Give me some amazing ideas for our family Thanksgiving/reunion/jamboree!
November 12, 2012 8:15 AM   Subscribe

My parents and several siblings and spouses are renting two large houses Thanksgiving week for 10 adults and 11 children (ranging in age from 3 to 19). We love and adore each other, and we're all excited about this week. Help me think of things to do ahead of time or during that would be amazing.

Additional bits of info:
We're all musical and we'll be playing and singing just about every day/night.
This is happening in the woods of coastal Maine.
Not all of our immediate family siblings + kids can attend, so we want to do something to try to include them from afar.
Some of the kid cousins can get into the usual spats, and there is occasionally some ye olde family drama, that occurs in every family. We hope that having multiple houses will provide everyone a chance to run away.
At least one mom will be a week away from her due date, so physical activities like hikes are out for her.
Two newly married friends of one sibling are staying at b&b close by so they can attend the festivities.
posted by heigh-hothederryo to Human Relations (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This might not be your family's style, but at bigger family get-togethers like this we often have a huge jigsaw puzzle going. It's a nice sort of drop-in/drop-out as you please, low-key-but-social activity that pretty much anyone there can do in any number - you might just have one person working on it to get some time alone for a minute, or you might have as many family members as can fit around it at any given time.... and then at the end you have all accomplished something together!
posted by jorlyfish at 8:24 AM on November 12, 2012 [6 favorites]

posted by lvanshima at 8:27 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about setting aside a quiet room and a video camera (or just encouraging people to record audio or video on their smartphones) where you can record each other talking about family history? It doesn't (and in fact probably shouldn't) have to be all Ken Burnsy. You should maybe have some lists of possible things to talk about. And that should definitely emphasize the fun, the stupid, the things people might not know about, the tiny moments, whatever.
posted by Madamina at 8:28 AM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Games that are good for all ages are helpful. Pictonary is a good one. So is what we call "the quarter game" or "four five six". Explanation here.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:34 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

When our family went houseboating a few years ago one of the cousins organized a murder-mystery night. I think she had gotten everything from a book or maybe online, so we all had lines to read and a character but nobody knew who the "murderer" was. We were all given our characters beforehand so we could bring costumes. A lot of fun and kept everyone entertained for at least 2 hours. Good for all ages mostly, but those who are too young to read could pair up to help someone older.
posted by photoexplorer at 8:41 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would also suggest games where the game itself is not the point, but the goofiness you come up with around it (which usually reveals a lot about the players) is. The two best I can think of are Apples to Apples and (this is my favorite) Beyond Balderdash.

Apples to Apples is super fun for groups of people who know each other, because you can really pull out the in-jokes. One Thanksgiving we were playing it with some friends and the assistance of some wine and had decided to do a round for the word "asshole". My submission was Pablo Picasso. My brother nearly burst a vocal cord laughing.

Beyond Balderdash is the best because aside from crazy words, you can do movie plots, dates of note, people of note, and a few other categories I can't remember. We did this one Thanksgiving where we spirited my cousins (ages maybe 16-28) over to our apartment. It was awesome because aside from the (again) gut-busting hilarity, it's a great way to get people who normally wouldn't talk a lot to get their personality out in the open by writing answers on paper. We learned a lot more about my cousins on their own terms, not related to their (incredibly crazy) parents and the family dynamic.

FYI, Balderdash itself is also known as Fictionary, where you can just pick random words out of a (hopefully very complete) dictionary and do it without benefit of an actual board game. But if your family is a little too literate, the premade game helps :P
posted by Madamina at 9:03 AM on November 12, 2012

You might be the perfect group for the board game Encore. It's two teams, and everyone on the team participates thinking up songs during turns so kids can't get too bored. If you're quick at turning the egg timer, a game can go by pretty quickly.
posted by gladly at 1:48 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think that for the kids, or anyone who wants a nice, quiet time some nice holiday movies would be in order.

One that I ran across last year was Nativity! It has children in it, and the songs during the Nativity play are adorable. This would appeal to all ages.

For nostalgia, you could get the Charlie Brown Christmas Special and the old Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

Meet me in St. Louis is also a good holiday movie.

Perhaps this could be a close to bedtime activity with the idea to wind kids down rather than wind them up.

If there's snow, how about building snow-people?

My family plays spades, so setting up card tables for marathons is right in order. Scrabble is also fun and for some reason kids LOVE it!

Another thing to do would be to make batches and batches of Christmas cookies. Have each family bring incredients and a cookie tin for a batch or two of their favorite cookies. Or have a list and distribute to each family. Gingerbread, Santa's thumb-prints, Sugar cookies, Oatmeal Rasin, etc. Everyone can help make and decorate cookies and fill their tins with a huge assortment! (I doubt they'll survive the ride home, but how much fun is that?)

A fruitcake bake-off? Challenge each family, or team to bring a recipe for fruit cake that won't gag a maggot. Then make the fruitcakes and bake them. Give everyone a judging card and have at it!

Frankly games, good movies and yummy treats are all I need!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:00 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

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