When should you have a reunion? What are good dates? How do you choose
one? A family reunion typically starts when one person has an idea and
shares it with other family members. Joyfully, many family members love
the idea, respond instantly and are ready to help. Other family members
may not be interested. Don't let rejection slow you down. Proceed if there
are enough positive responses and let the others catch up when they're
"When?" is one of the most important reunion questions you'll answer.
How should you choose your date? Initially, the question of when to have
your reunion seems fairly simple but don't be fooled. In large, extended
families it's rarely possible to accommodate everyone's schedule. Just
choose the best date possible. A cardinal rule of reunion planning is
that once the date is set, stick to it. Establish a timetable to countdown
to your reunion.
Surveying your family may seem to be the most democratic way to pick
a date, but do so with a plan in mind. The larger the group, the more
structured your request must be. For example, pick several dates and include
them in your survey or questionnaire, asking if people prefer choice one,
two, or three. Their answers will guide you to fix a date. If you want
to meet at a popular place, plan for dates years into the future.
Let's begin by understanding that many reunions are established to honor
a special anniversary or birthday. Fiftieth wedding anniversaries and
80th or 90th birthdays are the oft-heard reason to create a reunion. Then,
everyone has such a great time at the original party that they continue
to meet. Very often, they continue to use those special dates by default.
For example, one family still meets on their long deceased parents' anniversary
in October, which limits attendance to adults, but suits them perfectly.
Keeping the date flexible from one reunion to the next may help you attract
as many family members as possible. This is particularly true when holding
a reunion is a new idea, because members must save vacation time and money
for the trip. Early and energetic planning maximizes the number of people
who will schedule vacations, save money and make arrangements to attend.
Bob Aguas or Arlington, Virginia, reported that starting the Espina Family
Reunion two years ahead was none too long because he soon discovered that
"two years is not that far away at all!"
Most family reunions occur between June and August for the convenience
of families with school-age children. However, there's nothing sacred
about summer reunions. Kids are out of school in summer but they also
have three- and four-day weekends in winter--perfect times to get away,
reduce cabin fever and enjoy the company of family.
Besides, there are lots of benefits to winter reunions. Off-season prices
work for winter reunion escapes. Some resorts feature up to 50% rate reduction
in winter, as well as free special programs for children. Other dates
to consider are off-season school holidays or three-day weekends that
take advantage of special promotions. Of course, seasons matter
do you have school children? Skiers? Campers? Sun-seekers? Plan accordingly.
Many reunions designate the same day year after year as the reunion date.
The third weekend in July has been etched in stone for the Seideman family
for over sixty-six years. Seidemans are scattered around the world and
they never discuss the day of their reunion because it is fixed. Another
family uses this formula: the Sunday closest to July 15th every other
year in even years.
Having a consistent, fixed reunion date has other bonuses for families
for whom it is not easy to get everyone together. After children are grown,
you can never expect all your children home for all major holidays. Once
they marry they have obligations to new in-laws. But you can expect them
for a reunion if you've designated your own special reunion date. Make
it your special family holiday!
The prolific Andrew Elton Williams, starting around 1822, begat ten children
by his first wife and 13 by his second. These twenty-three children begat
145 grandchildren and by 1990 more than 70,000 of Andrew's descendants
had been traced. Their first Williams reunion was held in 1903 at Reddick's
Mill, Florida. Everyone wanted to meet in autumn after the crops were
in. They discovered in the Farmers Almanac that there had been
no rain on the first Thursday in October for fifty years so they selected
and stuck with that day until 1963, when it rained. Since then the reunion
has been held every year on the first Saturday in October.
For some family members Saturdays are more convenient than Sundays, or
vice versa. The Gottfried Wilke Family Reunion is a lavish potluck picnic
on a Saturday one year and Sunday the next. The Gottfried Schmitz clan
always meets the second Sunday of July in even-numbered years.
Holiday weekends are popular because most families have one or more automatic
extra days. By far the most popular reunion holiday is July 4th, when
millions of Americans celebrate both American independence and their families.
The Tommy and Joe Shields Family Reunion is July 4th every five years
in the Clarkfork/Hope, Idaho, area. Reuniting every five years on the
same date gives family members time to anticipate, plan and save for this
special event according to Joy M. Yockey, Montesano, Washington.
The Nichols Family Reunion and Heritage Day celebrates the nation's birthday
and the anniversary of the arrival of Robert Nichols to Maryland in 1635.
Lloyd Johnson's Dixon Family Reunion meets for a full week around Independence
Day every other year. The Zeigler Family Reunion meets every July 4th
weekend in Rockford, Alabama, where they decorate boats for a patriotic
boat parade according to Nancy Zeigler of Paradise Valley, Arizona.
Other holidays are also great choices for family reunions. McGinity Family
Reunions, according to Ken McGinity, Carmel, Indiana, meet in a different
part of the country every three years at Thanksgiving. They've experimented
with other dates but found Thanksgiving best for everyone. The Avalon,
New Jersey, Corrigan Family Thanksgiving Reunion started as a one-day
trip to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia...over thirty years ago. Lambert
Family Reunion's seven branches enjoy great attendance every fifth Thanksgiving
"because everyone has time off and the weather is lovely in Louisiana."
Teresa Lilly says Santa understands that the Lilly Family Reunion celebrates
Christmas at Thanksgiving when the sisters are able to come home with
their families. Santa leaves "turkey bags" to celebrate Christmas at Thanksgiving.
They decorate a Pilgrim tree with Indians, turkeys and colorful ornaments.
They use brown butcher paper to wrap presents that kids decorate with
crayons, leaves and Thanksgiving stickers. "Turkey bags" are brown paper
grocery bags stapled closed and decorated to look like turkeys (colorful
construction paper heads and tails). Santa hides the bags while everyone
enjoys Thanksgiving dinner.
Or how about Christmas reunions? Michele Hendricks, Loveland, Colorado,
reported that the Newton Family held their first reunion at Christmas
and discovered the joy of simplicity and doing for each other. Activities
included a hike in the woods to cut the perfect Christmas tree, making
gingerbread cookies, stringing cranberries and popcorn, and creating personal
Christmas cards. There was even a visit from Santa Claus. Pam Johnson
Taverner's Johnson family scattered to Tennessee, Illinois, Connecticut
and Kansas but reunite every other Christmas at their mother's new home
Or celebrate Christmas like Ellen Clark's Ray/Clark Family Reunion in
Beech Mountain, North Carolina. Their holiday falls in July, because they
know they can't spend the last week of December together. When Similarly,
when Vivian Anderson of Lincoln City, Oregon, turned eighty, the family
planned a reunion in July with a Christmas theme at Fogarty State Park
near Newport, Oregon. They drew names for gifts and a stocking stuffer.
Anderson knit thirty red stockings and a son-in-law caught salmon and
barbecued it for an excellent Christmas in July dinner.
Sticking to It That's the Best Plan
No matter what date you choose for your reunion do so carefully and when
it's done, stick to it. If you change your date for one person, someone
else is surely going to need a change as well. So by sticking to your
date, you start planning other details such as "where" and "what" with