From what I understand, family reunions can either be huge drains – or can be amazing and enriching experiences. So what are some awesome family reunion activity ideas to help celebrate family history – that are also totally awesome?
Celebrating family history can enrich family reunions by adding stories, creating traditions, cooking meals together, or playing games that help you connect with family past and present Here are 11 of the best family history-celebrating ideas to entertain and educate everyone at the reunion.
Ready to make your next (or first) family reunion better and more memorable? Keep reading to add some fun and family history!
Family Reunion Ideas to Celebrate Family History
Okay, so it’s important to note that Kimberly (that’s me) hasn’t been to a family reunion (that she can remember at least). I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about how bad and awkward family reunions can be. But I’ve also heard about how amazing others can be – and how they’re the highlight of a year.
What’s the key difference between a dud and a DUDE! style of a family reunion? From talking to Breanne and way too many movies, it seems to all come down to planning. Oh, and a quite note – all of this article’s wisdom comes from Breanne – who’s both been to family reunions and planned them.
Planning is going to be the most important part of any family reunion – and adding some family history themes to the whole (or part) of the event doesn’t have to be hard. But we’ll get to that part in just a moment. First, a story about a reunion that Breanne planned.
One side of my family does a day at the park every year. My cousin and I tried to plan a few games for one year – but we forgot to plan for the fact that many of our family members aren’t the outgoing types. Introvert family problems. Sure, they participated in our games (probably begrudgingly) and ended up having some fun. But they would have been much happier being left alone to talk or watch the games from the sidelines.Breanne
So as you go through these 11 ideas for your family history-themed family reunion, don’t feel like you need to pick every single one. Use the ones that will mesh with your family’s dynamic best. And if you aren’t sure what that dynamic will be? That’s okay. Try out an activity idea and see how it goes. If it falls flat, chalk it up to the learning curve and try something else next time. Or if it’s a surprise success? That’s awesome – now you’ve got something that can be used again and again.
Without further ado, then, let’s dive into our first 11 ideas for a family history-focused family reunion – complete with notes and examples.
|Family Reunion Ideas (to celebrate Family History)||Notes||Examples|
|Story Swap||Bring prompts or props to inspire memories.||Maybe even turn it into a “can you top that?” type of competition.|
|Home Movies Screening||Watch some old home movies – set up a theater and don’t forget the popcorn!||You could also act out old family history stories and film that – for future viewings.|
|Show, Share, and Tell||Make sure you’re viewing and handling any items shared or shown correctly so they’ll stay in great condition for future reunions.||Carefully show, and share old family heirlooms like photos and items.|
|Play Family Trivia||This will need a good deal of prep beforehand – or a near-photographic memory for family facts!||It can be a round table or a competition style, depending on how your family’s preferences.|
|Eat Family Favorite Meals||Each family could cook a signature meal each night – or do it all at once in a massive pot-luck.||Pick a family’s signature meal – and cook it together. Then, enjoy it together!|
|Plan Menus around Family History and Ethnic Cuisines||This may require some extra baking knowledge and ability – and being able to find traditional recipes.||Try cooking some ancient favorite dishes – and see how your family today enjoys them!|
|Play Get-to-Know-You Games||Just be sure to plan it so that it meshes with your family’s introvert or extrovert dynamics.||Plan a special get-to-know-you activity or chat session when there are new babies, new spouses, or other family additions.|
|Cooking Contests||See who can replicate a specific dish or recipe – whether it’s a favorite or a forgotten-and-needs-reviving recipe.||See who can best cook Great-Aunt Margaret’s chili!|
|Family Talent Show||Showcase those family talents – and be sure to video it if possible.||It can be a talent show, a family play, a music recital, or whatever else will fit with your family’s preferences.|
|Family Auction||Bring items to auction off to the family. This can be a great way to help pay for next year’s reunion.||Auction off items, activities, or time with each other. Use real money or family tokens earned by doing other games.|
|Family Service||Have the family unite for a meaningful cause that’s important to you all.||The service can be done at the reunion or any other time – find a local or national cause and see how you can help.|
|Number Your Family||Count off – and watch the number change each year.||Make Thing 1 and Thing 2 t-shirts – or however many numbers you need for a fun, numbers-themed souvenir shirt for the family reunion.|
|Tours and Family Field Trips||Go see (live or virtually) important family history locations.||Create or find a virtual Google Earth tour of the family’s native homeland.|
Don’t forget to evaluate how things went after the reunion. That way, activities that flopped can be shelved (or forgotten) while activities that rocked can be used again next year. Maybe it’ll even become a great new family tradition!
