“Family Reunions: Trying on New Traditions,” Ensign, Oct. 1996, 71
“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.