We’ve talked about the importance of capturing traditions and memories related to the Holidays with our families. Did they celebrate with presents, a particular food, or the gathering of extended family? Do some of your siblings remember the holidays differently than you? Let’s look at ways we can capture and use this information in our family history stories.
A recent conversation about the Easter holiday spurred the question…when did Easter bunnies start to make an appearance during this religious holiday? Would our ancestors of the 18th or 19th century been confused or scandalized to see this commercial twist to the day? The same question could be asked about egg dyeing. Or if your family didn’t celebrate, what was the reason?
For those that are curious about the Easter bunny, here is what I could find about that. Easter Bunny - Wikipedia. Interestingly, it appears that German Lutherans began associating the hare (not rabbit) with Easter and they were also some of the first to dye their Easter eggs. And according to this article, the Pennsylvania Dutch practiced were dyeing Easter eggs and referring to the “Osterhase” in the 18th century in America. The Smithsonian suggests that there are even older origins of hares representing rebirth. You can read more here: The Ancient Origins of the Easter Bunny | History| Smithsonian Magazine. I suspect at some point a smart marketing guy decided what could be cuter than a bunny to help sell candy.
So, what does this have to do with genealogy research? First you really need to take the time to ask questions and write down traditions that your parents, grandparents, cousins, and aunts & uncles celebrated. Remember to write down your own memories as well as those of your siblings. While you do not want to be “that person” at family gatherings, there is still a fun way to bring up a topic as you are relaxing together after a family meal. A simple question such as did you get an Easter basket when you were small? Or did you celebrate the 4th of July with your family? If so, what was your favorite activity?
We might assume that our pioneer ancestors did not do much celebrating in those early difficult times. However, we might be surprised at the number of community events and activities that were available in the late 1800s and early 1900s. People gathered at fairs, religious celebrations, 4th of July picnics with games and contests, and local dances. Remember to check out the ads, community news and community events in your ancestor’s local newspaper. You may find mention of your people as I have. We tend to view the past with a filtered lens but people haven’t changed that much at the most basic level. We still like to gather and socialize in our community.
This week think about your ancestors and relatives and how they celebrated the holidays and celebrations important to them. If you are not able to meet in person, a quick phone call or text or email will start the conversation. Have fun exploring Holidays!
With a lifelong passion for genealogy and history, the author enjoys the opportunity to share genealogy tidbits, inspiring others to research and write their family story.