The holidays are a perfect time for celebrating family by connecting to the past. Remembering those whose DNA we carry is difficult in a technological age where Grandpa’s old phone is ancient history, and kids think life is boring without instant connection on Facebook, Twitter, and cell phones.
Who has time or interest for the past?
Holidays provide moments in time where we can sit down and have a face-to-face chat with a cousin, give Grandma a bear hug, and laugh together at the dinner table.
You know what I mean—real old fashion, family gatherings.
These are usually the times when we feel the loss of someone whose stories used to make us laugh until we choked and whose cooking was better than the gifts. Grandpa, Grandma, or Aunt Pat have passed on and left a hole in our holidays.
These people impacted our lives and we want our children and grandchildren to know something about them.
What were they like? How did they influence who we are and what we do today? What values did they pass on to us? What is their spiritual legacy, and why is that important?
When the Israelites passed over the Jordan River to move into the Promised Land, Joshua had them create a pile of stones as a memorial. When future generations would ask, “What do these stones mean?” their parents would tell them the stories of God’s provision and power (see Joshua 4:1-10).
Traditions build connection to the past that wraps current generations in the bigger picture of “family.” They are the rope that ties the future to family history for generations yet to be born.
Traditions are part of our spiritual legacy.
7 ideas for celebrating family by connecting to the past
1. Leave an empty chair at your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table as a reminder of those who are no longer with you. Share some favorite family stories during dinner about these people so that your children and grandchildren might know a little more of their family DNA.
2. Do you have a favorite old quilt that grandma made? Hang it over a chair during the holidays and tell her story when someone asks, “Where did you get that quilt?”
3. Set old family photo albums out on the coffee table for folks to casually look through. These often lead to great conversations among the generations.
4. Did Grandpa or Grandma have a certain prayer they prayed as “grace” before a meal? Use it as your holiday dinner prayer.
5. Include a favorite dessert or side dish at your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table that Great-Grandma used to serve and then pass out the recipe for family to take home. My daughter, Mary, always brings my mother’s green bean casserole to our holiday dinners.
6. Some of my mother and grandmother’s Christmas decorations go up in December beside the ones I’ve collected. Ornaments on the tree include childhood photos of my children and myself. The grandkids enjoy searching the tree for them and hearing the stories of Christmases long ago.
7. The turkey platter I use for the holidays has been passed down from my grandmother. My mother gave it to me when I became the one to host the family Thanksgiving dinner. I’ll pass it on to my daughter Kati when she takes over as hostess for the holiday dinners, and the stories that go with the platter will be told to a new generation.
I know my children will incorporate new traditions into their family holidays, but they will also continue some old family traditions that tie the past to the new generation they are bringing into the world.
What traditions do you have that share the past with your future? I look forward to hearing from you.
Have a great weekend, Susan
“Jesus likes it when we share.” -Adelaide, age 3: Pass this along to everybody and their brother. OK, maybe not everybody’s brother, but you know . . . all of your friends would be nice.