Families, communities, and nations are stronger when the family unit is strong. Attending family reunions is one way to strengthen family, and summer is the most common time for holding family reunions.
My extended family reunion was held a week ago. My parents passed away more than twenty-five years ago, but their twelve children have continued to hold family reunions for their posterity now extending to five generations or more. Four of my eleven siblings have also passed away, but ten of the twelve branches of the family were represented this year.
There were 165 people in attendance at our family reunion with only three of them being non-family members. My branch of the family had the highest attendance with my husband and I, six children, three spouses, sixteen grandchildren, and one friend attending for a total of twenty-eight people.
We hold annual family reunions to keep our family close and united. Most of us are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we believe that our family can be together forever. A reunion of the extended family is much like a family home evening in a nuclear family, a place where we can learn to understand and love one another.
A second reason to hold family reunions is to show the rising generation that they are part of something much bigger than their immediate family. A reunion gives cousins an opportunity to renew acquaintances and to catch up on individuals lives. It is a chance to meet cousins, aunts, uncles, and other members of the family as well as to meet new spouses and new babies. As my siblings and I are now among the elderly, a reunion may be our last chance to visit with each other.
Another reason to hold a family reunion is to share family history work. My oldest sister brought family histories to share with us, and my younger sister gave us a list containing every member of the family and their place in the family.
We keep our reunions simple by meeting as a whole family at a city park for a few hours on a Saturday. Sometimes we have a theme and program, but we always have a meal, a silent auction (money pays for reunion expenses), and homemade root beer.
Some years ago, we made the reunion a three-day affair by some members attending the temple and eating dinner together on Thursday evening, and the cousins meeting for dinner and visiting. Sometimes, it is an adult-only event, and children are invited at other times. Some people attend all three events, while others attend only one or two.
The pandemic shut down the reunion completely one year, but we had the one-day event the next year. This year we had the cousin dinner and the large family get-together. Maybe next year will be the time to expand the reunion by holding a temple session again.
The immediate problem in my family is to extend responsibility for the reunion to the next generation. My generation is getting older, and number of siblings willing to chair the reunion keeps getting smaller. My challenge as the chairperson for the next reunion is to entice the following generation to carry more responsibility.
I am a firm believer in family reunions. Those members of my family who attend the reunions have closer ties to other family members. I know that families can be together forever through Heavenly Father’s plan for our happiness. If we are to enjoy each other’s company in heaven, then we need to create good relationships here.