There is no better time of year to learn more about your family’s history than during the holidays — a time when family matters most.
And with your extended family surrounding you this holiday season, with a little effort and planning, you can learn more about them than you ever imagined possible in just one evening of celebrating.
Start a New Holiday Tradition
If you have family tree creation on your mind and just aren’t sure where to start, think about getting help from family members of all ages during your holiday celebration. And no, this doesn’t have to be a tedious task! Rather than asking everyone in attendance a series of questions about their past between bites of fruitcake and sips of eggnog, let them know what to expect upon their arrival ahead of time.
Here’s how: Somewhere within your holiday party invitations let your guests know that this holiday season, you’d like to begin a new tradition: building a fun, interactive family tree. And also ask, that in lieu of gifts, family members bring an old photo of themselves plus either a dish made from a rare family recipe, an old newspaper they saved for good reason or even an interesting story about their past to share with everyone. Then, follow these easy tips to turn your family tree creation into a fun, celebratory family affair.
1.) Turn Genealogy Into a Game
Everyone loves a good party game during the holidays! But instead of pulling out your stash of board games and playing cards, think about creating your own game that celebrates your family. Children will especially love this fun idea!
Instructions: Simply stack your guests’ photos facedown on the table. Then, have each family member take turns grabbing single photos from the pile. One by one, have each guest flip over their chosen photo and then guess which family member is in the photo (if they’re really old photos, it will make the game even more of a challenge!). If a family member can’t guess after two tries, have them pass the photo onto the next person and so on until the family member shown is guessed correctly.
Not only is this a fun way to learn more about your family members’ past, but it could also spur some interesting conversations!
2.) Have Kids Gather & Organize Photos
Fact: Children are highly visual beings — and the smaller the child, the shorter the attention span seems! Giving kids the task of gathering and organizing photos will keep them focused, intrigued and wanting to help. So, upon finishing the photo game, have the children in attendance gather up the photos and then try their hand at organizing them from oldest to newest. Of course, they may not get it right the first time, but figuring it out will be just another fun game to them!
3.) Let Teens Explore Old Newspaper Clippings
When it comes to their likes and dislikes, teenagers can be a finicky bunch. And in this technological age, it seems to be even harder to get them involved in family activities — let alone building a family tree. But even the angstiest of teens will enjoy this family tree building task. Young people seem to find old newspaper ads or photos particularly comical. So, have the teenagers in attendance get a kick out of reading through the old newspapers or clippings that were brought to the party. They can then cut out the parts they find funny or even interesting. And if some of the teens just can’t get into anything without using a piece of technology, have them search through Genealogy Bank’s online Historical Newspaper Archives; inputting the years they were born into the search box — or even when grandma and grandpa were married — to dig up some good stuff to be printed out and saved.
4.) Give Grandparents the Gift of Telling Their Stories
In today’s society, as people age, they tend to get overlooked. It’s a sad, but entirely too prevalent fact. However, this holiday season you can change this by showing the elderly people of the family that they are incredible and worth celebrating right now — and until the end of time. So grab a recorder or pen and paper and let grandpa tell that story about the time he had to trudge through twelve feet of snow on his way to school; then let grandma tell you about the time she wrote grandpa a letter every day for years while he was fighting in the war. Family stories such as these can give not only young people, but even adults perspective on what truly matters most in the world. And it shows them that yes, you can stay strong through all types of adversity and sudden change.
Once the stories are recorded, they can be easily transferred to a document and printed.
5.) Taste Test Some Family Recipes
What’s a holiday celebration without delicious family recipes passed down from generation to generation? If you took the advice above, you asked guests to bring dishes made from family recipes. But, wait — don’t just gorge yourself! Instead, before enjoying the food, go around the room and ask about the stories or ingredients behind each dish. Then, record the recipes down on a recipe card — or even have your guests bring recipes with them for ease of transfer to a recipe box or scrapbook. And, if you’re really brave, try your hand at making a rare family recipe yourself with others in attendance. You might make a mess of the kitchen, but you’ll also make some beautiful family memories.
6.) Compile a Family Scrapbook Keepsake (and add to it year after year)
Now that you have all the components to create your interactive family tree, have each guest add a piece of the organized collection of photos, newspaper clippings, recipes and any written anecdotes they would like to share to a family tree scrapbook as they make their way out the door. Be sure to stock glue, tape, pens, markers, confetti, glitter and whatever else you may need to make your family shine throughout the years.
7.) Document the Scene
One of the most valuable ways to keep your family history alive and well is to document the present. Now that you have a new holiday tradition in place, it’s important to photograph and record these memories each year so that you can add these pieces to your family tree or even a time capsule in the future.
Here’s an interactive idea: Strategically place a few cameras throughout the party area and ask attendees to take photos during the holiday gathering. Then, the following year, get together to watch the slideshow of images.
There you have it! An interactive family tree and new holiday tradition that you can build upon each year — and something your family will enjoy for years to come.
Does your family participate in holiday traditions? Share them with us below!