Honoring Your Heritage at Family Reunions

Honoring Your Heritage at Family Reunions!

by Trina Boice

Family ReunionThe wonderful blessing of e-mail has brought us all closer to our loved ones and even to relatives we never knew we had, but it is no substitute for getting together in person. Even the best-written letter can’t compare with sitting down next to Uncle Alvin and laughing together about the story of when he tricked Aunt Darla into smashing the butter with her bare hands at Thanksgiving. Do you really want to wait until a funeral to get the whole clan together? It’s time for a family reunion!   

Family reunions have been a great summer tradition for many families. You can have a small get-together of your closest relatives or a great bash to include everyone you can find dangling from your family tree. Sure, it can be a lot of work, but all worthwhile things are. If you have been researching your family history, a reunion can be one of your finest moments: you can not only show off all your hard work, but you can also gather even more information! Let your relatives know you are planning on doing some family history work.  They will want to make sure that their research and family line is being well represented. Throw in some sight-seeing and entertainment and you’ve got yourself a real family vacation!

Once a party is announced, relatives usually get very excited. The more people that are involved in the planning, the more enthusiasm and better attendance you will find. Surround yourself with a team of dedicated helpers and start as much as a year in advance. There are tons of great resources that are available to help walk you through the reunion step-by-step, from planning the event to the final clean-up when it’s over. For a jumpstart on ideas and “how-to” guides, check out the following websites:

 

One of the first tasks in planning a family reunion is to send out a letter to all of the relatives. Go as far up the family tree as you think you’d like to go. Solicit suggestions and volunteers. It’s helpful to write out a timeline to keep you from feeling overwhelmed; you don’t have to do everything at once. Be sure to keep a reunion notebook to help you keep track of which tasks —such as menu planning, activities, lodging, and entertainment—have been delegated to whom.

You can’t hold a reunion without guests, so be sure to pick a date and location that work well for everyone. Give your family the information as far in advance as possible so they can make arrangements for the event in their schedule and still have time to enjoy the anticipation!

You’ll also need to decide how the reunion will be paid for. There are many ways to share costs. You can set a registration fee, ask relatives to donate supplies and services, or even set up a reunion scholarship fund. One fun idea is to hold an auction where people can get rid of their “white elephant” junk, sell hand-made crafts, or sell culinary masterpieces. Money earned from the auction could fund the meat and drinks, while everyone else brings a side dish or dessert to share.

Be sure to encourage everyone to bring memorabilia to display on a designated table. Prepare some special awards to present to whichever family member traveled the farthest or has the most children. You can create some goofy awards for the sexiest grandma or the uncle with the hairiest legs. Don’t forget a prize for the family members who look the most like a particular ancestor. Some families choose a fun theme for their reunion based on their ancestors’ heritage, occupation, or location. Using a theme ties all aspects of the event together, making it easier to design everything from the invitations to the decorations. It also helps you plan the types of food and activities you want to include. Here are just a few ideas for fun themes to try at your next family gathering:

 

  • “Home-Spun Fun” (Country Fair motif, cooking contests, pets, clogging)
  • “Home Matters” (Construction motif, building relationships)
  • “From My House To Yours” (Use rows of houses with different architectural features reflecting the personalities of the families)
  • “Hearts Knit In Harmony” (Hearts, music, knitting service project)
  • “Roots and Branches” (Trees, garden)
  • “Family Times” (Newspaper, breaking news, reporters, family videos CNN-style)
  • “Love Bears All Things” (We can “bear-ly” think of any ideas here)
  • “Angels Among Us” (Someone has to bring the angel food cake)
  • “Survivors” (Island motif based on the reality TV show “Survivor”)
  • “Christmas in July” (Stockings, caroling, elf caps, and Christmas cookies)
  • “Luau” (Who doesn’t love seeing Uncle Randy in a grass skirt?)
  • “Olympics Unplugged” (Games, torches, country flags, opening and closing ceremonies)
  • “Family Circus” (Things under the red top or that cute family cartoon of the same name)
  • “Mexican Fiesta” (Even better if your family has some Hispanic heritage)
  • Family History Under The Sea” (Seafood, water games, ocean décor )

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