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Marilu Henner shares her ideas for an unforgettable holiday season

Marilu Henner

Marilu Henner

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Updated: December 20, 2012 7:06PM

My family is big on the holidays. Each year, thirty or more of us gather to share everything from Secret Santa and Game Night to scavenger hunts and dance classes! We had a dancing school when we were kids. In my 2013 Total Memory Makeover Calendar, I’ve compiled daily memory tips — but here are a few of the traditions that help make my family’s holiday gatherings truly unforgettable:

- Go out of your way to share a holiday moment with each member of your family. Connect one-on-one with everyone, especially those you don’t see often. Steal a moment or two together, whether it’s driving to the cleaners, shopping for groceries or walking around the block. The time you take to get into the nitty-gritty of someone’s life solidifies bonds, creates memories and promotes better understanding.

- This holiday season, you may be seeing older relatives and in-laws. Instead of rolling your eyes at some of their war stories, why not sit down and ask them every question you’ve ever wanted answered about your (or your partner’s) family health history? You may be surprised to learn that the broken heart your grandmother died of was, in fact, heart disease.

- You may want to use an inexpensive white or cream tablecloth for your dinner or some meal during the holidays, and have all your guests sign it with a permanent fabric pen. Tell each person to write whatever they want: a favorite saying or wish for the coming year, an outline of a handprint, etc. Plan to use a different tablecloth each year, and be sure to date and save it. Watch how the children’s handwritings change over the years, and you’ll always have a keepsake from your loved ones who have passed on.

- Use significant dates from the past as place cards or favors, and use them to ignite conversation. Encourage people to share their memories from their own perspective. A wedding, for example, will elicit a lot of different memories depending on everyone’s age at the time or where they were in their own lives.

- During a holiday dinner, have each person write down three predictions for the coming year:

1.) about themselves

2.) about the family

3.) about the world

When finished, people should sign, fold and seal them in envelopes. Collect and save them to be opened at next year’s Christmas dinner. This is one of my family’s favorite traditions!

- Set up a video or audio recording device and keep it available throughout the holiday season to record quips, comments and cute stories from the friends and relatives who will visit this season. Prepare a few juicy memory-prompting questions to spark thoughts and stir up spicy conversations. You can even set it up like a reality show confession room and plan to watch it next year.

- Don’t forget to make time for some special memories with your partner this month. Couples are so busy during the holidays that they usually don’t have time for each other. Pick a day this weekend for just the two of you. Shop, see a movie, eat in a cozy restaurant … no kids, no in-laws, no work.

- Some time before New Year’s Eve have your own private celebration by listing your top ten moments of the of the year. Examine what you’ve learned about yourself and others this year, and reflect on the progress you’ve made in your awareness, health, career, finances, relationships, environment and appearance. Keep in mind that it’s all about progress, not perfection. Use your mistakes from this year as building blocks for what you want to accomplish next year.

Happy Holidays!

Marilu Henner donated her fee for writing this column to PCRM: Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine.

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