Genealogy and Holidays: Keep the home fires burning and the traditions strong!
We all know the holiday season can get a bit crazy at times. Heck, my wife and I got our first Christmas catalog in the mail this year in August and now that it is September (even though it is in the 90s here today) it appears that someone has thrown a switch to move us from summertime to holiday hours. So this, coupled with the fact one of the editors I write for asked me for Christmas article ideas already, got me thinking about how genealogy, family history, traditions, and holidays can be such a finely tuned mix.
In-between football games, we get a fabulous treat of fall colors to set our attitudes right and then we plow headlong into Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s. This is a period when there is something for everyone. There is Halloween for those who love just, plain fun. There is Thanksgiving, the last, great noncommercial holiday, and then Hanukkah and Christmas for those who cherish religious holidays.
Best of all, each of these holidays come steeped in family traditions that we, as genealogists can embrace, work to carry on, introduce to members of the younger generations, and most of all simply enjoy!
When I was a youngster, Christmas was a great mix of Cornish traditions on my dad’s side of the family and Czech traditions on my mom’s side.
Christmas Eve was always at paternal grandparents’ home and it was filled with Cornish traditions. My grandfather always insisted we sing has favorite carols, which reminded him most of ‘home’ and we had a goose dinner followed by dessert that always included Cornish clotted cream.
Christmas Day always included the Czech side of the family and it was just as laden with traditions as the night before. Saint Nicholas and Good King Wenceslaus were brought out. St. Nicholas always brought the fully decorated tree in his sack with our gifts on Christmas Eve after we were asleep, dinner always consisted of pork, knedlíky (potato, not bread), and sauerkraut. Desserts were piled high with gingerbread, a dozen or so Czech cookies, and the centerpiece was always a plate piled high with kolache – prune, poppy seed, and my personal favorite, apricot.
As a young adult, I was blessed to marry a most marvelous woman who was from a family that was 100% Italian. I cannot count the number of ways I have been blessed by my in-laws, but one of them certainly was my introduction to true Italian cooking and the myriad of Italian traditions carried on by the family.
Now we are older, my wife and I have children and grandchildren in our lives. As the resident family historian and genealogist, I feel it is my duty, yes, actually a duty, to carry on and instruct our younger family members in the traditions of our families that were passed down to us and now we must keep alive.
As much as I would like to hold a family traditions seminar for our family and our extended family, I am also a realist and know I would run the risk of banishment to the outhouse if I tried. So instead what I do is pick one tradition from each of the main lineages of our family – one Cornish, one Italian, and one Czech and have them become an integrated part of our celebrations. Just ONE from each.
The most significant holiday in our family is Thanksgiving. So each Thanksgiving I work in advance to decide what tradition I will sneak into the celebration from Cornwall, Czech Republic, and Italy.
While not cast in stone yet, I am thinking of the following:
- Italy – We will change out the traditional champagne for our pre-feast toast to Prosecco.
- Cornwall – We will change out the whipped cream for our pumpkin pie to Cornish Clotted Cream.
- Czech Republic – We will have a plate of authentic Czech gingerbread treats for everyone.
It is hard to pick just one for sure, but that is my rule and I am sticking to it.What do you do to continue your family traditions during the holidays?
Onward To Our Past®
I’d love to hear what you do – I always need ideas!