Inspired by a real holiday tradition James Barbato started with his own family about 25 years ago, The Magic Christmas Ornament is a book about an enchanted Christmas Eve when three children gather around the fireplace to hear their father tell a story about his favorite Christmas ornament.
After their parents go to bed, the children discover the true magic of the ornament as it sweeps them from their home and directly into Santa’s workshop.
James learned about storytelling from his father, Sylvester “Ziggy” Barbato, and passed that on to his own children. “He would always tell me stories as a little boy,” James remembered fondly.
“I loved to hear his stories. I think some of them were from books that he may have read or that he changed into his own stories—he just was a great storyteller. His stories made you believe…believe in yourself and imagine that anything could come true.”
Victoria said something similar about hearing her own father (James) tell stories.
“It was always very exciting to hear the stories that my dad was telling us. It was something that we really looked forward to. I have like this memory of my brothers having bunk beds and sitting on the bottom bunk waiting for my dad to come in and tell us a story…We were very motivated by it because it was always just really fun,” she said.
Know Your Audience
The first, and perhaps most important part of telling a good story is to know your audience and make it interesting, Victoria shared.
“Of course, he knew what we were interested in. So he knew that we were little kids excited about Christmas, for example, and he would get into all the details about Santa’s Village.”
Use Storytelling Year-Round
Storytelling isn’t just something the Barbato’s do at Christmastime. For example, when Victoria was younger and her uncle visited from Florida, the family would get around the table to catch up. With everyone taking turns, it inevitably turned into a storytelling experience.
“And at one point we—I don’t know how this happened—but we started to be in a normal conversation and then somebody started to launch into a story, and we would flicker the lights and be like, STORY! It’s just a big part of my family and the way that we communicate,” she explained.
Other Tips for Telling a Good Story
- Have a clear message or point.
- Include personal experiences.
- Watch other good storytellers for tips: Listen to how they tell the story, their body language, etc.
Above all else, make it meaningful. Storytelling is about families coming together. Victoria’s favorite part of sitting with her father and brothers? “It was great to have that time with him as well,” she said.