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One of the beautiful things about the holidays (weird uncles notwithstanding), is getting together with friends and family over dinner.

But do we need a Hallmark sponsored date to make dinners special?

What IF we could do more of them throughout the year?

What if, instead of ho-hum dinners, we made an effort on a quarterly or monthly basis to have dinners that take on the specialness of the holidays?

 

Why do it?

These dinners are opportunities to create family traditions and memories, produce feel-good hormones like oxytocin, and help us feel more connected in a world that’s feeling less-and-less like it.

 

Want to give it a try?

You’ll need…

 

a few ground rules:

It must be mandatory

Your family or friends should buy into the idea and agree on what can trump family dinners; think death or jail!

OK, that might be going a tad too far, but you get the idea!

Encourage guests

If you made it okay for your people to bring guests, it would make it easier for friends and family with active social lives to participate. If you’re a parent, think of it as a chance to get to know your kids’ friends better.

The evening must include fun!

Without this last rule, it defeats the purpose of these dinners. Plan fun activities (for before, during, or after dinner) that everyone might enjoy, look forward to, and want in on.

 

So with that, here are my five ideas to make these dinners extra fun (and hopefully, turn them into a tradition):

 

1. Do Table Topics

Toastmasters, the international organization that helps people develop their speaking skills, have a segment at every meeting called “Table Topics.” It’s usually the highlight of meetings. The point of these up to 2-minute “Talks” is to practice thinking on your feet.

Now there are Table Topics card games you can buy as well as a similar brand called Convers(ate).  Of courese, you can create your own questions too if you have the time and inclination.

You can also make changes to the rules to suit your family’s idea of fun: You can change the order you want to ask questions, whether people can “pass” with or without a penalty, or add your own rules. The goal though is to have interesting topical questions, and to make the game fun.

Here are a couple sample questions:

  • If you could pick your own name what would it be and why?
  • What was the most hilarious tweet or post you saw this week?
  • What was the last thing you did that made you think you were a horrible human being (but you wouldn’t take it back)?

 

RELATED: See how Reese Witherspoon gets her teenager to stick around for family night


Why do this? It’s great fun and builds communication skills.


 

2. Give Family Awards

Ever thought of looking at your family as a business? Hold up… I don’t necessarily mean a making-money business (although that’s a thing and may be worth consider!). What I’m talking about though is creating a defined set of values and a mission statement for your family.

If you’re organized like a “business,” you might get a kick out of giving awards for the “Most Helpful,” “Most Loving,” or “Fill-in-the-blank of the Month.”

Of course, you can give awards without being in a “family business,” but you can see why it would help.


Why do this? You’d be creating a more connected, on purpose family unit.


 

3. Have A Gratitude Segment

Another game your family might enjoy is the “Best and Worst”game where each person shares the best and worst part of their day or week.


Why do this? Encouraging gratitude is a way to teach values to little ones and help your family as a whole, learn to look for the good in life.


 

4. Create Dinner Themes

@wantsandwishesdesign

If you’re not so creative, you could ask someone else to help, but if you love putting together events and organizing things, what a way to practice your skills. Consider these themes:

  • A holiday on the calendar that month.
  • Special events like the Super Bowl or Groundhog Day.
  • Celebrate your kids – their going back to school, their birthdays, etc.
  • Do a 70s, 80s, or 90s theme.
  • Celebrate the fashion and foods of a country you love like Belgium, Mexico or Jamaica.

Why do this? Themes can elevate the evening and give it a purpose. You also get to bring out your creative side.


 

5. Go all-out on one thing

End the evening with something out of the ordinary that you know will be a hit with the whole family:

  • a movie
  • karaoke
  • a favorite dessert
  • a talent show.

Why do this? Ending with something “sweet” is a way to cap off the evening. It might be the thing that bring people back and make it a never-miss!


 

You might think I’m being cheesy, but cheesy is what connects us, makes life fun, and make spending time with those we love memorable.

Check out the Family Dinner Project for more inspiration to make this a regular thing.

I hope you try some of these ideas or use them as inspiration to create traditions of your own. I know that with more frequent (healthy) gatherings, your family will grow closer, feel more emotionally connected, and safer.

If you’re a parent, doing things like these is even more impactful and you’ll be showing your kids how to be conscious parents.

I’m going to get a bit deep here and share something that has touched me since I’ve learnt it:

People who’ve had near-death experiences tell us that it’s these moments that flashed before their eyes just before the lights went out.

Moments like these matter, but without planning, they won’t happen. Don’t be that family who lives under the same roof but lead separate lives… everyone eating separately and doing their own thing in their own rooms virtually all the time.

Can’t see your family going for this idea?

Maybe you have a toxic family or no family. Consider monthly dinners with friends at home or at the same restaurant instead.

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