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Preserving Your Family Traditions

Traditions are reflections of beliefs, superstitions and personality of a family. I stop short of saying that they are the soul of a family because the spirit of those traditions may have been lost. Still, those traditions are part of who you are and whether or not you know why or how those traditions came about, they give rise to a dimensional understanding of a family that genealogists and family historians treasure.

You've probably already thought to document some of those traditions by taking pictures of family gatherings at holidays and festive times but what about the food at those gatherings? Are there traditional dishes? What about the way in which those gatherings and holidays unfold? Often traditions are simple things that no one remembers to document. Think about weddings. Is there something the family always does, something unique, some tradition that isn't usually part of the ceremony and therefore goes undocumented? If a certain person has a particular role in the tradition, document that too. If you know how and when the tradition began write it down in your heritage album.

Pictures and journaling are both great ways to document your family's traditions but don't forget that they don't have to be exclusive of one another. You could include a family recipe next to a picture of the dish or someone preparing it. Stories of family traditions can take up a page of a photo album or scrapbook, or a picture and the story behind it can share a page.

When you document your traditions you can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. Even the colors of the papers you chose for the background of pictures can have special meaning and you can include symbols to convey the meaning of your traditions.

Traditions aren't exclusive to holidays or weddings, though. Remember your every day family life holds traditions too and these often are the ones you rarely think about. Because people move away from their extended families, traditions are lost, which is why it is important to document them whether they are active traditions or not. You don't have to have photographs to create an image for your children or grandchildren of what the "e;Sunday family dinner"e; at your grandmother's house was like, or the traditional snowball fights you and your cousins had after church in the winter. Just record in a journal your memories of the traditions, even the small ones that the family used to have. They'll thank you for writing them down.

Be sure to document with pictures and journaling those new traditions you and your family have created. And if you don't think you have any new traditions, think again! I was amazed when my children began talking about how we "e;always"e; hang balloons from the dining room chandelier for their birthdays, or how we "e;always"e; play games throughout the evening on New Years Eve. I hadn't thought of those things as traditions but through the years they have become just that. If you think about it, you've probably created a lot of new traditions because of necessity or convenience that you hadn't thought of as "e;traditions"e;. Make sure to document them! And this is a great opportunity to tell future generations, through journaling - even a few lines jotted next to the picture - how and why these traditions began.

And traditions aren't just for grown-ups. Children have them too and they, in turn, hand them down to their children. One of our children's traditions is really a superstition, as many traditions are: On winter evenings when snow is predicted for the next morning, our children drink hot chocolate and wear their pajamas inside out to insure a "e;snow day"e; off school the following day. Taking pictures of your kids in the act of their traditions not only is great fun but it preserves them for future generations. Write about the traditions or let the children jot down an explanation themselves in an album next to the picture. They'll love it and some day so will their great-grandchildren.

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