(ARA) - The best part about family reunions, whether an afternoon picnic or a week-long event, are the memories that are created with loved ones. Stories are retold, laughs are shared, favorite family recipes are in abundance and new traditions are forged.
If you're thinking about hosting a family reunion, try these tips to make the process less stressful and more enjoyable for the entire family.
Map out a timeframe
If everyone lives close by, a one day event may work best. But if family members need to travel, a weekend or week-long event allows long distance family members more time to reconnect. Make sure to check calendars at least six months in advance.
Select a meaningful or new location
If hosting near your home, choose a location with special family significance, such as a local park or grandma's backyard. Taking the reunion out of town requires more footwork, so poll participating family members to determine an ideal destination and budget. Once selected, research hotels, restaurants, parks and tourist attractions.
Planning group meals
Spark conversation about favorite family meals and traditions by nominating a few family members to bring different dishes or copies of recipes that have a rich history within the family. Ask them to share a memory associated with it.
Organize activities for all generations
Family reunions involve members of all ages, so make sure you have activities available that everyone can enjoy. Consider games for children and organize a family photo swap for older members. Ask attendees to bring duplicate photos from previous family gatherings so everyone can leave with mementos.
Connect with absent family members
There is always the chance someone won't be able to make it to the reunion, but that doesn't mean they have to be left out of the event altogether. Pass around the phone or arrange a video conference during a specific gathering time so they can connect and share stories. Also ask everyone in attendance to take video or photos so they can be sent to other family members as a keepsake.
"Families today are spread across states, the country and even the world, so finding time to get together can be challenging," says Maribeth Badertscher, vice president of Corporate Communications at The J.M. Smucker Company. "Whether it's an exotic getaway or big hometown barbecue, a large family get-together is sure to create lasting traditions and memories."
The Smucker family has passed down many cherished recipes over the past five generations, and a favorite is Jewel Box Cookies. These bite-sized shortbread cookies have been a fixture at holiday gatherings and special meals for generations.
Jewel Box Cookies
Makes six dozen
Preparation time 20 minutes
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 large egg yolk, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup Smucker's Cherry Preserves, or your favorite jam or preserves
Combine flour and sugar in large bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender or two knives until coarse crumbs form. Add beaten egg yolk and vanilla. Mix until dough holds together. Shape the dough into small balls using half teaspoonfuls. Place 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet. Make small indentation in center of each cookie. Chill 20 minutes. Heat the oven to 350 F. Fill each cookie with scant 1/4 teaspoon preserves. Bake 11 to 13 minutes or until just golden around the edges.
Tip: For added sparkle, unbaked cookies may be rolled in coarse bakery sugar crystals before being placed on cookie sheet to chill.