I grew up in an Italian-American family. My grandmother was a true Sunday-gravy-on-the-stove, family-means-everything Italian grandma. For most of my early childhood, we lived in an apartment built above Nani and Papa’s garage in a Chicago suburb. And although we were constantly around our grandparents, we would still love getting together for big family celebrations with not only Nani and Papa, but also aunts, uncles, cousins, godparents and nearly anyone who was deemed “family.” We never held family reunions as most people think of them, or like the large annual get-togethers southern families enjoy, but every holiday, every wedding, every funeral, every religious event was a reason to get together as an extended family.
In other parts of the country, people were enjoying the same tight-knit family camaraderie. Midwestern farm families had large Sunday dinners where everyone put work aside for the day and relaxed. Southern families would plan extended family reunions every summer where kids delighted in seeing their second cousins or fun uncles. But at some point it seemed these family get-togethers and reunions started falling out of favor. Families became farther apart geographically as sons and daughters moved away to strike their own path. Couples became busier, children’s schedules were packed with traveling sports and lessons, and generations seemed to focus more on their immediate family.
But lucky for us who enjoy being with their large families or getting together with extended relatives, the genealogy trend hit. Now people wanted to connect with their families again, to hear the stories from Great Uncle Alfred or to learn to cook recipes from Grandma Millie. And as a result, family reunions are back on the rise.
Our Summer 2020 issue of Farmhouse Style has a great article on hosting your own family reunion with tips on how to go about it, plus a list of websites that can help you plan. Today’s reunions can be designed any number of ways—as special weeklong cruises or vacations, or as simple Sunday picnics at the family homestead. The events usually include large dinners, conversation time, family-history telling, and even fun reunion accouterments, like special T-shirts, glasses or such. Another fun way to share memories is to create a cookbook filled with family favorites. One of our designers, Diana Petrillo of Adirondack Girl at Heart, created a download to make your own recipe book, complete with personalized cover, recipe pages, food labels and more. Have family members send in recipes ahead of time and compile them in the cookbook to hand out at your event. Click here to download the cookbook template and instructions:
Whatever you do to get your family together can go a long way toward keeping that bond. And while we certainly wouldn’t condone hosting a large family event now during the Coronavirus outbreak, you could certainly start making plans to have a family reunion later this summer or in the fall. After this all passes, people will want to reconnect with all their loved ones, and a family reunion, large Sunday dinner or casual get-together will be just the balm we’ll all need.