“The Gift of Tradition,” Ensign, Dec. 1986, 55
My husband, Terry, and I spent a lot of hours preparing last year’s Christmas gift to our three sons. The result turned out to be an exciting new family tradition.
Because we wanted to learn more about our ancestors, we decided to study their Christmas traditions and celebrations, put the information in booklet form, and give it to our children for Christmas. In this way, we felt, we could weave some of our ancestors’ cultural heritage into our own Christmas celebrations—and thus come to know our ancestors better.
Using our pedigree charts, we made a list of our ancestors and where they came from. Terry’s ancestors were Danish, Norwegian, Swiss, and Scottish; mine were Cherokee, English, French, German, and Scottish. We decided to begin with our Danish ancestors and their traditions.
The public library supplied excellent reference books about Denmark and its celebrations, costumes, flag, and recipes, as well as maps and ideas for decorations. With the aid of the periodical guide index in our meetinghouse library, we also found items about Denmark in the Friend, the Ensign, the Church News; in old copies of the Children’s Friend and the Relief Society Magazine; and in lessons about Denmark in past Primary and Relief Society manuals.
Imagine my delight at finding a recipe for aebleskiver in the Children’s Friend! Another idea about how to illustrate family stories came from the Ensign.
With this information, we created a 33-page book that included a short introduction, a map of Denmark with our ancestors’ places of birth circled, a national flag for the children to color, a Jesperson (the spelling was later changed) family history, a short history of Danish costumes, various Danish Christmas customs, recipes, directions for traditional Danish crafts, and suggestions for further reading. We also included two flannelboard figures, representing great-grandfather Hans and great-grandmother Marinda Ipson Jesperson, along with instructions to write a story using the family history and these figures.
The project was such a success that we plan to give a copy of the booklet to my husband’s parents, brothers, and sisters. Each year from now on, we plan to feature a new ancestral country and to incorporate at least one of that country’s traditions into our family Christmas celebrations. I can hardly wait for this Christmas, when we plan to “tour” Scotland!—Bonnie Jasperson, Heber City, Utah