This time of year we participate in many traditional Holiday activities with our families. These holiday traditions are important to our families and their histories. Some of the traditions were handed down from earlier generations. Others were started by our generation and will be handed down to our children and grandchildren.
Family traditions are an integral part of the holidays, and should be included in the histories of our families. We're all so busy this time of year that it is hard to fit family history into our schedules. But, by setting aside just a few minutes, you can preserve your family traditions for future generations.
The easiest way to pass family traditions onto the next generation is to write them down. You could start small by writing several paragraphs about how your family celebrates the holidays. Nativity scenes, Christmas trees, decorations, Santa Claus, stockings, cards, baking, Advent wreaths, music, and food are just a few of the traditions that you could include in your writings. Recording traditions in this way will often include the history of those traditions in your family and give even greater insight into the family's history.
My family's Christmas traditions start the day after Thanksgiving.This is the day that we put up the Christmas tree, which is usually an important event in every family's life. For us, the activity must include Christmas carols and holiday M&Ms. Some of the ornaments hung on the tree are new, others are old, dating back 50 or 60 years. At one time, our tree was full of the dated ornaments that we gave to our children each year. Those ornaments are gone now, given to each child when they married so that they could hang them on their own trees.
A tradition often handed down in families is when and how the gifts are opened. My family was always one of the first stops on Santa's route and we opened gifts on Christmas Eve. My husband's family opened them on Christmas morning. We combined the two traditions and our children (and now our grandchildren) open one present on Christmas Eve with the rest opened Christmas Day with the extended family.
When I was a child, St. Nick filled our stockings on December 6th, the feast day of St. Nicholas. In my husband's family, the stockings were filled by Santa Claus on Christmas Day. Our children received filled stockings from both St. Nicholas and Santa Claus on their respective days.
Food is a big part of any family holiday and sharing a recipe is a simple way to pass down a tradition. It is a time for special treats and foods that may only be made during the holidays. Keep recipe cards on hand to share those special recipes. Or write the cards up ahead of time and have them ready to give out. I recommend writing them by hand, adding a personal touch which may be cherished many years from now.
Another idea is to write about a memory from a past holiday. If you can't think of anything to write, go through some photos of the holidays and that should spark some memories. You could even take a photo and write the story behind it. Those photos are a good way to pass on family traditions too, if the people and places are identified.
Each year I write about a different Holiday memory from my childhood to include in my genealogy. This year it will be the story of the Jesse tree.
I attended Catholic grade school and every Advent there was a Jesse tree competition in my class. For those of you who don't know, a Jesse tree tells the story of Jesus' genealogy through symbols.
For months beforehand, my classmates and I would plan and work on our Jesse trees. I was determined to win the competition, so each year my tree became more and more elaborate. Finally in sixth grade I won. I remember the tree was made from pine branches I collected in the cemetery, and the ornaments with the symbols were made from aluminum foil. I don't have a photo of that Jesse tree, but I can still see it as plan as day in my head.
Your family traditions might be old and awake warm memories of holidays past. Or they might be new traditions created out of circumstances and need. Either way, recording these traditions and including them in your genealogy records will be a priceless gift to your descendants.