Family reunion season is here! If you haven’t already started a list of attendees, there are a number of services out there that will allow you to keep track of your family and guests (we like to use Eventbrite). But we aren’t here to tell you where the family reunion should be held or what food should be served (although we have some ideas regarding this last subject below). We do however have some very fun ways to get your entire family involved with your family’s history.
Family Reunion … a History
Family reunions are tricky events to run. Just ask any history book filled with familial contention: kingdoms overthrown, inheritances divided, skeletons in the closet, the list continues. Families are hard to manage and family reunions are even more difficult. With TV shows, movies and even some personal experiences adding to the negative connotation surrounding the whole event, who could ever hope to plan one?
Whether you are in charge of your family reunion this year or just going because you don’t want to offend anyone, here are a few ways to really connect with your family. Oh and remember, “Families are like fudge…mostly sweet, with lots of nuts.”
It’s difficult to recall one family event that didn’t have a bit of friendly cooking competition. For your family reunion this year, have a family cook-off (if your family is too competitive for this, call it the “Tasting Table” or just do a potluck). Food is sort of THE universal language. It’s a great way to get a large amount of people to participate. No comparing salaries or international vacations….just good ol’ food.
For more food-related fun, have everyone write the recipe on a piece of paper and put it in a glass jar. At the end of the reunion, collect the recipes and make a Family Cookbook. Each year you can decide on a new dish: pastas, salads, breads, desserts, appetizers, etc. Make your cookbook even more exciting with a picture of the finished product, a snapshot of the family that presented the dish, or a fun story about the recipe. If you want to go the extra mile, add some recipes from your ancestors along with pictures and short stories about their life.
This is a twist on the typical Christmas letter you sometimes get at the end of the year. Imagine a table filled with year-in-review photo books. People could sit down and look at all the fun and exciting things their brothers and sisters did with their families, then go talk with them about it over a game of horseshoes. These books could be real conversation starters, as well as a generational-bridge. Aunts and Uncles can relate to nieces and nephews about their talents and interests. Cousins that live across the country will be able to compare stories of family vacations and similar hobbies.
Make sure to fill these books with pictures! Then, once the reunion is over, you can keep these books on your shelf as a sort of yearly review. You could also compile them into one big book for grandma and grandpa (or great-grandma and great-grandpa).
Family History Books
Everyone has a life story and our ancestors are full of them. Sometimes it’s hard to relate to people who have passed away, but maybe that’s because it’s hard to get to know them. If there are family history books relating how ancestors participated in the Civil War or that someone is 274th in line to the throne, that’s pretty fascinating. Family History books are also a great way to share and preserve photos and documents relating to ancestors with the rest of the family.
Display the Family Tree(s)
There is something inherently fascinating about a family tree. Use a website like ancestry.mycanvas.com to create a family tree poster or descendant chart. These are extremely useful for both large and small families.
Hopefully these ideas can help make your next family reunion a success!