Last week, I talked about why it’s worth it to write about your holiday season while it is still fresh in your mind—it teaches you things about yourself, and it gives you great content for both personal and fiction writing.
I promised to give some prompts to get you started, and I’ve included those here. Check out my note at the end to find out how you can help create a wider list! These prompts can be used to reflect on Christmas, bring up old memories for your nonfiction writing, or give you some interesting themes for your fiction stories. It’s up to you how you take each question!
- What is your strongest childhood Christmas association?
Christmas means something different to every kid. I remember church Christmas pageants and how excited I was to get my turn at all the different angel solos. I remember eating soup for supper every Christmas Eve and spending a week after Christmas playing new computer games, particularly Zoo Tycoon. What sticks out the most to you from your own childhood?
- What is the weirdest gift you ever received?
I don’t technically remember whether this gift was from Christmas or a birthday, but I had friends whose mom sure knew how to pick the most unique things. One year, since she knew I enjoyed pirates, she got me a rice paper lamp of Captain Jack Sparrow’s face. It was scary, and I hid it in my closet until finally using it for a white elephant exchange. We all have gotten “that gift” at one point or another; what was it for you?
- Describe what you eat for the holidays.
We used to eat tomato soup on Christmas Eve. Later, we switched to potato cheese soup, and later yet, after Pixar put out their loveable movie about a rat chef, I started cooking ratatouille. Our Christmas Day dinner rotated between ham, turkey, and Swedish meatballs. What meal traditions does your family have? Are they traditional and ethnic, or is it a personal quirk?
- What is your family’s gift giving tradition, if any?
My sister and I were so used to opening our presents on Christmas Eve that we were shocked at how many families saved them for Christmas morning. Christmas Day was for sharing with our grandparents, after all—why wait past Christmas Eve to have special family time? If your family did or does Christmas presents, was/is it on one day, the other, both, or neither? Why?
- What is your relationship with Christmas music? Why?
I love Christmas music. I spent my childhood dancing around the living room to Mannheim Steamroller’s unique instrumentals, and we went to see the Nutcracker ballet every other year. I love songs that speak of hope, joy, and the wonders of Emmanuel—the idea of God With Us. I know others who are sick of overplayed holiday tunes, though, and I respect that, too. Where do you fall on the spectrum? What are your tastes and memories?
- What is your relationship with Santa Claus?
My sister and I were never taught that Santa was real. In fact, the year our parents tried to label some of our gifts as from Santa, we cried, because we knew it wasn’t true. Still, I love the story of Rudolph as much as the next person, so I’m not a full-blown Santa hater, either. What about you? Did Santa get to play a role in your experience?
- Write about a change in traditions and how that affected you.
Traditions don’t always stay the same. Sometimes, holidays change for the worst, but other times, they change for the better. Incorporating time with my boyfriend’s family on Christmas Eve has been a wonderful change for me, but it’s really hard on my younger sister, who doesn’t think that our status as adults should be enough to end family togetherness on Christmas Eve. How have your traditions changed, either gradually or suddenly? Has it been good or bad for you?
- Imagine a conversation between two Christmas ornaments.
This could also be decorations, lawn ornaments, toys, or cookies. The point is that inanimate objects, when anthropomorphized, can get pretty spunky. If my baby giraffe ornament started competing with the elf on the Campbell’s soup train, you never know—things might get ugly. The giraffe, who is in ice skates, might slip and break a leg while trying to keep up with the train, or the elf might be allergic to giraffes and have a terrible reaction if not placed on the opposite side of the tree. Your options are humorous, endless, and great fiction fodder! Think about your own decorations. How can you use them as mini prompts?
So here’s the thing. The possibilities are much wider than these, and you’re probably cleverer than I am (at least right now—I haven’t been sleeping much). Can you help me make a longer list? Send me your suggestions via comment, Facebook, email, or Twitter, and I’ll share the list later, crediting contributors. Prompts can be fictional or nonfictional and deal with any part of the winter holiday season.