In just a couple of days, those of us here in the United States will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. Family members will travel across the country (sometimes, around the world) to be together on this special day that is steeped in tradition. And while this would seem to provide ample opportunity to reconnect and spend quality time together, we Americans are busy people. We often disburse into various groups: those who watch the Macy’s parade on television, those who participate in local Turkey Trot races (often done in an attempt to compensate for the overabundance of calories they will consume later that day), those who gather to watch the football game, those who go brave the elements (and the crowds) to jumpstart their Christmas shopping, those who bustle around the kitchen preparing the day’s feast, and the list goes on.

Yet there’s one time that you can be certain that everyone will gather in one place:  when the food is served. Typically, this brief time together is full of laughter and catching up with each other’s latest endeavors. But with a little advanced planning, you can extend this time of fellowship and turn it into an opportunity to share and preserve family history. Here’s how: 

6 easy ways you can help secure your family’s legacy this Thanksgiving

  1. Ask everyone to come prepared to share a favorite family memory. Depending on the size of your gathering, you might ask the football fans to share their stories first, before they get involved in the big game. Not only does this story share serve as a way to preserve your family’s history, it’s also a great way to get to know your guests better (such neighbors, coworkers and your child’s new boyfriend/girlfriend).
  2. Encourage guests to bring a handful of photos of family members or events needing to be identified. It’s a wonderful story starter, as well.
  3. Set up an audio and/or video recorder near the dinner table to capture the stories and be sure to let everyone know that you will be recording your time together. Be considerate of those who don’t wish to be on camera and have extra batteries and chargers on hand.
  4. Provide copies (enough for each planned guest) of a favorite family holiday recipe and include the backstory of the recipe, including your memories of the dish and the person who usually prepared it. If possible, handwrite the recipe and story before making photocopies; handwritten recipes and notes mean so much more to family members than typewritten ones.
  5. Purchase a journal or guest book and ask everyone to sign their own name (even young children, when possible) as they arrive. Beside their name, have them list at least two things they’re thankful for this year. After dinner, take a moment to read everyone’s entries aloud. Continue to add to the book every year.
  6. Take a group photo before you eat—and before everyone disperses to various parts of the house or leaves to attend the in-law’s celebration.

Hopefully, you’ll have an opportunity to incorporate at least one of these elements into your Thanksgiving festivities this year. But whatever you do, be sure to give thanks for your many blessings, including the time you have together with family and friends.

What about you? What ideas do you have to preserve your family’s stories? Please share them in the comments!

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