10 More Ways to Celebrate and Share Your Heritage
Now, because we’re both recovering overachievers, we wanted to give you 10 more family reunion ideas to celebrate and share your heritage. These activities don’t have to be limited to reunions, though. They could be something that you do with just your immediate family for family activity – or do these a few other families at a get-together.
- Family Tree Wall
- Exchange Family Photos
- Family Story Hour
- Family Treasure Hunt
- Photo Treasure Hunt
- Make and Share a Scrapbook
- Family Birthdays Calendar
- Family Recipe Book
- Maps of Important Current and Past Family Sites or Locations
- Family Reunion Video
And for a few more family history-themed family reunion ideas, here’s a link to ideas from FamilySearch.
Pretty cool, huh? Now that we’ve gone over more than 21 ideas for the family reunion of awesomeness and family history, let’s make sure we answer some commonly asked questions, too.
FAQs about Family Reunions and Family History
This is by no means an exhaustive list – but we are trying to make sure that we’ve got as many questions answered as possible. Some of the answers are more theoretical (Kimberly still hasn’t gone to a family reunion, after all!) while others are based on solid fact and experience – thanks to Breanne. In any case, if you’ve got a question we missed (and should most definitely be included here), just contact us and let us know what we missed.
How Do People Celebrate Family Reunions?
To borrow (and twist) a line from Shakespeare…
How do people celebrate family reunions?if Shakespeare did Family History-themed family reunions
Let me count the ways…
There are so many ways to celebrate a family reunion! And you can add in family history to part or whole of the event – making it as subtle or blatant as you’d like it to be.
Here are a few ways to do a family reunion:
- A day at the park
- Family reunion camp outs (camping or glamping are both great options in our opinion!)
- Family trips (Disneyland counts, too!)
- Family vacations
- A day at the lake (boats are also totally invited as part of the family – if boating is your family’s thing)
- Virtual family reunions
- and more!
There’s really not a wrong way to do a family reunion – except not to do it. Guess I know what I need to plan for this year, huh?
How Do You Make a Family Reunion Fun?
The most important thing to know about making a family reunion fun is this: know what your family considers to be fun.
Fun is a relative thing – what I think is fun may be totally boring to someone else. So you don’t have to plan something that’s generically fun. Instead, plan something that’s fun for your family.
Active games are great for some families – and a total fail for others. Sit-down board games are family-favorites for some folks – and totally boring for others. And for some families, swapping stories is a favorite activity (while others will find it incredibly boring).
No matter which activities you plan for your family, there are a few important things (and tips) to remember.
- Find a way to get everyone involved – and mingling with the other families so that everyone has the opportunity to build meaningful connections with the rest of the family. This is a common problem – so don’t feel bad if it takes a few activities to get things rolling (and people mingling).
- Don’t forget the kids! Plan activities that will interest them, too. You can use games, activities, or these suggestions by FamilySearch to preserve the family history themes – without boring the kids to tears.
- Remember that family history isn’t just about the past – it’s also about the present and future. So go ahead and plan some activities that will help your current and future family connect. It’s totally fine to let kids and little ones spend time making friends with cousins of any distance. Letting the little ones “just play blocks” may not be family history – but it’s creating connections and that sense of family that will help them want to be involved with their family’s history in the future.
- Get older cousins and youth involved with activity planning and running things. That’ll free up your time – and give the adults more time to connect, visit, and reminisce.
