Family reunion season is right around the corner which means you need to get planning! If you haven’t already started a list of attendees, I suggest you get that going pronto. 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). 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 subject below). We do however have some very fun ways to get your entire family involved.
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 on the same level. No comparing salaries or international vacations….just good ol’ food.
If you really want to take this the extra mile, 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 with the family updates, accomplishments and adventures. Now, imagine a table filled with these year-in-review photo books. I could sit down and look at all the fun and exciting things my 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 because now I can ask the Johnsons how their trip to the Grand Canyon went or my nephew how his school performance of The Music Man went.
This has the potential of being a real 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! The letter we get at the end of the year never had enough pictures! Then, once the reunion is over, you can keep these books on your shelf as a sort of yearly review (so much easier than scrapbooking). You could also compile them into one big book for grandma and grandpa (or great-grandma and great-grandpa).
Family History Books
Growing up, I didn’t like family history books because (1) They didn’t have any pictures and (2) I didn’t find the stories interesting. I will admit, my immaturity definitely played a part in the boredom I suffered on the subject of genealogy. If I can offer one piece of advice from my 12-year-old self, it would be: Find the story. 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 if I know they participated in the Civil War or that someone is 274th in line to the throne, I find that pretty fascinating.
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. When building your family tree, make sure to put a picture .
While thumbing through some old pictures, I found one of my great-great-grandmother that looked exactly like my mom. That connection inspired me to read more about my great-great-grandmother to see if she had anything else in common with my mother.
The REAL Family Reunion Secret…
Sure the suggestions we have made are great ideas but the actual secret to family reunions this year…TAKE AWAY THE PHONES! This is going to be very difficult. At some point during the event, collect all of the phones in a basket for 1-2 hours of games, food or conversation. (NOTE: Make sure you have someone watching these phones and answering any could-be-emergency calls). This will force everyone to look each other in the eye and share stories, create friendships and lasting memories.
Remember that Ancestry.com users can easily access family history inspired projects by going through ancestry.mycanvas.com. For customized photo books, calendars and posters simply visit mycanvas.com