We all have our favorite music. But when it comes to Holiday music, I have found that people have very strong preferences.
I have seen perfectly innocuous Gene Autry Christmas compilations drive 20-somethings up the wall after a mere two play-throughs.
Alvin and the Chipmunks can set people off even faster.
I used to collect unusual Christmas music. I guess I will have to figure out how to use Spotify or some such app or service to recreate my special collection of tunes. But in the meanwhile I want to share these musical treasures with you!
Or maybe the Andrews Sisters
Those songs always make me think of being a little kid and listening to my older brothers’ and mother’s music.
But being a child of the post war baby boom I especially love Greg Lake’s Father Christmas.
and then there is
And So This Is Christmas
will always stir emotions for me.
This one truly bridges time periods and is now poignant beyond words.
So whether you are a Boomer or not, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
If Christmas music really isn’t your thing, you can always go for this one that may pass as Holiday music if Leonarad Cohen and Pentatonix are more your speed.
No matter what music fills your December, may it bring a smile and enrich your celebrations.
How can it be December already?
It was carved pumpkins, then pumpkin pie, and now we are readying for Christmas trees, dreidels, and multi-color candles.
December brings one of my favorite memories with it. When my daughter was little, no more than four, and attending nursery school, songs of the season were a big deal and one of her favorite school activities. “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidal, I made it out of clay…” became a standard in our house even though we are not Jewish. But my favorite memory from this time is when she asked, “Can I have a dreidal for Christmas?” It was so wonderful, and was a hit with several of my Jewish friends from work.
All the mixings of my life have been wonderful, and that is what I try to hang on to at this time of year.
No matter whether we are preparing for marvelous gatherings for the Holidays or settling in for enjoying the memories of Christmases past, we can make the the most of the upcoming season. It is difficult for many, but it can be done.
Sometimes I focus on an orthogonal element of my family’ history when I become too sad over times and people gone into history. What do I mean by this? Though Sojourner Truth is not in my family tree, I often think of her at Christmas-time.
Christmas was one of the times my father would expound upon family history and the homestead at Hill Lake, north of the town of Silver Lake, in Kosciusko County, Indiana (Yes, that same Kosciusco County as in American Gods,) and stories about my great, great, grandfather John M. Hill and his multiple army enlistments, his wounding in service of the Union Army, and his participation in the Battle of Gettysberg were often subjects recounted. Stories from the 1800s seemed nuanced and real even though my dad, born in 1915, heard them second hand.
I was born in Indiana where my family had lived since the 1840s. By the time the divisions over abolition of slavery were headed toward war, in the late 1850s, Indiana was four decades into the ban of new slavery as the freeing of all slaves had been accomplished in 1820, four years after being granted statehood.
The Boston Liberator reported on October 15, 1858: “At her third appointed meeting in this vicinity, which was held in the meeting-house of the United Brethren, a large number of Democrats and other pro-slavery persons were present.”
This vicinity was Northeastern Indiana. The United Brethren meeting house was in Silverlake, Indiana. This group became EUB which was the church of my father’s family.
I always envisioned my family being in the supportive audience there, the progressive community which Republican at the time, that had invited her to speak during her anti-slavery tour. My father was quite politically progressive, it appears that this tendency could be traced back several generations.
Christmas, “Ain’t I a woman,” family stories, and political history; my holiday memories contain it all. What are your unlikely holiday associations?
The Holiday Season is Here
I write this, reworking a post from two years ago, just before Thanksgiving. We are in the weekend for preparation before what we affectionately call Turkey Day in the U.S.
I do not want to add to anyone’s stress levels, but beyond setting up your tech to record the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, and purchasing the bird or beast, cranberries, or munchies and booze for the ritual meal, game watching I suggest that those of you who will be celebrating the holiday as a multigenerational event give a few minutes of thought to preserving family stories beyond snapping a few phone pics.
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Example link: gifts for bloggers.
Does your family gather all together as often as families once did? I suspect your answer is, “No.” Each gathering becomes more precious as their numbers lessen. Get those pictures or capture those stories now. You will not be sorry.
The original concept behind this article was 17 Ways to Capture Legacy Stories. I am not sure there were really 17 specific actions in the post. There might have been more or less.
Never-the-less, I have boiled down the piece into specific items:
- Hire a videographer
- Hire a photographer
- Enlist the help of others
- Set up a camera with video capabilities
- Set up several recorders to capture conversation
- Line up someone now to transcribe your recordings before year end
- Recruit specific persons to casually interview elder family members
- Recruit family members to take photos of or selfies with every person at the event
- Determine where you will download everything to one place immediately after the event
- Consider hiring a personal historian to create a coherent story from the stories and pictures you collect
- Purchase flash drives to share what you collect — I recommend bundled purchases of multi-gig drives
- Set up files of images, documents, letters, whatever you have and put it all in one folder on your computer, tablet, or cloud storage and then copy that folder onto each of the drives you purchased
- Have old photo albums out to generate stories and reminiscenses
- Have individuals use adhesive-free notes (use bond paper or slicky static-charge notes) notes laid out by photo albums to mark the pics of which they would like copies
- Set up an online group, such as a Facebook Group, for your family and show people how to use if, it they do not know
- Buy a digitization device such as a scanner (get one that connects to different types of devices so that you can plugin other family member’s devices, or use your high resolution camera with a tripod, or in a pinch you can even use your phone and a tripod
- Sign up for a digitalization service for photos, such Fotobridge, or Legacy Box, or give such a service as a gift
- Create a book from the pictures gathered at the holiday celebration and give copies for gifts
Detailed Info On Capturing Stories
There are wonderful companies out there who help you record a short interview with a grandparent or elder member of your family. Have one made, you will be glad you did.
