“A Stockingful of History,” Ensign, Dec. 1986, 54
A few years ago our family felt the need to collect materials for writing a family history. About the same time, we also realized that we did not need any more gadgets or toys to be put on shelves or in closets, only to be forgotten.
This helped us decide that the adults in the family would not buy Christmas gifts for each other; instead, we would use the time we would have spent shopping to write a chapter of family history. Over the years, we have collected many informative and memorable chapters of history.
Each fall we decide on a topic, and each person writes his recollections and feelings about the subject. Some are brief essays, while others are longer histories, complete with photos and drawings. Topics have included homes we have lived in; school experiences; family vacations and camping trips; memories of past Christmases; jobs and careers; and Church-related experiences, including Sunday School, Primary, seminary, missions, Church callings, and testimonies.
One year we declared a “free” topic, and family members wrote on a subject of their choice. I am a musician, so I wrote about my teachers, my memories of playing in recitals, and my experiences as a performer and teacher.
We make copies of these chapters for each family member; we also mail copies to those who will not be home for the holidays. On Christmas morning, instead of opening store-bought gifts, we enjoy reading excerpts from our histories and reminiscing.
This tradition not only gives us a chance to reflect on the many varied experiences we have had, but it also ties together the history of the entire family. Each person reports the same event in a slightly different way, and some recall incidents others have overlooked.
This practice has become a cherished family tradition. Each of us now has a large three-ring binder full of personalized family history. Preparing it is enjoyable and far more rewarding than fighting crowds to buy gifts. Although our binders cost little, they have become prized possessions that mean more than a purchased gift ever could.—James Welch, Santa Barbara, California