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Once all the food is gone, and all the presents have been opened, there often comes a period of silence. If you’re like me this can often feel like the most uncomfortable situation in the world, and you just want to slide onto a hole in the floor.

Here are some conversation starters to avoid this awkward silence, or even to steer conversations away from the somewhat dreaded political end of the spectrum, I’m sure we’ve all heard enough of these past few years…

If they are a family member you know well, then stick to bits you know. Eg ask how their dog is, their holiday, or how their garden is looking (little bits you’ve seen on Facebook since you’ve last seen them)

If all else fails here is a list of questions to ask, that will spark a conversation between you and your closest and most distant relatives…

  • What is the best gift you’ve ever received?
  • What is your favourite / unique family Christmas tradition?
  • One word to describe the past year?
  • Any new year’s resolutions planned?
  • Favourite food / food you look forward to most at Christmas time?
  • Any Christmas fails (shopping, gift, food, drunken story)?
  • If money wasn’t an issue, where would you want the next family gathering to be?
  • It wouldn’t be Christmas without…
  • Favourite memory from the last year?
  • What series did you watch over the past year?
  • Never does any harm to play a quick game of would you rather, when things are desperately awkward – this gets everyone involved and guaranteed to get conversation perked up!
  • What family member present do you think you look most or act like?
  • Ask about peoples 5 year plans (especially for family members at university / in their 20/30’s) 
  • Favourite part of Christmas day?

If you’re left alone to converse with a very old relative, then you can always just talk about yourself, maybe refill your prosecco before, and just ramble on about what you have been doing the past year. The oldies love to hear how you’ve been getting on (bonus points if you have pictures to show).

Sometimes there are small ones at your Christmas festivities, which unless you spend a lot of time around can sometimes be different to converse with, so here are some questions to grill the young ones with:

  • What’s your favourite Christmas song? (bonus points if you get them to sing it)
  • Favourite Christmas movie?
  • Can you name all the reindeers?
  • Why do we celebrate Christmas? / what happened at Christmas?
  • Favourite present?
  • Favourite food?
  • Were you in a school nativity this year?
  • What gift would you have given to baby Jesus?
  • How did your parents meet? (trust me on this one it can be quite funny)
  • What’s the hardest thing about being …years old?
  • What’s your favourite toy from this year?

Remember if all else fails, offer a refill of everyone’s drinks, or to make tea or coffee; and at least that gets you out of the room for a bit to avoid the awkwardness. Or suggest a game, I’m sure everyone owns a Jenga shoved in a cupboard somewhere in their house.

Finally, Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you all have a lovely holiday season filled with meaningful conversations and very few awkward silences!

Jess Dadson

Exeter '22

Hi I am a fourth-year Natural Sciences Student at the University of Exeter. My hobbies include rewatching Greys (or Gilmore Girls), and taking pictures of every cat I see!
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