Written by Deb del Villar, Director of Communications
If you are like me, your family had a reunion each summer. It was a wonderful way to reconnect, strengthen familial bonds, create lasting memories, and learn about our fascinating family heritage.
Over the years, as my grandparents and parents have passed away, marriages and funerals have seemingly replaced family reunions. While these are still great times to get together with many of the same things being accomplished, I miss family reunions.
The gathering of the family clan just to spend time together was special and looked forward to with great anticipation. This excitement started as soon as the invitation came announcing the location and theme. Over the ensuing months, all the preparations were made and finalized, resulting in a wonderful time.
Below are some of the blessings family reunions can hold. If you have stopped having them or have never started, maybe this will give you a jumpstart to get one on the calendar for next summer.
One of the many blessings is the chance to reconnect with extended family members and meet new members.
A bonus to catching up on each other’s lives is you can update your contact information. Who has ever sat down to send cards and not known the address of a family member? Be sure to get phone numbers as well as connect with them over social media.
When my mom died, we started a family Facebook page. Members of the family were invited to join the page. So many of them shared memories of my mom which helped soothe the ache of that first year without her. Our page is still going, and various family members continue to share things so we can stay better connected.
Additionally, finding out what is going on in each other’s lives will allow us to pray more specifically and effectively for our families. As the patriarchs and matriarchs of our family, we have the time to pray earnestly. It is a privilege and responsibility we should take seriously.
Meeting in one place also helps us to see so many of our extended family which certainly helps us as we get older. We can sit and have conversations with family members we might not ever get to see otherwise. We can sit and enjoy watching the younger ones laugh and play.
As we get to know each other better through spending time together, our bond with our family is strengthened. Think of a family reunion as a type of glue that the longer we are held together, the stronger our bond becomes. Being in contact with one another, face to face, with hugs and pinches on the cheek, makes the bond grow deeper.
Activities, games, arts, crafts, and sharing meals are great things to enjoy at family reunions. Some families do talent shows, go on hikes, or play baseball games. Think of things your family likes and incorporate them into ways to spend time together by doing something together.
A family reunion photo album is a great way to not only capture the memories but also pass on the family story. If this album is added to each year, it becomes a pictorial generational history of family members that can be shared as the stories are told of Uncle Fred and his crazy antics or Aunt Suzie and her amazing pies. Be sure to take family photos too. This can be done by individual families as well as by generations. Do not forget to take a photo of everyone together.
I can remember getting to a family reunion and being shy as the day started. Yet by the end of the day, I did not want to leave my cousins. I also met relatives that previously I had only known by name. My ties to my family had grown deeper and wider just like the roots of a healthy tree. A healthy tree can stand the stresses of storms and droughts if its roots are deep and strong. Our young people need strong roots, secure in who they are and where they came from. Family reunions help build this strong sense of security, belonging, and identity.
“…that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.” – Isaiah 61:3
Learning Family History
What would a family reunion be without the telling of stories?! When we get together as a family, all someone has to say is “do you remember when…?” Depending on who is speaking, we all know the story that is going to be shared. There is great comfort in shared experiences.
At family reunions, the younger members of the family learn from us, the older members. At the same time, we the older members learn by listening to the younger members. We share stories and thereby share life with one another. It is one way to build cross-generational or multigenerational relationships.
I remember my pap-pap telling us about his days in the steel business in Bethlehem, PA. Gram would share about when she first saw an indoor bathroom. I remember her telling us about washing out plastic bags and plastic wear to use again along with saving cardboard for the war effort. Gram was still washing disposable items and saving cardboard long after the war.
These stories become not only the past foundation on which we stand as a family but also the scaffolding on which we build our future. As we, the holders of the family heritage, pass on the stories we have heard, they will become part of the later generation’s strong foundation and sturdy scaffolding. This support will help carry them through storms and droughts that are sure to come. They will know where they came from if you share with them their unique heritage.
What is your family’s history? What are those traditions that you keep? What makes you a _________[ name of your family]? Help them see who they are and how they belong to this family. Consider doing a family tree and genealogy search before, during, or after the family reunion. Share what you find out. There are many free sites that you can visit and discover amazing facts about your family.
While you are sharing family stories, traditions, and anecdotes, celebrate too your legacy of faith.
Following my father’s death, in the process of going through his records, I found out that I come from a long line of Christ followers, all the way back to County Down, Ireland. Prior to this, I thought I was a first-generation Christian. It has been generations since there had been any in our family. Many more surprising facts were uncovered.
Let’s share our history, so our stories will not be buried with us but will instead help build up a new generation of strong believers in the Lord.
“Rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” – Colossians 2:7
There is a poem that says “If you want to touch the past, touch a rock. If you want to touch the present, touch a flower. If you want to touch the future touch a life.”
When it comes to passing on your legacy as a grandparent, let’s rewrite this poem:
“If you want to impart the past, share your stories with your grandchildren. If you want to cherish the present, spend time with your grandchildren. If you want to leave a strong future, be intentional about the other two.”
Family reunions are one great way to help you accomplish this goal.