I am blessed to know many creative people, and last Christmas I received a fabulous gift from one of them. She shared a book she had compiled for all her relatives, featuring mouth-watering recipes, beloved traditions, and photos from many a Christmas past.
The stories made it come alive with inside jokes, and the photos of nativities, gingerbread houses, stockings, and feasts made you feel you were there. What a treasure! Relatives now gone are there smiling in candid photos, their personalities coming through so much better than in formal portraits. By starting now, you could have an awesome collection ready for Christmas this year.
It turned on my own creative juices and I thought of additional ways we can celebrate our families and learn more about them. Here are 17 more ideas, one of which is bound to fit your circumstances.
- Make a movie about your first family members who forged the way to a new land. Costumes, accents, hardships—include it all. Even tiny kids can play parts. And it’s easy to mail a DVD to your relatives. Don’t strive for perfection; embrace the flubs and the humor.”
- Compile a songbook of your family’s favorites. What were the bedtime lullabies? What hymns were cherished in your home? Does anyone sing or play an instrument? Include photos of recitals and practicing. This is a great way to preserve memories of the music that touches our hearts.
- Start a Family Newsletter. Every month a different family member compiles contributions from all the rest. Emails, texts, photos—new jobs, babies, pets, broken down cars, trips—truly a catalog of family happenings.
- Paint a giant family tree (in the garage? On a mural?) with stars by the names whose temple work has been done.
- Create a board game (Smithopoly?) with spaces named for relatives– Anderson Avenue, Rogers Road, and so on. Cards could reveal fun rewards (or jail time?) for the colorful characters in all our families.
- Establish a trophy cabinet for those who made their mark in sports. If you don’t have the trophy you need for Great-grandpa’s award-winning fish, make one.
- Design a tablecloth or a quilt filled with drawn or stitched images of great moments in your family’s history—baptisms, weddings, summits of mountains reached, challenges conquered.
- Go to Justserve.org and choose a charity activity that fits your family dynamics and available time. Service binds our hearts together and brings us closer to Christ.
- How about a dollhouse with everyone there? Dolls could represent various ancestors, each one wearing a signature item, or at least a name tag!
- What about all the papers we save—a poem someone wrote, a letter from the front lines, a note of praise, a newspaper clipping, and so on? Bind them all up in a collection of precious papers so they don’t get tattered and lost over the years.
- Interview everyone about their memories, recording their voice. From childhood on, what do they recall? Start with the oldest family member. What was the price of a house when they were young? Gasoline? A movie? What history do they remember first-hand? Do they recall their baptism, or other important events? Bear testimonies, express love.
- Honor your heritage with a family reunion featuring the food, music, and culture of your ancestors. Let far-flung members participate virtually online.
- Have a video Family Talent Show. Get family members to send you a short video of their act, then edit them all into a giant variety show. Magic, comedy, tumbling, and acting are all as welcome as musical numbers.
- Stage a Family Olympics with crazy events that everyone can enjoy, the crazier the better. Who can stack the most rocks on top of one another in five minutes? Who’s able to spin around the fastest? Who can go longest without laughing? Who makes the best shadow puppets with their hands? Who can make the most words out of great Great grandma’s name?
- Have a family portrait made into a jigsaw puzzle, and enjoy putting it together.
- Scan all those photo albums, already. Many church genealogy centers offer this service for free (as well as copying family videotapes to DVDs), but many desktop printers can scan your photos as well. Or, you can take photos of those precious pages, and save the files on your home computer.
- See how many temple-ready ordinances you can print in one evening, for deceased relatives. Or have an indexing competition.
The idea is to inject some fun and liveliness into Family History. You might even establish yearly traditions that will bond generations together, encourage cousins to become buddies, and make membership in your family a pure delight. Just think outside the box, and you might come up with even more ways to unite those you love most.
Joni Hilton is an LDS author, Seminary teacher, and shares life hacks at http://bit.ly/YourYouTubeMom.