Christmas opens itself up to so many traditions. Some bring stress, but others bring joy. One of our favorites is inviting our ancestors to Christmas through easy and fun activities that honor their memory. Here are three fun ways to connect to your family (living and past), and focus on what matters most this Christmas season.
Decorate with Family Photos
I recently attended a wedding where the table centerpieces included the bride and groom’s ancestral family photos. The photos made for conversation starters, but they also added a powerful atmosphere of love and a sense that the couple’s family members were watching for this sacred and auspicious occasion.
In the same way, consider adding family history photos to your Christmas decorations. It may bring up conversations with your children or guests over the holidays and inspire others to want to know more about their ancestors. If you don’t have access to many ancestral photographs, even pictures of parents and grandparents (especially if you live far away from family) can help keep them close this Christmas season.
Eat Foods Your Ancestors Ate
Favorite family recipes are the best of all, but if you don’t have any, look up where your ancestry comes from and find a recipe for something famously eaten there. Maybe your ancestors noshed on England’s sticky toffee pudding, Mexico’s chilaquiles, Germany’s schnitzel, or Kenya’s irio. Look up a recipe and give it a shot!
Alternatively, consider what your recently departed relatives enjoyed. My grandfather used to always have a chocolate orange at Christmastime—the kind you have to give a powerful whack to before you can eat. My grandmother used to keep cordial cherries at Christmas. Connect to your ancestors through your taste buds and see if perhaps you share some favorites!
Keep Telling Their Stories
As a mother to young children, I have been five-times reminded that we are always only one generation from losing our stories. I still find it baffling when this year’s three-year-old doesn’t know the story of Christmas. This year I will teach my daughter about the Babe in the manger and the angel who brought the shepherds to worship Him there. I will be renewed in my wonder as I watch the story take root in the mind of a child.
In addition to this, we can teach the stories of our ancestors and, where possible, their Christmas memories.
My parents had an especially lean Christmas one year after moving across the country for a new job—and then being laid off within six weeks of their move. They were the recipients of bags of food and piles of gifts at anonymous hands. They honored that experience throughout my childhood by bringing food, gifts, and cash to those in need during the Christmas season each year.
How will our children know their family’s stories unless we tell them?
This Christmas, take some time to share your Christmas traditions with your family—both alive and departed—and be the connecting link between the generations you love.
What traditions bring you closer to family this time of year?