Have you had Christmases where you found yourself low on time, money or inspiration when giving holiday gifts to loved ones. At this point in my life, I’ve given my children and other family members all sorts of gifts. While all of them were appreciated, not all of them were meaningful. Next year, I want to do something different.
If, like me, you don't have day-to-day responsibilities for children or elders, you may have the emotional room and some free-time to give my family the gift of yourself next Christmas. I mean give yourself, as in, give your story, your photos, and your recipes. Sharing these things, especially if they’re presented in an organized fashion, is one of the best gifts you can give your family because it continues your legacy.
Taste it – Create a family cookbook to preserve and pass-along your best recipes. For me these would include my buttermilk biscuits, brown-sugar pound cake, three different green bean recipes, and my macaroni and cheese. These can be gathered into a simple notebook with protective plastic sleeves or more elaborately presented. The presentation is not important. It’s the gathering and sharing of the recipes that is. It’s a bonus if you can add an anecdote about when you first made the recipe or where you found it. Was it an adaptation of a family recipe or from a cookbook or some other source? Did you make it up yourself? (As I did with my Cupboard is Almost Bare Shrimp & Carrot Recipe.)
Imagine it – Write down stories or your autobiography to share. Even if you only pass it along to one child, it is a precious gift from one generation to another. You might write down stories for your grandchildren about your childhood. You may share stories about a grand or great-grandparent or older relative they never met. Please share stories of how you faced challenges and persevered through adversity. Did you make a triumph out of not getting something you wanted? It’s important to share this information and not just the joyful things.
See it – Take those one-of-a-kind photos (from the days before digital cameras), and actually make copies to share with the family. When my brother shared photos of me he gathered from my aunts after my grandmother died, it was so precious to me because I have very few photos from childhood. There are swaths of my life with no visual record. We just didn’t face the camera often when I was growing up. Perhaps this is why my granddaughter has had almost every waking moment recorded. (That and the availability of technology which makes this much easier to do now.)
While many families have created blogs to share family information and there are all sorts of sites that allow one to share family trees and photos, I am talking about something much simpler and contained.
These gifts cost nothing but time and consistent effort. Christmas 2011 beckons. How about committing to devote one hour a week to work on one of these gifts of yourself for your family? If you do, come Christmas 2011 you will give the gift of knowledge, history and memory from your generation to another. What could be better than that?
On Rita’s Blog, Rita Malie shares why she wrote Goodbye America, a memoir about her mother’s childhood and historic events that happened.
This is the age of the memoir, which is the greatest gift you can give your family. Every family has important stories that should be told to preserve their heritage. It is unique and will be an important part of the legacy you leave for future generations.
Sue Shellenbarger reported in Life Stories: Children Find Meaning in Old Family Tales, in the Wall Street Journal that:
As parents cut budgets, many are finding family stories have surprising power to help children through hard times. Storytelling experts say the phenomenon reflects a growing national interest in telling tales, evidenced by a rise in storytelling events and festivals. New research bears out the value of family stories, linking teens' knowledge of them to better behavior and mental health.
Artist Wendy Ellertson who blogs on Wendy’s Wonderings and Wanderings about her journey through life and as an artist, shared a wonderful post on December 20 about her holiday traditions – from baking bread that is shared with one other family to a Christmas cactus that has been in her family for 100 years!
We as many families have a Christmas cactus, which if we are careful blooms in late December. But our Mama cactus has been passed down through the generations. My husband's great aunts found a small Christmas cactus discarded by a flower shop in Roseburg, OR around 1910...They "rescued" it and its been growing and producing cactus generations every since. The original"elder" resides in our kitchen with an offspring nearby.
Aunt Mo shares a post on BlogHer.com about making a family time capsule.
A time capsule is a collection of objects put together to preserve the memory of a place, experience, or group of people at one point in time. People often make time capsules for special public occasions, and for others to open many years in the future. You can make a family time capsule at your next family reunion or special event.
And just for fun – look at the website and book Awkward Family Photos. The Awkward Family Photos book by Mike Bender and Doug Chernack was published in May 2010 and quickly became a New York Times Best Seller List. It is a lovely tribute to families in all their love and awkwardness! Perhaps you can select photos with your family to submit to the website. I became aware of this site in a post by BlogHer.com contributor, Laurie of Lauriewrites.
Awkward Family Photos launched last year, when co-creator Bender noticed himself in an awkward family ski trip photo at his parents' house. He showed it to Chernack who said he had his own family material to contribute. Concluding that awkwardness and discomfort were better shared, they set up the site, began posting photos and calling for submissions.
The book is no repurposed and packaged website, the authors say. Of the 300 photos in the book, 200 have not been seen before. There is also a "Behind the Awkwardness" section that explains the stories behind some of the more curious photographs.
Whether you decide to share photos, stories, recipes or a combination of these, just think of how good you'll feel next Christmas when you present a gift of history, tradition, love specifically from your family story? Nothing can top that.
Good and plenty!
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