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Planning for Happy Holiday Reunions

by Edith Wagner
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Gathering in Celebration
Holidays are a natural time to extend the family feeling. Find out how to turn your holiday into a reunion occasion, or use it to plan for events the following summer.

Don't mean to make you feel bad but just today I sent off the last Christmas presents to family in Germany; if I do it well enough in advance I don't need air mail and I can send big boxes of books (their favorites and mine). It may feel a bit premature, but it's really never too early to talk about holidays...reunions at holidays, holiday reunions, taking advantage of holidays.

Reunions at Holidays

Many reunions happen at holidays because more people than usual are together, or they use the holiday as the excuse to have a reunion. Add a couple of days for activities or programs that may have little to do with the holiday and extend the camaraderie. If everyone's already there, the opportunity is usually ripe for some extra bonding.

Reunion traditions can be part of many holiday celebrations. And if your reunion is some other time of year, perhaps incorporating these holiday traditions will help older members recall the past and give children a family hook to the future.

What about using your ethnicity to create holiday reunion themes? And tastiest of all, use ethnic foods to draw members in. The warmth and nostalgia that the essence of sharing food produces is often a great reunion memory.

Holiday reunions are the ones where many families gather but can rarely expect everyone to be obligations, can't afford the trip, can't get off work to travel. The solution to the holiday reunions without everyone present is to use the theme of that holiday when you do have a reunion where everyone can get together.

Many families create their own holidays. These are families who recognize they may never accomplish the desire to have everyone together for an actual holiday so they create one. Make sure the date you pick for your reunion holiday doesn't conflict with anything, then get everyone's commitment to reserve the special date.

There Are So Many Ways to Take Advantage of Holidays

Think Holiday Theme Reunions

Taking advantage of holidays can be the most intriguing of these holiday suggestions because it involves something more and more people are getting into every year: shopping the half price sales the day after the holiday! What on earth could that have to do with reunions? Lots, it turns out!

Look for bargains and be prepared way in advance for a Christmas in July or Thanksgiving in August theme for your reunion. Get decorations, paper goods (napkins, plates, cups), prizes, mementos and gifts, tree ornaments, gift wrap, Santa suits — maybe even candies packaged to be fresh in six months.

If one of your reunion activities will be to make Christmas decorations or ornaments, collect supplies while the sparkles and spangles are still predominantly red and green. Planning ahead is crucial in reunion success and using a holiday theme is easy if you think ahead to collect things that you will certainly be hard-pressed to find in out of season.

Holiday Mailings

When you're preparing your holiday card lists, separate family from friends and stick extra information in mailings you send to family. You can even save a bit of money by combining your greetings for holidays and for your reunion.

If your reunion is next summer, a holiday mailing can be as simple as a reminder with the date and place or you can include more in anticipation. If you do a newsletter, this might be a time to send it and. It's also a good time, if your reunion report from last summer hasn't been sent, to reconnect and remind everyone of the great time you shared ... and can look forward to again.

If you're collecting materials for a cookbook, memory book, or quilt this is a perfect opportunity to "prod" members; move them to submit information, recipes, or quilt squares. No one is immune from the procrastination bug, and copying recipes or searching for old photos or documents is so easy to put off. If you have a holiday theme planned for the next reunion, remind members they'll need wrapped gifts for children or decorations or crafts.

Holiday Meetings

Another way to take advantage of holidays is to have reunion committee meetings while members are home and have a little time off. Meetings six to eight months ahead can be very productive for staying ahead of or on top of many details. Housing should be chosen by now so activities, entertainment, and communication details become more important and there are lots of decisions that can be made.

Reunion Holiday Gifts

What would the holidays be without gifts? And there are lots of things you can give as gifts for reunions as well. For the reunion organizer or committee members, any of many books available on the web from and (Barnes and Noble) and some in bookstores.

I'd be far too humble if I did not suggest my own book, The Family Reunion Sourcebook. The Sourcebook takes the reader through all the organizing steps using hundreds of actual family reunion examples. Reunions Workbook is the step-by-step outline and gigantic check list appropriate for all reunions. And, of course, a subscription to Reunions magazine always makes fine gifts and brings new and fresh ideas for your immediate reunion organizing four times a year (Workbook included). Call 800-373-7933 or check

If you are the reunion organizer, buy yourself any of these gifts! You deserve the help for all the work you put into organizing your reunion. Also consider gifts for members of your committee and for family members whom you hope to encourage to help with or eventually take over your organizing duties.

Any one of several reunion organizing software programs can give you some well-deserved help to save time and keep track of your members. Most of the software packages are reasonably priced and generally include guest lists, manage finances, have the capacity to generate memory books, to-do lists, checklists, rosters and name tags. All these have free demonstrations available.

  • The Reunion Planner by Linda Hoffman (Goodman Lauren Publishing, 11661 San Vincente Blvd Ste 306, Los Angeles CA 90049; 800-899-6978) is both a book and software in one package. Free demo is available online.

  • Minutiae Software's Reunion Planner. Free demo is available online or call toll free 1-877-MINUTIA.

  • Family Reunion Organizer. Free demo is available online or call 800-327-2317.

Or how about some special games to play at your next reunion? These are some family history games in stores and catalogs: Generations, LifeStories, Reminiscing. Any of these can get everyone talking and many telling stories that will share family stories and history. Questions and Ancestors is available from Conestoga Book Service, Box 7, West Willow PA 17583.

What about genealogy gifts that help you preserve family history? Or software such as the newest edition of Family Tree Maker or Family Origins from

Gift of Heritage is a video about how to create a family documentary and interview extended-family members with suggested questions to ask to preserve the past. Call 800-224-8511 for more information.

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