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Underlying all of the material trappings of the holiday season is a focus on hope, peace and family/loved ones.

Much time and effort is expended to plan and prepare for holiday events and gatherings with a goal of creating lasting memories. Some of these memories may revolve around holiday traditions and their contribution to feelings of continuity or frustration. With or without defined traditions, holiday gatherings provide opportunities to develop understanding of and connections with the people who are important to us.

What topics of conversation will prevail around your holiday table? Catching up on the lives of those you haven’t seen for a while is a valuable starting point. When conversations get past the initial “How have you been?” and “What’s new?”, they may drift in the direction of the latest crisis at work, gossip about a familiar individual, politics or topics that may be familiar to some but not others.

Much of this conversation will not be considered significant in the days and years to come. Why not take the opportunity to delve deeper into who the people around your table really are?

Here are some questions from Have the Talk of a Lifetime from the Funeral and Memorial Information Council, which can be used as conversation starters:

  • What is the best/worst/most thoughtful gift you’ve ever received?
  • Describe a favorite or funny holiday memory.
  • If you could travel back in time, to what era would you go? Why?
  • What does your perfect day look like?
  • What is the best lesson you learned from your mom, dad, or other role model?
  • If you could have only five possessions, what would they be? Which is your most treasured?
  • What is your most cherished childhood memory?

When holiday gatherings involve multiple generations, it can sometimes present a challenge to keep older adults or young children from feeling left out of the conversation. Questions such as these can be helpful in promoting sharing between generations, since they are relevant and can be answered by all age groups.

In addition to fostering momentary togetherness, such conversations also present opportunities for the creation of new bonds between individuals, as well as the strengthening of existing relationships.

The holidays also are a time when we often remember loved ones who are no longer with us. Questions may linger about these individuals and their lives, either because we never thought to ask the questions or we believed we would have more time for those conversations. Take time this holiday season and into the future to really connect with those you love, whether old, young or in-between. The decorations, food and gifts will fade, but the insights gained will be long-lasting.

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