Passing on Family Stories Through Gift Giving

Written by Deb del Villar, Director of Communications

Giving gifts is part of the grandparent experience that is looked forward to with great anticipation. From the time the pregnancy is announced, grandma is thinking of what cute outfit or toy she will buy while grandad considers what tool, sports equipment, or fishing gear he should purchase first.

Grandparents love their grandkids, and they love to give them gifts!

Gifts come in as many sizes and variety as the grandchildren. Is there a way to pass on your legacy- your story through your gift-giving?

Gifts You Received

Some of my very favorite childhood memories are around special gifts full of meaning given by my grandparents.

There is the Asian doll that they brought back from their mission trip. The stories of their trip and how God worked are intertwined and mingled when I remember her. The velvet gray poodle bank comes next. How I loved to put my coins in that bank. You see my grandfather was a New York City banker and saving money was very important to him. He even gave me my first coins to drop inside.

Yet my favorite gifts were from another bank – treasures that the sea had left on the shore bank. While visiting each summer, walks with grandfather at sunrise and sunset were common pleasures. Often I left with my pockets full of treasures found.

The importance of loving and serving God, saving money, and spending time together were powerful gifts given to me by my maternal grandparents.

Giving Traditions

With our grandkids, we have been very purposeful with our gifting. At Christmas, we started each family with their own Lionel train set. For many years we added to their sets. This came from the memory of my dad and his love for trains. We desired to pass along grandad’s love for trains to the next generation.

We also began the tradition of giving a special toy truck to each family. Each Christmas this one box is the highlight – even though several of the grandsons are now older teens. The grandsons have already decided among themselves who will get what trucks. It is a tradition that is looked forward to each year. Traditions themselves can even be gifts.

Giving Heirlooms

As we downsized our home it led to streamlining the Christmas decorations. What a fun time we had allowing each grandchild (we have 11) to choose from our ornaments, nativity sets, and light-up Christmas village houses. Grandma collected nativity sets and shared the stories behind each one as it was chosen. Grandad did the same with his light-up houses. The stories behind the ornaments were shared as well. What a blessing now to hear the older grandkids share the stories as these gifts are displayed each year. These treasured items become heirlooms that are shared and passed down along with the stories.

What are those items you could give to your grandchildren to remember you by? It could be a tea or china set, jewelry, watch, quilt, furniture piece, or even a doily tatted by your grandmother’s hands. As we age, it is good to think about slowly giving away some of our special possessions to the older grandchildren. You may even get to see them enjoy them!

Giving in Creative Ways

I have been told that some grandparents have wrapped up items, placed a grandchild’s name on the package, and stored it for safekeeping. Upon their death, the packages would be found and given to the appropriate grandchild. Be sure to include a handwritten personal note to the grandchild with the item – what a treasure this would be. The stories behind the item are what bring life and meaning to the object.

Some additional ideas to help pass along your faith are to scrapbook family photos accompanied by the rich history behind the photos. Speak about the grandchildren’s place in your family’s story. Journaling your story or writing letters to your grandchildren are also special ways to pass along your family’s identity. Be intentional in pointing out God and all He did throughout your life.


As you celebrate this Christmas season, what stories will you share? Do you have memories around your Christmas decorations that could start a conversation where your faith journey can be expressed?

Maybe some of these could become keepsakes that connect your family history to this next generation, evoking powerful memories and feelings. These become the things that your grandchildren carry into their families and even pass down to a generation that is not yet born.

May this generation and the next hear these sweet words – “I remember when Grandma… or Grandpa…”

4 thoughts on “Passing on Family Stories Through Gift Giving”

  1. I loved the years when my grandchildren were present to help me decorate my Christmas tree(s). We would talk about the various ornaments they liked and tell stories that go with them. Even if they are not part of the decorating, they come for dinner and immediately peruse the trees looking for ones they remember. One of the favorites is an Avon scented ornament from the late 1970s. The wonder is that it still has its fragrance! My daughter checks it out every year and calls her daughters to sniff, too. They affirm the soft fragrance from before they were even imagined.

  2. This is not a holiday tradition but a good idea I think. I have 10 grandchildren plus 3 greats. At various times in the lives of these young people, I have written them letters and stored them in my bank box; they then receive them on their 18th birthday! So far, I have been alive to enjoy- but, if I am deceased, they have a precious legacy from Grandma!

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