10 Safe Conversation Topics For Christmas Lunch
For many of us, Christmas is the one day of the year where you might find yourself face-to-face with those relatives who feel more like strangers.
You end up struggling for ways to engage in polite small talk or idle chit-chat that doesn’t end in tears or arguments.
It’s a scary time, now more than ever -- Australia is quite literally on fire and given the instability of the world at large, you might find yourself having to be extra careful about what you can/can’t/most definitely shouldn’t bring up over a plate of turkey or a slice of pav.
A simple “How’s the weather?” used to be a cliché small talk winner but now it’s a trigger to argue about the effects of climate change and whilst you’ve got ScoMo (#whereisScoMo), the Trump impeachment and Brexit to chow down on, let’s just agree that chatting about politics is never going to end well. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee it’s a one-way street to fisticuffs.
Another general rule of thumb should be that you DO NOT grill anyone about their relationship status or lack thereof. There should be no “how’s your love life?”, “when are you getting married?” or “when are you having babies?”
So, with the world currently going to hell in a handbasket, what on earth can you safely chat about when Aunty Jan corners you in the kitchen without starting a screaming match?
Here is a list of exactly 10 things:
Chatting about the latest TV series that you’ve binged could go either way. You might be tempted to rave about Succession, but it’s about a dysfunctional family tousling over greed and power and that might not go down too well. Go for a safe option like… actually, there are no safe options. Just read the room. Comedy fans? Try Brooklyn Nine-Nine or The Good Place. Got a family full of drama fans? You can’t go past This Is Us or Chernobyl. Alternatively, you could always bond over the worldwide disappointment generated by the final season of Game of Thrones.
Also, keep the following phrase in mind: “No Spoilers”.
With celebrities getting cancelled left, right and centre, it can be hard to know who to trust. But there stands one man who will never let you down. One man who has retained his everyman awesomeness. That man is Mr Tom Hanks.
A recent New York Times profile about Tom went viral and Twitter responding with tales of Tom’s generosity and selflessness. He’s been Hollywood’s Mr Nice Guy for nearly 40 years and is about to receive the Cecil B DeMille lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes on January 6. Who doesn’t love Tom Hanks or have a favourite Hanks movie quote up their sleeve?
You’d normally be advised to avoid discussing sports. If people start debating about the merits and Grand Final prospects of their AFL / NRL team… ABORT!! ABORT!! But one mention of the Boxing Day Test and someone is bound to start quoting stats and facts about the lads in white without much resistance. Better yet, there’s no one hotter in Australian sport right now than tennis superstar Ash Barty and for good reason. The current World Number #1, she recently cleaned up the richest prize in tennis at the WTA Final in Shenzhen. And that came after she quoted Disney movies in her Wimbledon post-match press conferences. The woman is a legend. Respect.
I’m not suggesting that you open up a discussion about whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie (because duh, of course it is) or whether Love Actually is the quintessential holiday classic (enough with the negative hot takes about it being any less than perfect, okay?). But Will Ferrell’s 2003 PG-rated flick Elf is joy personified and delivers arguably one of the best lines in cinematic history: “Son of a nutcracker!”.
If Christmas movies aren’t your bag, you could U-turn the conversation to how excited you are about the upcoming Wonder Woman sequel. No one is going to argue about the fabulousness of Gal Gadot and her golden bracelets.
If there are any millennials present, get them to show you how to make a Tik Tok video. There are some really daggy challenges on the app that are harmless, dance-focussed fun and it might help bridge any potential generation divide.
Your hatred of magpies
Nothing brings a group of people together like mutual hatred, and there’s universal disdain for those swooping magpies. Bonding over a common enemy never felt so good. Another option? Turkish Delight. Everyone knows they have no place in a box of Cadbury Favourites. FACT.
Anything related to dogs
Who doesn’t love puppies?! If no one in the family has a dog to gush over, whip out a phone and YouTube “dog reunions” – you’ll have guaranteed “awwww s to cut through any tension. If that doesn’t do the trick, try Baby Yoda.
Avoid debating the best Christmas song. There really are only two contenders -- Wham!’s “Last Christmas” and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” -- but you’ll need to accept that you might not win this argument. So introduce your family to Lizzo. 2019 has undoubtedly been her year and anyone who hasn’t been sucked into her vortex is missing out. Give the gift of Lizzo this Christmas and you’ll have everyone feeling “Good As Hell”.
Don’t say anything -- just take a nap
How good are naps? With bellies full from too much food and weary soles after some backyard cricket, everyone is going to gagging for the benefits of a mid-afternoon siesta. Embraced by young and old, a good lie down has the potential to unite everyone. At the very least, it’ll give them some peace.
Share a personal highlight of the year
If ever there was a day to embrace sentimentality or nostalgia, it’s Christmas. Tap into your own personal memory jar and share a highlight from the year that made you smile or particularly thankful. If you’ve had a particularly trash year and struggle to pick a highlight, say something nice about the person sitting next to you. It’s an easy way to generate conversation and an unexpected compliment can do wonders.
Whatever topic of conversation you choose, make sure you and someone you trust (a favourite cousin?) have a safe word ready that will get you out of a sticky situation.
Merry Christmas everyone!