by Regina Lordan
Use table cards to spark family conversation about Christmas, or to tell the story of Christmas to your kids.
I am a big fan of Chat Pack, a clever conversation-starter game of questions that can be played at the dinner table. It has gotten so popular over the years even Chick-fil-A has had its own child-friendly version as a toy offering in its kids’ meals.
A few years ago, when my oldest wanted to more fully participate in meaningful conversations, I personalized our own family-friendly chat pack using table cards. Each card has the name of the family member joining us at the table and inside the card is a little surprise question to spark fun family conversation.
Last Christmas I wrote down questions related to Christmas memories. My mother’s card asked, “What is your favorite Christmas song?” which led to an at least ten-minute discussion about which was better: “Mary Did You Know?” the Pentatonix version or “Mary Did You Know?” the Mary J. Blige and Andrea Bocelli version. We also ruminated amongst one another that “of course Mary knew! She pondered these things in her heart!”
My husband’s father’s card asked him, “What is your favorite Christmas ornament?” Upon hearing his answer, and the ensuing conversations and memory-sharing it sparked, my children were surprised at the simplicity of Christmases past. They delighted in hearing about extended Advents right up until Christmas Eve. They learned about the family history of their great-grandparents, grandparents
This year, after the loss of my husband’s father, our memory-evoking conversation starters wouldn’t feel right. None of us are ready to poke the wounds barely beginning to heal.
Share the Story of Christmas
Instead, we will be telling the story of Christmas using our table cards. Rather than including a question inside each table card, I wrote a verse from a rhyming, child-friendly retelling of Jesus’ birth. I got the poem from Sandy Creek’s “My Treasury of Christmas Stories.”
After writing the name of each family member on the card, I scrambled the names, making sure the story will be told in an adapted “popcorn reading” style around the room. I am hopeful this style of reading will keep us alert, waiting our turn to share the story of Christ’s birth.
Just in case of confusion (we are a multiage, easily distracted and pretty large group), I numbered each place card to help us retell the story in order as our voices pop around the table, and I will have the book at hand for our youngest family members to see the illustrations.
Storytelling With Table Cards
- Cardstock, cut and folded as a place card
- Crayons, markers or stickers for children to decorate place cards
- Names of family and friends who will be present at the table
Suggested Content for Table Cards
- Conversation-starter questions (What is your favorite part of Christmas? What is your best memory of your childhood Christmas? What is your favorite Christmas book?)
- The story of Christ’s birth: I am using a rhyming poem from “My Treasury of Christmas Stories.” However, you may choose to read directly from the Bible: The Birth of Jesus (Lk 2:1-14) or The Visit of the Shepherds (Lk 2: 15-20) from the Gospel of Luke; The Birth of Jesus (Mt 1: 18-25) from the Gospel of Matthew.
- A Christmas prayer: Write a personalized prayer with your children’s help, include a line on each place card or write an entire short prayer to be said together as a family.
- A traditional mealtime blessing from “The Catholic Family Book of Prayers.”
Interactive table cards can be used to help celebrate a birthday, Marian feast day, or other liturgical or family celebration. Your family can use table cards with special intentions written inside, to help learn a new prayer or to keep dinnertime prayers fresh and engaging.