There are ways to do this yourself. In this age of selfies, and self-produced video, though, there are wonderful, fairly easy, and straight-forward ways to capture moments with and stories of people you cherish.
Whatever holiday you choose to celebrate, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentines Day, Mothers Day, and Birthdays and beginning/end of the year celebrations and observances are all appropriate. Take advantage of the opportunity that is people you love gathering together.
- Hire a videographer. How much did you spend on your wedding video? Capturing your grandmother and aunts talking about significant events that they shared may be even more important down the line to you than your wedding day.
- Hire a photographer. Professional candid and staged photos in a home have a warmth that studio photos are extremely hard pressed to capture.
Keep Everyone Busy
- Enlist the assistance of other individuals to capture these moments. Have a way set up before the event, so you can tell people where to find the results, to share what you all have captured.
- Have a tech savvy teen take several good selfies with every person at the event.
- Have the same tech savvy teen also capture portrait shots of every person there.
- Set up a camera with video capabilities in a spot with good overall vantage to capture a meal or after-meal story-telling and have it record the meal or time period.
- Set up phones or recorders in several spots to record audio.
- If there is a budding journalist or writer in the family, enlist that person to interview individuals about a specific topic.
- Help less experienced information gatherers by providing one topic about which you would like for them to have a conversation with each person.
- You might also ask “the interviewer” to come away with one thing from each conversation which they found more interesting or surprising.
Most phones have the ability to record audio. Most electronic phones and tablets have had apps created for them which also allow you to record and even edit. Let people know you are recording to capture family stories and then leave a phone or tablet in various places where people will sit and tell stories. Most people will forget that they are being recorded or warm up to the idea within a short time.
- Do not promise transcriptions of the recording. Transcription is a skill that is time consuming and can be quite difficult and frustrating. Hire a transcriptionist if you want printed versions.
- Save and bundle the recordings together, transferring them off of the devices on which they were made. Do this immediately after the event.
- Jot down times and time stamps when especially good stories or important were shared so you can easily find and work with particular bits of audio.
- Put all the data, photos, recordings, etc on a thumb drive, memory stick, or flash drive.
- Give one drive to each family or person as a gift.
Share Print Versions
Every other community business seems to have digital print services that include creating books from your images. If you give digital versions, individuals can make their own print copies, of course, but it is a nice touch to provide print versions to elders that may not be able navigate the ins and outs of contemporary technologies.
Many social media platforms also allow you to gather and print posts in book formats.
Hire a Personal Historian
Personal historians provide slightly different, more carefu.lly crafted services than photographers. The individual can collect information from family members at the gathering (not all personal historians do this), curate information you have shared, and determine how to follow up with individuals to gather more and missing information.
Consider contacting schools and programs with instructors and leaders who might encourage students or participants to contact your family members for interviews.
- Anthropology, history, and other social science classes often encourage such projects. So do scouting and youth groups. This is especially good if you hear a story from a relative that you feel should be explored in more depth than you are comfortable pursuing.
- National organizations, such as Story Corps, also facilitates and records personal histories and interviews. And there is a Story Corps APP you can download for most platforms so you can add your stories to the world database of personal wisdom.
A website or even a Facebook Group (probably with secret or closed membership) can be set up before or after your gathering for sharing family information.
The best sharing happens when clear guidelines are set up and shared before the group or site becomes active.
- Define the type of content to be shared.
- What is appropriate to share? Photos, genealogical information, family stories? Facts only? Opinions welcome?
- Is the information shared on the site to stay on the site or may things be copied and shared elsewhere?
Outlining basic guidelines for participation will help to prevent misunderstanding that are almost certain to pop up when families come together online or off.
There are as many ways to collect family and community legacy stories as there are individuals doing it.
If you do this, we would love to hear how it went, what you found out, and what you suggest for others wanting to curate their own legacy projects.
A huge hurt builds inside me. My father died on Christmas Day 1986. It is a familiar, old hurt. This year it is freshly layered with new hurts and loss. Five months ago the my last living brother died. He was the eldest of my siblings. 13 months ago my brother who was closest to me in age died. Two other brothers have passed on, one in 1998, and another in 2005. Mom died in 2007.
I have a husband, and a wonderful daughter who I will see shortly after the New Year when she and her finance return from the great white north to the Old Pueblo to plan a wedding that will happen the day after next Christmas. I have an amazing and talented step-daughter. We spent a fantastic Thanksgiving with her and her husband and their twin five year olds a few weeks ago in the Hudson Valley.
The last two brothers to pass both had dementia so I hadn’t really been able to converse with them for a while. I am not yet 60. My mother lived to be 92. I could live for a long time as the only one who remembers my childhood family holidays. Childhood memories of fall and winter get togethers become cloudy through time. There is no one left to shine sunlight through the clouds on old stories, desserts, family jokes, no one to laugh with about family eccentricities. I can tell the stories to my children and grandchild, and I do, but there is now no one who shares those memories with me.
I know I’m not the only one.
Holidays can be very, very tough. Be kind. Ask people how they are doing. Smile. Give hugs. Take it easy, don’t do more than you want to or can can do. Allow yourself a good cry, don’t cut it short. Then dust yourself off and do something to make someone else happy. Find an activity that brings you cheer. Allow the cheer of others to creep into you. We can learn to have a sadness and to be happy at the same time. Life is bittersweet for those blessed with long lives.
Merry Christmas, or happy whatever you may celebrate!