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Family Reunions – A Lost Tradition

Family Reunions - A Lost Tradition

When I was adopted at the age of seven, one of my first experiences I recall with my new adopted family was attending family gatherings, typically a good two-hour drive away, to a home I’d never visited, to meet people I’d never seen. It turns out, they were my new family members. Never really having had a family for more than a few years, this was pretty cool. Of course, I had a really hard time connecting the lineage of each person with my new parents and myself, but over the course of time, I was able to get some of it right.

The only problem was, as I got older, the reunions became rarer and much smaller in attendance. The older folks who did all of the organizing were passing away, and the younger family members were not interested in keeping these gathering going. By the time I was finishing high school, we rarely included more than one or two families.

Over time, I went off to college and took my first job some 300 miles away. Getting home to visit immediate family was difficult enough, let alone visit extended family.

Today, I have a hard time keeping up with many relatives, having moved away from my hometown for so long. I admit a lot of it is on me but at the same time, culturally, in this country, family reunions are a dying tradition. It seems that, while the world has gotten smaller, people are more spread out than ever before. Add to the fact we’re busier than ever with so many things drawing our attention or taking our time, it’s hard to physically get people together in one place.

While many families continue to hold their summer reunions every year or every other year, less and less families are doing this. For all the good things social media has done to connect people, it’s also given the excuse to not to get together. That’s’ not a bad thing, it’s just how things are today. For many, those special events, like weddings and funerals, seem to have taken the place of the family reunion. It’s these occasions that become easier for family and friends to reunite.

If your family still holds reunions, I’m happy for you. Don’t let them stop. Stay connected. Keep in touch. And if you only gather at those benchmarks occasions every few years, take advantage of it. Reconnect, reflect and share.

Here is some sound advice on organizing your own family reunion, as provided by

10 Steps to Family Reunion Success*

1. Make a plan. Start by picking a date and location.

2. Recruit and delegate. No one person can manage all aspects of a family reunion.

3. Create a command center. Good communication is key to the success.

4. Build a budget.

5. Prepare a back-up plan.

6. Get the word out.

7. Offer something for everyone.

8. Start with a bang.

9. Share your family’s story

10. Maintain the momentum.


Memories By Design is in what I call, the ‘memory preservation business’. We help individuals and families reflect on someone’s life, whether they are still with us or have passed. If there’s one thing we have learned over the years is, the connection of family is powerful and emotional. Given the chance, grab onto and keep ahold of the opportunities of family history, legacies and your ancestry that a family reunion provides for everyone.

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