and Dar y no recibir (you aren't allowed to receive anything — food, drink, gifts — from the opposing team). Each time you are successful in catching your opponent off guard, you shout “Mis aguinaldos!” (And you have to say it otherwise your point doesn't count!) On Christmas Eve, you calculate all the points.
I've always enjoyed including games in Christmas celebrations. If you're bringing a new girlfriend or boyfriend to a gathering, if you're mixing two groups of people, games are a great way for everyone to feel engaged. I hope you got a couple of ideas for your own Christmas gatherings this year.
Do you have any favourite games that you play during the holiday season? Let me know in the comments below.
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