Writing Your Life Story, Part 12: Capturing Holiday Memories

Angels for Amanda

Angels for Amanda © 2012 Bo Mackison

When holidays approach, it can be a hectic time of year, crammed with to do lists, people to see, places to visit. And for all but the most stalwart of writers, composing anything beyond the grocery list gets lost in a haze of “I should write this down, but there’s no time.”

No worries.

Writing about the holidays is not a writing project that needs to be done in the midst of celebration. It’s a small project, best done after the holidays. And it’s a quick project, best done when the celebrations are winding down or over, but family and friends are still near. It’s a project that will reap big rewards when you are trying to recall a Holiday memory from the near or distant past.

This project can be done with any holiday. Although I discuss Christmas holidays, the writing prompts can easily be adapted to birthdays, summer holidays, Thanksgiving — any time there is a celebration.

I’ve been doing a holiday writing project since my mother gave me a small book 38 years ago. It was the first Christmas I was married and the title of the book was Holiday Memories. Filled with blank pages — four pages per year for 20 years — there were writing prompts to record each year’s memories.

Though my first book of Christmas memories was a commercially made product, I created a second one when I completed the first twenty years. It is simple to duplicate this idea in a blank book or journal. (You can pick up a holiday themed book – any holiday – when they are available.)

This Holiday Memoir Project is for the Christmas season. Each year, I adapt the questions to fit the situation of my family. You can adapt the questions to fit any holiday celebrations.

Write a few sentences to complete each prompt:

  • Decking the Halls. What favorites decorate your home – greenery? candles? stockings? indoor and outdoor lights?
  • Trimming the Tree. What does the tree look like? If it is fresh, what kind was it, how tall, how did you get the tree home? Who trimmed the tree? Are there new ornaments, hand crafted ornaments, heirloom ornaments?
  • Celebrating the Season. What special events are a part of the holiday season? Children’s activities? A play or concert? A dinner or caroling party? Get-togethers with friends and family? Traveling?
  • The Big Day. Where do you celebrate? Who are there? Meaningful gifts? Special menu? Religious or cultural traditions? Favorite moments to treasure?
  • Just for the Children. Copies of letters to Santa? A photograph or two? A holiday drawing or story from each child?
  • Memory Tuck-ins. Is there memorabilia to be gathered? A photo holiday card? Special cards or letters you received? Programs from concerts or shows?
  • A List of Gratitudes. What are you most thankful for? Take a moment to add this to your holiday writing. It helps keep the whole reason for celebration in focus.

One of our family’s holiday traditions includes reading the holiday memory book. Every Christmas night, when the celebrating is winding down, we read entries from past years. Then we fill in the events from the current season. This is one of our beloved family traditions.

We remember the Christmas Eve, thirty years ago, when Uncle Conrad came bearing gifts in a Santa Claus suit? We read about his Santa outfit, so filled with newspapers that he crunched as he walked, and that midway through his “Ho Ho Ho” greetings his Santa pants took a downward slide. A long downward slide! We laugh like Santa each time we re-read that story.

Our family looks at the drawings and re-reads stories our children wrote when they first put pencil to paper. Here’s an example from my son when he was five:

A little green ball is on the Christmas tree. The angel on the top has heart wings. And a cone that holds her up that high. The lights are blue and red and yellow and hot. There are boats and bears and angels hiding in the tree. I see them. I think the tree is pretty fine.

I encourage you to enjoy your holidays, celebrate in your special way, and when the holidays have passed, take time to capture the memories — in drawings, photos, and especially in your words and the words of your family and friends.

It will be worthwhile, years from now, when you read and remember these special times.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. sweet idea.

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