As a newlywed I have totally enjoyed getting to know my in-laws. This discovery began even before I said “I do.” During our courtship, my soon-to-be husband shared many of his classic childhood stories and character-defining moments. These family stories, so familiar to my husband, so new to me, helped me get to know them. By the time I met them, I already loved them.
My love for my new family was sparked by their stories. This is a love that Elder Quentin L. Cook encourages all families to nurture through “Family Tree Gathering[s]” (“Roots and Branches,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 47). Elder Cook explains that these gatherings, “should be a recurring effort. Everyone [should] bring existing family histories, stories, and photos, including cherished possessions.… Our young people are excited to learn about the lives of family members” (47).
One of the best ways to hold a family tree gathering is to incorporate the principles Elder Cook teaches about into a regularly scheduled family gathering. Here are some simple ideas I plan to try with my own family. Maybe they’re something you might like to try as well.
Since we both grew up in homes that valued family dinners, meals are a big deal to my husband and me. Learning to cook traditional family dishes together helps us to understand the lifestyle of our ancestors and relatives. And we have a diverse family heritage to draw upon: mine mostly Swedish, Scottish and Irish; his German and Bohemian. I want to learn which dishes he enjoyed, like the liver and onions my husband’s grandmother makes for my father-in-law whenever she visits, as well as the traditional Bohemian meal of cabbage and beef.
Download and use this recipe card (and activity sheet) to get you started planning your own heritage food experience. Fill it out with a family recipe you want to try, print copies to share at your next family gathering, and start cooking! At family reunions and gatherings, you might try competing to decide who makes it best.
Being newly married generally means inheriting a whole new set of cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. Matching names to faces gets tricky! Part of loving our family members and ancestors is taking the time to get to know them. Family games like Bingo are a fun way to help new in-laws learn names and faces, quiz grandma and grandpa on all the grandkids, and help the family recognize their ancestors.
Customize a few bingo boards using this handy template and let the games begin! To make it more challenging for families with older members, have whoever is conducting the game tell family history stories about the individuals on the boards so that players have to identify who the story is about in order to mark their board. Playing historical family games can also bring some fun variety to your family gathering. After a round of bingo, learn what grandma and grandpa, or other ancestors, liked to play as kids, and give it a go.
What’s in a Name
Your last name can say a lot about your family; it often carries hundreds of years of stories. Proud of my maiden name, but also excited to take my husband’s name, I have enjoyed learning about what it means to be a member of each family. As a family grows and develops over time, its name becomes more meaningful. As a memorial of your family name, get creative with this name card by working with other family members to decide what defines your family. Include details like the origin, meaning, or a family motto. You can also take time to revisit some family stories and tell or retell them to the group. Here is an activity sheet with some suggestions on how to tell and preserve your favorite family stories. Use those stories to help you to describe your family. Display your finished keepsake in your home to remind family members of what it means to be a “Smith” or a “Lee.”
In order for our families to grow closer, Elder Cook teaches that, “Our precious roots and branches must be nourished” (47). He also explains, “Family commitments … should be at the top of our priorities” (47).
The roots and branches he speaks about are the members of our families, past and present. They are great-grandma Betty and uncle John. What better place to establish and refresh these precious relationships than at a family gathering? Plan a family gathering and discover the love and joy that comes from nurturing your own roots and branches.
Additional articles about planning family gatherings
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