- Delegate activities (either planning or being in charge of running them) to every family. That way, each family is sure to have at least one activity they’re sure to love. Plus, it’ll help you (and anyone else on the family reunion planning committee) know which kinds of activities to include in future reunions.
- Don’t plan something for every waking moment. Things will always go long or short – so build some free time into the schedule.
If you aren’t ever sure if an activity doesn’t count as a family history-themed family reunion activity, that’s okay. Remember that not every activity has to be about memorizing facts or learning valuable life lessons.
It’s also totally fine to have some downtime. Let everyone enjoy being together – and plan some free time so people can do whatever they want to – no matter what that is (okay, as long as it’s relatively safe and totally legal!).
How Elaborate Do Family History Themed Family Reunions Need to Be?
If you’re an elaborate planner, that’s great – follow your strengths. Or if you’re more of a fan of simplicity (like Breanne and I are), that’s okay, too. Just be sure to have things organized.
Organization and structure are essential to any successful family reunion – as long as there’s also that downtime we talked about earlier. Otherwise, the organization (especially if there are too many elaborately amazing plans) can strangle the organic flow of catching up, building and strengthening family relationships, and time to reminisce.
You will need to find a balance, too, to how elaborate or simple everything is.
- If it’s too simple, next year’s reunion may end up being a “let’s fly by the seat of our pants” that turns into an absolute disaster where nothing was planned and some family members forgot an important piece of equipment.
- Or if it’s too elaborate, nobody will want to take on the role of head planner for the next reunion. Because not everyone can handle elaborate planning!
After having been in charge of planning a family reunion and related events, Breanne wisely suggests having one big, elaborate activity as the main event. Then, have several smaller, easier activities (especially ones that can be done independently). Some of the smaller events could also be designed to help start conversations – though if your family has the gift of gab, that may not be as necessary.
And don’t forget to have unstructured free time – it is definitely a must!
Do You Have to Have Family Reunions to Celebrate Family History?
No way. You don’t have to have family reunions to celebrate family history. It’s probably easier to celebrate family history with extended family with a reunion, but it’s by no means a requirement!
The hardest part about relying on family reunions for celebrating family history is a simple fact that many families don’t all live together. It’s normal these days for families to live spread out across the country. It’s also totally normal for busy schedules to get in the way of planning and holding family reunions.
Instead, make family history a natural part of your daily lives – in both your individual homes and any time we interact with extended family. The more you talk about your family history at home, the better prepared you are for family reunions.
For example, if you know your family’s history, then at the next reunion you know what questions you want to know answers to (and who to ask for those stories). Your kids won’t be terrified of all these strangers who look like them. Instead, they’ll know names and some general details that will encourage them to get to know their relatives and build meaningful lifelong connections.
So definitely don’t rely on a family reunion to celebrate family history!
Alternatives to Traditional Family Reunions
You don’t always have to have a traditional family reunion. Distance, schedules, and life, in general, can get in the way or make traditional reunions difficult (or impossible). So if you’re in that boat, don’t stress. If you’re willing to get creative, you don’t have to let distance or busy schedules get in the way of holding a family history-themed family reunion. Think of ways to make reunions fast, digital, or smaller. That way, you can find a way to connect with as much of your family as you can.
There’s also a huge value in having one-on-one time with family. So even if having a giant reunion isn’t feasible, make time for a small reunion with one other relative. You’ll be able to celebrate spending time together – and maybe even learn some cool family history that you’ll be able to share later.
In any case, here are some fantastic alternatives to traditional family reunions – and things you can do on a more regular basis to spend time with family (whether it’s family history themed or not).
- virtual family reunion
- organize a family Facebook group
- create a family newsletter
- create a family website or blog
- make a family video montage (have everyone send a designated family member a couple of clips at the end of the year of some highlights from their family and compile them together)
- family Group Me account
- Create a family yearbook (physical or digital)
- Set up regular video calls with family members – and chat with whomever is able to attend
You don’t have to have a family reunion to celebrate your family’s history. And you also don’t have to have an elaborate or traditional family reunion to celebrate being a family, either. So go on – go find a way to connect with your family and your family’s awesome history.