The holidays have come, and your family has asked you to visit. Maybe your significant other is asking you to come to their family’s house for the night, or even worse, the weekend – and it’s out of state. You were hoping to get by with just sending in a card or stopping by for dessert later in the night; maybe you just got a bunch of video games on sale, and Mario isn’t going to save the Mushroom Kingdom on his own.
Yet, here you are, coughing a lung out in some relative’s house with candles burning, a leaky stove, and maybe older relatives still smoking in the house. Now, you’re surrounded by a bunch of people, only 10-20% of whom you actually know. Dinner isn’t ‘til 6:00, and maybe you’re worrying about staying for the weekend. You might have twenty to thirty hours to pass with the family. As a self-described expert in these sorts of encounters, I wanted to provide both tips on what to do, as well as pitfalls to avoid, so you can keep your family from bothering you. Who knows? You may actually do something constructive with your time while waiting to eat some of that delicious (insert fruit or delectable filling here) pie.
1. Play Touch Football (or any form of sport-ball, really)
Time Passed: 20 minutes to 2 hours
I’m not saying you need to develop a genuine love for “the pigskin,” but stashing a football in the trunk before the drive or, luckily, finding one in the shed at your family’s house couldn’t hurt. “Two-hand touch” is the name of the game.
It’s best to get at least one little kid involved, because this will keep the game friendly. If played with just adults, football will get competitive fast, with unnecessary injuries and personal grudges. There’s always one cousin who blurs the line between touch and tackle. Don’t be that cousin.
As well, don’t try to shine as the quarterback, or “QB,” as they say in the big leagues. Neither should you try to claim a reputation as “Mr. Golden Hands.” Play in the most passive way possible, so as not to attract attention to your lack of skill. Your future father-in-law may be judging his child’s marriage prospects based on feats of strength, and let’s be honest, we both know you’ve been skipping leg day… and arm day, too.
2. Play Board Games
Time Passed: 3 to 9 hours
Board games are like video games, but you need face-to-face interaction to play them – unless you’re playing Tabletop Simulator by Berserk Games… but that’s neither here nor there. When playing a board game with family, or a mix of friends at a holiday reunion, the trick is to find a game that can pass the maximum amount of time without causing hard feelings due to bad gameplay.
Did you just think of Monopoly? Slap yourself. That game practically screams, from the rooftops, with a vuvuzela, “MINIMUM TWELVE HOURS TO FINISH,” and every Tom, Dick, and Harry knows the classic swindles and cons: the Boardwalk bust, the railroad tycoon, Free Parking. Of all the dozens of games you could pull out of the trunk, Monopoly will show your hand the fastest.
To choose the right game, you either need to make it short, yet addicting because of its fun factor, so multiple games are played over the evening, or get everyone so personally invested in the game that they feel their basic human survival is at stake.
A better game for casual company, perhaps, would be Clue. Now, everybody knows how this one works, but they don’t yet know the pure genius of your personal strategy. Pick one character, any character, and really make yourself seem suspicious, whether your character is innocent or not. Try to get the entire table to believe you know something that they don’t. They’ll think you picked up some some tips and tricks during your last Sherlock binge, but really you’re just leading them down the garden path to pass the time until that delectable pie crust is finished cooling.
A new trend in board games recently is co-operative gaming. The board and the cards are the enemy, and you and your family around the table are doing your best to work together. It’s all lose or all win, so the pressure is on.
Sentinels of the Multiverse is a comic book superhero-themed game where every player has their own special super hero deck, all working together to stop an evil mastermind that the game has built.
If your family is into Halloween and spooky stories, I would recommend Betrayal at House on the Hill. You all go into a dynamic mansion that you build as you explore. Find items of the occult, or encounter frightening apparitions in the walls. During the game, someone will become the evil possessed traitor and try to destroy you all, while the survivors try to escape the mansion of evil. Each game can go any way, depending how the house is built and who becomes possessed.
Now if the family is up for something more intense, like RISK, may I make a suggestion to check out Battlestar Galactica? It can take a little long to set up, and while it’s made for fans of the sci-fi drama, you can still read the rules enough to understand the story of the game.
I was in college the first time I played this, without knowing the show at all. After one game, I was hooked and was binge-watching the show the week after. Long story short, you’re the last human space battleship, and you’re being attacked by Skynet Terminators that try to infiltrate and sabotage humanity. The game demands that the human players work together to survive and weed out the robot saboteurs.
There will be some hard calls for the players playing as the in-game President and Admiral. For example, you may have to smooth out some ruffled feathers in the family if you throw your significant other in the brig, or accuse their mother of being a traitor to the ship. However, stand firm: as Admiral, you must airlock them into the cold vacuum of space. If anyone has something to say about your playing style, you can proudly tell them that you were doing what’s best for the last human survivors. Remember, you need your family to remain intact if you want to get that delicious pie. That’s what we’re all here for, am i right?
3. Do Some Chores
Time Passed: 2 to 3 hours
I know, I know. We’ve all heard it before: a blog on a home improvement site pushes home improvement – but hear me out. I’m not saying you need to rebuild the whole foundation of the house, but small jobs around the house may have a big impact to your friends, neighbors, and loved ones.
Maybe you remember walking through the screen door last summer, and now the screen door won’t slide right. Maybe, like a good scout, you’re ever-prepared with a replacement part on hand, or at least a sharp eye to notice something that can be fixed with a simple screwdriver from the garage. If you impress the host enough, maybe it will even score you a bigger piece of that pie you have your eye on – the one sitting on the cooling rack.
4. Watch Netflix Movies
Time Passed: 2 to 12 hours
Since the arrival of digital platforms, no longer do you have to fill your trunk with limited collector’s editions of Lord of Rings, Star Wars, or The Dark Knight trilogy. Your TV set may also help, but nowadays, it’s all about streaming.
With so many titles available, the real problem of picking a show or movie to pass time, whether it be idly playing in the background or shown to the whole family in the living room, is to know your audience. Children being in the room may limit your films to, for example, John Hughes holiday classics like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles or Home Alone. The key is to avoid the film with that sex scene you overlooked, or that violent shootout in 24 where Jack brutalizes terrorists all in the name of national security. You know the one.
I must stress this, though. One wrong step – one movie or show that you pushed too hard or your host doesn’t enjoy – and you’ve lost remote privileges. Now, you’re subjected to Frozen on a permanent loop. The hours of mind-numbing sing-alongs may erase the memories that you scarred into your little cousins’ minds, but you’ll never erase the memory of “Let It Go” from yours.
This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive; these are just a few tips and tricks to pass the time while that warm, filled pastry is prepared. Follow these suggestions, and you’re sure to be remembered as a good guest and maybe even considered “part of the family” this holiday season. Remember the motto: once you get pie, you can politely say bye.
My last piece of advice is this: make sure to note when a group activity is headed south. Abort immediately. Don’t force it, or you may reveal yourself as the black sheep of the family. While that may seem like a good idea to avoid getting invited next time, it’s more important to put in an effort (in the holiday spirit) to make time with your loved ones, help around the house, and secure those GameStop gift cards when it comes time to exchange gifts.