I sit with a cranberry candle burning and a warm cup of tea near my computer as autumn rushes on. The mums burn in brilliant shades of purple and yellow, blending with the changing leaves around my New Hampshire home. The maple trees have already begun shedding and I was admiring the many hues of their leaves along my wet driveway this morning on my way back from delivering my daughter to the school bus. Land's End delivered my fleece shoes yesterday and I am preparing for the colder weather to come.
It is around this time each year that I try to start preparing for the holidays. That is, I really TRY. It is difficult to think about December when I am surrounded by pumpkins and apples. In fact, I bought my daughter to the craft store yesterday and tried to entice her into thinking about diving into some winter holiday creativity, but she was stuck on black cats and witches …
However, if one wishes to make the family holiday season special, there is no better way than to include a celebration of heritage and traditions with your festivals. That means starting to prepare in October, thinking ahead to an icy driveway in New England instead of a wet one, and imagining lights in my windows instead of fake spiderwebs.
So, I've put together a list of some gift ideas that you can start preparing now. Treasure your personal archives and put them to use. Bring a sense of your family's history into the middle of your festivals. (Thank you to those who follow my Facebook page who have shown enthusiasm for this idea! I have included information about some places to get more information and where to find professionals to help you.)
* Frame or re-frame something that represents one of your ancestors – a diploma, sampler, marriage certificate. (Be sure to use preservation safe methods with originals or, for documents, frame copies and store the originals away. professional photography work when I did that sort of thing.] A professional framer can help you with this, but make sure it is someone familiar with preservation safe methods.)
* Create a shadowbox (with UV filtering glass) of your grandmother's wedding gloves and veil. (A good framer can help you with this too. If the items are not in ideal condition, see a conservator such as the good folks at NEDCC in Massachusetts.)
* Scan and copy some treasured documents and ephemera and create a collage that includes things representing various loved ones
* Turn a child's story or report into a published book using an online service such as Createspace. Have copies of it printed for your child and their grandparents (and you).
* Find new cases for old family tin types by scouting out antique stores
* Take the words from a wedding ceremony or another important family event and turn them into art. (I hired an artist to write a poem from my brother's funeral in calligraphy. She included an abstract image on the top using the colors of the bridesmaids dresses.)
For personal reminiscences:
* Create a booklet of college correspondence you exchanged with your mother (or father, or grandparent, or aunt …) Copy it and bind it through an online service or at a copy center.
* Help your parents organize and preserve their photos and papers. (A professional archives consultant can help you with this.)
* Think about things you share with family members (an alma mater, a hobby, etc.) and create side by side general images. Somewhere I have a photo from my “moving up” exercises when I transitioned from Brownies to Girl Scouts.
* Write a food diary
* Digitize old videotapes of your children. (A professional videographer can assist with this.)
* Gather documentation and mementos related to an important family event or tradition and create a memory box using preservation safe supplies from a company such as Gaylord. Use items you own or expand your documentation and ask other members of your family or community to contribute. (A professional archives consultant can help you coordinate this if you need assistance coordinating a complete collection of family documentation.)
For the whole family:
* Begin a holiday scrapbook for each family member. Scan photos of past holidays with your family. Make new prints and include them in the first few pages. Give family members new pages you create with new photos each year.
* Scan old photos and create a CD with treasured family images for each family member (A professional photo lab can help you with this [or sometimes a professional archives consultant.])
* Scan and retouch treasured old photos and give copies to everyone
* Create an online memory site about something important to you. Encourage people to contribute reminiscences and scanned images of their memories. (I created one on Facebook for people in the neighborhood where I grew up. I tracked them down and invited them to join a private group.
* Go (or write) to the library in the neighborhood where your grandparents were raised. Track down stories and information related to their lives in the local newspaper. (Marriage announcements are a good place to start.) Ask the local librarian or archivist to help you find more information about them to share with your family. Make copies for everyone. (Be advised that some places may need to charge you fees to cover their time and expenses or that they may need to refer you to a professional researcher.)
* Begin your family genealogy. Or, if you have done your genealogy, make it into art work. Design (or hire an artist to design) a tree with all of your branches. (There are genealogy professionals who can help you track down your family genealogy)
Be creative, but be conscious of your items preservation needs. Honor your personal history and make old treasures into new gifts of heritage.