FAMILY GATHERINGS: IGNITE A DESIRE TO PARTICIPATE
Parties are often boring. Family gatherings are usually monotonous obligations. But, they do not need to be. Instead of using your energy on negativity, be empowered by the effort of productivity. How? Ask yourself what is each family member’s talent? If there is no talent to collaborate with, what can each family member do to help create the event? Be willing to let them use their own ability or style and, always, express gratitude for their participation. Why? This is a subtle way to let each participant understand how much their presence is desired and needed. After all, isn’t variety the spice of life? Self-worth in the eyes of others does a lot to encourage family members to return with expectant eagerness. They might even amp up their participatory role from which you will benefit. By the way, when did each family member, individually, have fun with you? What were you doing? Can you incorporate a similar experience or setting in your festivities while making it feel new and fresh, yet, uncomplicated? After all, gatherings are sometimes the only chance a person gets to relax from the demands of living a life beyond mere survival.
BEGIN WITH AN INVITATION TO EACH FAMILY MEMBER
Besides the date, time and location, list the schedule of events along with any clothing/costume preferences. Do they need to bring something to enter a competition for a prize, such as a drawing? If it is a potluck, have a little gift for the winners of the appetizer, drink, main dish and dessert categories. Everyone gets to vote for their favorite in each category, even if, it is for him/herself. For example; let a green-martini creator compete against the creator of milkshakes. Why? Beyond taste, presentation of the beverage goes along way to winning a prize. If food isn’t your thing, have a riddle competition, a humorous antidote competition…search the internet for party game ideas best suited to your clan. Go for a walk, a hike, a bike ride or museum visit. For Saint Patrick’s day, the card game 21 was part of our family festivities with the 2 Joker cards included as wild cards valued higher than any combo of 21. The dealer had a gold bowl filled with fake gold coins. Half of the coins in the bowl were divided between the players. After a specific number of agreed upon games were completed, the person with the most coins won all the gold along with the bowl. Search the internet or go to a discount store to search for affordable but good quality gifts for prizes. Think socks, bandana, hat, fancy notepad, Advent calendars for Christmas, candles, mini potted rose plants…the list goes on and on. For Saint Patrick’s Day I found a huge green-foam Leprechaun hat with great reviews as a prize. We, also, used the massive top-hat for a comical photo-shoot, as well as, the video compilation featuring our silly Irish jig dancing. Even shamrock-shaped sunglasses, made extremely well, were affordable. If you are rich, no competitor will be disappointed in a gift card or money. But, be careful of setting the bar too high, you never want your family guests to expect more than they give if contentment and joy is your goal.
FOOD AT FAMILY GATHERINGS
Always showcase the want-to-be-chefs in your family. If you are the host who dislikes cooking, like me, let those who enjoy food preparation shine while you provide the table setting, decorations and assorted fresh vegetables, cheese and bread that blend with the food selection. I suggest a theme for the food–such as Italian, Asian, Mexican, Middle Eastern–so that all blends and sits well within each tummy to avoid unnecessary stomach aches, heart burn or flatulence. Dessert can always be a free-for-all since individuals have their own particular cravings and preferences. I thoroughly enjoy the Armenian assortment of Jello, cake, candy, dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, chocolate and more spread out on a table like a shop display.
MUSIC AT FAMILY GATHERINGS
Who is addicted to their cellphone? Do they have a wireless speaker? Give them a music theme or list of tunes for them to play at designated moments during your celebration. If this person does not exist in your family, search Amazon’s Prime Video for music. Better yet, use your laptop computer and preferred music program. For example; I had an enchanting video of Celtic music, song and panoramic views playing as guests arrived for a Saint Patrick’s themed gathering. Later, we gathered on sofas and chairs to be dazzled by the 1999 New York Riverdance performance on our large flat-screen before devouring dessert and dancing foolishly.
CHILDREN AT FAMILY GATHERINGS
Never ignore children. Is their an adult who will do arts and crafts with them, take them for a walk, teach them a song, play games such as drawing a question out of a pretty bag or box in need of answering. For example; “Tell me 5 blue things you can see in the room,” and give them a maximum of one minute to answer each unique question. The child with the most complete answers wins the prize with the others receiving a token of appreciation for their best effort, such as one hard candy or a gold star-sticker. Get teenagers to dance by providing sunglasses, clowns wig or any variety of accessories for them to wear and erase any shyness they cling to. For example; wearing monster masks they might surprise you with their dance moves as Monster Mash or Dead Man’s Party melodies pound out as you capture great footage for your family Halloween video.
CONTROL THE CONVERSATION AT THE DINNER TABLE
How can you keep the family smiling as they dwell on family issues. Have everyone take a turn answering a silly question under one minute. For example; If you were completely invisible for 24 hours what would you do, where would you be and why? When asked this at a family birthday during the 2020 pandemic, I failed to answer coherently but was inspired to write a short-story for my eBook anthology entitled, “TELL ME TRUE”.
MAKE FAMILY GATHERINGS SPECIAL & MEMORABLE
Enlist those willing to help photograph and videotape the gathering with courtesy and respect. Nothing should ever be done to belittle, embarrass or shame any guests. Coming from a family with no money but a strong desire to document special moments, I take it upon myself to photograph and videotape in a manner that will ensure the gathering will become a heartfelt memory most guests, if not all, will hold onto for years to come. More importantly, the visual documentations might empower others to make their own family gatherings more intimate and desirable. Whatever you dream up and implement with the collaboration of others, have a blast! Become, or, continue to be the family living life with lots of laughter and love.
SOPHIA ANN MONTOYA, NOTED FOR HER PROSE-POETRY WRITING STYLE, PRESENTS ‘SHAMROCKING’ IN HER E-BOOK ANTHOLOGY OF ART, ESSAYS, FLASH-FICTION, PHOTOS, POETRY, PONDERINGS, PROSE AND AN ARRAY OF SHORT STORIES. ALL OF WHICH DEPICTS OUR MEANDERING MIND AND THE MOTION OF OUR EMOTIONS SPARKING THOUGHT, ACTION AND REACTION FOR BETTER OR WORSE. SOPHIA’S FEATURED DRAWING ENTITLED “WHO STOLE THE GOLD?” WAS CREATED WITH COLORED PENCILS TO ANNOUNCE A SAINT PATRICK’S DAY FAMILY DINNER FOLLOWED BY COMPETITIVE GAMES FOR PRIZES.