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A Holiday Writing Prompt – How Writers Make a Happy, Meaningful Holiday Season

This holiday season has been especially strange for several reasons. Not only has COVID taken away my traditional holiday get-togethers with family and friends, but being in Costa Rica makes all of the “usual” holiday happenings impossible. I’ve needed to “get creative” to feel like I have a Christmas happening at all. For example since there are no fir trees for sale in this tropical climate, I made a festive tree of bare branches decorated with shells. I’m also mixing pumpkin and spices with pineapple juice and sipping this cold cocktail on the beach, instead of drinking hot chocolate in the frosty air. Since my husband and I can’t exchange gifts with family, we’ve decided to wrap up cat toys and offer them to our feline “kids” on Christmas morning so at least somebody can have the fun of tearing the paper opening and playing with the empty boxes on the floor.

Another side effect is that, with all of our usual holiday plans canceled, we have time off to feel sad, lonely, nostalgic and a myriad of other emotions. Fortunately for us writers, we know that periods of heightened emotion can be used to fuel our creativity.

If you’ve got an extra heavy dose of “the feels” this season, I invite you to channel them into some good writing with these special holiday prompts. Then share your writing with family and friends, or just tuck it away for you to read again next year.

Prewriting Activity

A. What are some holiday/seasonal activities you enjoyed as a child? Make a list.
B. Same goes for holiday/seasonal activities you enjoyed just last year… Make a second list.
C. Was there a holiday in your childhood that was especially meaningful? Consider “firsts” and “lasts,” like “first Christmas with my spouse” or “last Christmas with my grandmother.”
D. Was there a holiday gift that you particularly wanted as a child? What did you do in order to try to get it? What did you want to do with it?

Here are some holiday stories I particularly love. The first is quite short, the second longer, the third is a full-length movie.

1. Let it Snow, David Sedaris
2. A Christmas Memory, Truman Capote
3. A Christmas Story, Jean Shepherd, Dir: Bob Clark


Prompt: Take a little inspiration from one of the pre-writes and one of the stories above. What is a particularly significant holiday memory you have? Write about it in as much detail as you possibly can. Don’t worry about making it a great blockbuster of a story if that’s not what you’re into. Let it be a simple holiday memory, as Truman Capote’s novella is called. If you need more guidance consider these guidelines:

1. What indicates the onset of the season to you? How do you know the holiday has started or kicked into high gear?
2. What is one of your or another person’s main goals for your holiday? Getting a gift? Making a gift? Getting some alone time? Building a snowman? Bribing family for a first sip of holiday rum? It can be as big or small as you like.
3. When does the holiday really end for you? What happens on that day/time? How are the promises fulfilled, thwarted, or changed?
4. Reflecting back, what feeling, memory, image or thought lingers still?

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