Family Reunions: Trying on New Traditions

“Okay, everyone, it’s time for the pie-eating contest!” The pie-eating contest. The traditional pie-eating contest. The very words ignite a sense of excitement and bring to mind pleasant memories of last year’s fun and laughter. Family reunions are a good time to feature special family traditions that create warm feelings of a shared heritage. Here are some ideas for your next reunion:

Fun Traditions. One family holds an auction—not of many items, but of a single pie. Two uncles stand at each end of the picnic area, with the pie placed in the center between them. Family members bid an agreed-upon nominal amount to allow their favorite uncle to take a step toward the pie, or twice that amount to make his challenger take a step backward. Both uncles plead, beg, or cheer as the family yells out bids that determine their fate. The loser gets the pie—in the face. The family uses the funds for the next year’s reunion.

Another family always has a hot dog roast and campfire program their first evening together. Some families have a pancake-eating contest, pizza night, or watermelon bust. Maybe a story- or joke-telling contest or an annual birthday cake celebrating everyone’s birthday will fit your family’s tastes.

Plan ahead to make lasting memories of shared fun. Keep a family scrapbook with photos of the winners of every fun contest, and update it after each reunion.

Historical Traditions. Many families gather for a special meeting to tell uplifting, little-known stories about ancestors. Older family members can be asked to share memories of their parents, which are recorded and kept with other histories. Or children can write about special childhood memories and put them in a booklet for parents.

One family asked four people to each dress up and act the part of a favorite ancestor. Everyone else traveled from station to station, where they listened to the stories and were rewarded with one ingredient for a no-cook candy treat, placed in a plastic sandwich bag. At the last station they kneaded the ingredients together inside the bag and ate their treat.

Spiritual traditions. Some of the best traditions are those that build feelings of love and testimony among family members. The following ideas are appropriate if members of your extended family are Latter-day Saints. If they are not, you will need to make necessary adjustments so as not to offend them but to accommodate their personal feelings and religious preferences. This might be done by inviting them to participate in their own way.

Begin each day of the reunion with a morning devotional. Sing a hymn, share an inspirational thought or read a passage of scripture, and have family prayer and bless the food. This is also a good time to review the day’s schedule.

Get together again at the end of the day. Whether gathered around a campfire or meeting together elsewhere, use this time to share spiritual values. Ask various relatives to describe the feelings they experienced during important moments in life, such as at their baptism or temple marriage or during their mission. It’s also important to tell stories about ancestors, emphasizing their good example or special, character-building experiences. Read letters from family members on missions.

Ask one or two couples each night to share their experiences—and testify of the resultant blessings—of having made right, though difficult, choices in life. End each evening with family prayer.

These experiences form and perpetuate the family’s sense of spiritual heritage. Whether they are stories of keeping the commandments or receiving blessings, such cherished moments build close spiritual ties in a family and set an example for youth to follow.

Preparing for the spiritual side of a family reunion can strengthen family members, deepen testimonies, and increase each person’s desire to live the gospel.

Family Home Evening: Our Conference Gift

This year we decided to do something different to help our children learn the importance of the conference messages. First we cut out pictures of all members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Then we pasted the photos on paper, two or three photos per page. We had the sheets copied and gave one set to each child.

During conference we helped the children recognize these great Church leaders. Under the name and picture of each of these 15 men, the children were asked to write down the subject of the talk and the important counsel given. If they wished, they could make notes about other speakers, too, on the reverse side of the papers.

At our next family home evening, we made a list of the various messages and specific counsel received from the prophets and apostles. We voted as a family on one item that all of us could pay particular attention to for the next three months. Then we asked each of the children to choose one other thing from the list to concentrate on personally. We all wrote down our commitments on slips of paper and put them into an envelope.

Our efforts during the next months to follow the prophets would be our own special Christmas gift to the Savior. On Christmas Eve, we opened the envelope, read the slips of paper, and shared our testimonies of being obedient to our Church leaders.JaNell O’Neil, Pleasant Grove, Utah

Looking Past Hurt Feelings

The Savior involved himself in the lives of others—even when it hurt, even when they misunderstood him, even when they rejected him. His example has helped me overcome much of my shyness. With practice, it is getting easier for me to go about doing good, even to those who have offended me or seem to dislike me (see Acts 10:38; Matt. 5:43–48). It is hard to look past our own hurt feelings when people treat us unkindly. The following list of questions helps me to keep my perspective as I seek not to judge rashly but to be a peacemaker.

  1. 1.

    Is what this person says true? Can I learn from this and improve myself—even if the person’s approach was unkind?

  2. 2.

    Was the hurt intentional or unintentional?

  3. 3.

    Are there extenuating circumstances that may have caused this person to act in an inconsiderate manner? For example, has he or she had a difficult day?

  4. 4.

    Is it possible that this person hasn’t yet developed, through life experiences, the sensitivity and tact that usually come with time and maturity?

Following the Savior’s example, we find that he helps us to change our own perspective, our own self, or our ability to cope. When I’ve been hurt and want to avoid someone, I have to remind myself that following Christ means conquering pride and anger, apologizing, and being friendly and kind in spite of my feelings. I am reassured by the scriptures, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philip. 4:13).Susan Ternyey, Salmon, Idaho

[illustrations] Illustrated by Kay Stevenson